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Orlando City vs. New York City FC: Player Grades and Man of the Match

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That sucked. After a great win against the Philadelphia Union on Thursday, a hodgepodge Orlando City lineup got absolutely dusted in a 5-0 loss by a good New York City FC side in Yankee Stadium. Orlando was without its top offensive weapons and had so few players available that it put two goalkeepers on the bench.

This was one to forget, so let’s see how everybody played in this one.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 7 (MoTM)  — Gallese wasn’t his best in this game, but was easily Orlando’s best player. In the first half, he was a wall, keeping a lackluster Orlando side alive with multiple huge stops. He probably could’ve done better on at least one or two of New York’s goals, especially the third, but I’m not going to criticize him too much. The team around him collapsed and he had to make nine saves, eight of which were in the box. He completed 20 of 29 passes for a 69% success rate, including nine accurate long balls in a performance that was pretty on par from him in terms of distribution. 

D, Emmanuel Mas, 5 — The left back’s debut in MLS was solid. He didn’t look the part of an offensively-adept overlapping fullback, but he did well in a defensive role that was similar to a third center back. Mas made a handful of defensively savvy plays that you hope to see from an experienced player and his positioning disrupted a quality chance on goal for New York and helped clean up a rebound on a great Gallese save. However, when Orlando had the ball, Mas wasn’t particularly good. He completed only 57% of his 21 passes and didn’t do anything offensively. In 57 minutes of play, he finished with a tackle, an interception, and two clearances. It was a solid, although unspectacular, debut for the Argentine.

D, Antonio Carlos, 4.5 — This is the worst game Antonio Carlos has ever played for Orlando City. To his credit, he made several good plays, particularly in the first half, but as the game descended into disaster, he completely fell apart. Two of New York’s goals can be pegged on him, although the first also came from him being grabbed and pushed by Valentin Castellanos. Carlos didn’t look anywhere near the player he can be in the second half. Even when passing the ball he wasn’t particularly good, only completing 77% of his 35 passes. Carlos had no tackles in the match, but had four interceptions and six clearances.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 5.5 — This game was one of Schlegel’s weaker performances as a Lion. He occasionally got caught upfield or would put a foot wrong, giving NYCFC dangerous space to attack into. To his credit, he continues to stuff the stat sheet defensively, with three tackles, seven clearances, and an interception. When defending becomes desperate, Schlegel is good at making the necessary play. Like Carlos, he had a hard time building out of the back, with only 74% of his 34 passes finding their mark. Schlegel wasn’t good per se, but there were certainly worse performances on this team. 

D, Kyle Smith, 5 — It was not a great performance from Smith. He finally received a rest in this game, only playing the first half, and he definitely warranted the substitution. He completed 55% of his 22 passes and wasn’t much of a presence pushing forward with one attempted cross that was unsuccessful. His defensive work left something to be desired as he had no tackles or interceptions and made one clearance. NYCFC was dangerous attacking down Smith’s right flank and while he wasn’t terrible, he hardly shut things down. With all that being said, he gets some slack considering the sheer number of minutes he’s played this season.. 

MF, Andres Perea, 4.5 — Perea wasn’t good in this game. He had an excellent chance right on the doorstep to open the second half and perhaps could have changed the tone of the match, but couldn’t get a quality shot on the ball and hit it right at Luis Barraza. If he gets that ball just past the keeper, this could have been a much different game. Despite playing in a key midfield spot, Perea was barely involved in possession, only completing 14 of 18 passes in 90 minutes. That’s nowhere near good enough for a central midfielder, even if he was tasked with a more offensive role in this game. He completed one of his two attempted dribbles, made a clearance, and pressed the ball well, but his impact was barely felt throughout this game.

MF, Uri Rosell, 4 — Maybe I’m a little too harsh here, but I was thoroughly unimpressed with Rosell in this game. His lack of pace cost him when he got caught upfield and he provided next to nothing in terms of tenacity in the middle of the park. Keaton Parks and the rest of the NYCFC midfield were able to cut through Orlando City and routinely run into open space. The entire team is responsible for that, but Rosell was, to me at least, the most noticeably poor of the bunch. Rosell is a player whose passing ability typically compensates for his lack of defensive chops, but he only completed 78% of his 32 passes — though that was still fourth best on the team out of anyone who played more than half the game — and struggled to maintain possession or break the NYCFC defense. Defensively, he did chip in with three tackles.

MF, Joey DeZart, 5 — I like DeZart and thought he showed flashes of quality in this game, but it wasn’t good enough. He’s a solid linking player, but lacks the ability to control the game with his passing. He completed 93% of his 27 passes, including a key pass. DeZart was a little too conservative with his passing and was generally too slow with the ball, being dispossessed twice. His technical ability is good, but the speed at which he plays and sees the game was not at an MLS level in this game. Defensively, he made eight ball recoveries, but got walked through at times alongside Rosell. He also had a shot, but it wasn’t much of a chance. In a better lineup, DeZart could be a solid role player, but in this setup, he lacked the quality the Lions needed. 

MF, Alexander Alvarado, 6 — It was the first MLS start for the Ecuadorian winger and it wasn’t bad. In a terrible offensive performance for Orlando City, Alvarado was the closest thing to a threat offensively. He created one of the only good chances for the Lions in the game, sliding Silvester van der Water in behind with a good through ball, and looked comfortable and occasionally dangerous with the ball. He completed 17 of his 21 passes for an 81% success rate and drew four fouls. However, Alvarado is still a little too slow with the ball and has a tendency to turn the ball over, being dispossessed twice in this game. He did make an interception and three ball recoveries defensively. 

F, Silvester van der Water, 6 — The Dutchman wasn’t outright bad in this game, but he hasn’t come close to his early season form. In his first few appearances, van der Water looked like a dynamic playmaker out wide, but he’s created nothing for himself or others in recent weeks. In one half of action, he only had 19 touches, but several of those were promising. He had a shot that forced a save out of Barraza, as well as a key pass and three successful long balls. For all the good some of these underlying stats show, he just wasn’t a particularly effective wide forward. Maybe if he continues to build his fitness and acclimate to Orlando and MLS he can perform more consistently, but right now he’s not much of a weapon for Orlando. He completed nine of his 11 passes and also had an interception. 

F, Benji Michel, 4 — Michel was in good form heading into the match, but he was completely ineffective playing up top against New York. He had no service and didn’t get into dangerous areas, registering no shots in 90 minutes. Michel also had a key pass and was successful on one of his four attempted dribbles. He needed to be more dangerous and much better in holdup play. To be fair, this isn’t really his fault as Michel has evolved into a legit inverted winger and isn’t effective as a striker. When Orlando switched to a 3-5-2, Michel looked a lot better, able to drift further wide with more numbers around him in attack. He also got back for some defensive work, finishing with five ball recoveries and a clearance. His passing stats were unsurprisingly low, with only 11 completed passes on 16 attempts for a 69% success rate.

Substitutes

D, Ruan (46’), 5 — Welcome back, Ruan! After a seemingly endless injury absence, the quick Brazilian made his return to the lineup, playing the entire second half. He did look dangerous on a few attacks, burning down the touchline with his blistering pace, but he lacked the final ball. He completed six of nine passes and completed a dribble but never had a big offensive moment. Defensively, he wasn’t great, giving up a lot of space for New York to attack into. He made a clearance, but wasn’t in good positions and made no impact on that side of the ball. But he received minutes and should give Orlando a serious boost once he’s back to his best. 

D, Robin Jansson (46’), 5 — A facemask-wearing Jansson came in to give Orlando a third center back in the second half, but he wasn’t particularly good. While solid with the ball, completing 11 of his 13 passes for an 85% completion rate, Jansson did little to prevent the onslaught from New York late in the half. He made two interceptions and two clearances, but his overall defensive performance left a lot to be desired. I don’t think Jansson was too terrible individually, but he wasn’t at his best and the entire defense was awful. 

D, Joao Moutinho (57’), 5.5 — The left back pushed forward and looked like an offensive threat, even though none of his four crosses found their mark. Moutinho finished with a pair of clearances and he completed eight of his 12 passes. This was a step forward for him as he continued to show some forward thrust, and hopefully he can reach his form from last year in a stronger lineup. 

D, Michael Halliday (69’), 4.5 — The Homegrown Player was on the field for 20 minutes, but was almost completely invisible. Halliday only had seven touches and completed both of his attempted passes. On defense he made a clearance, a ball recovery, and an interception. Frankly, it was an unremarkable outing from the young fullback.

MF, David Loera (69’), 5.5 — Loera has played sparingly for Orlando City, but got about 20 minutes of play in New York. He completed all four of his passes and looked solid on the ball in his eight touches. Loera even put a shot on target, one of just three all game for Orlando. I really wish there was a U.S. Open Cup this season, because that seems like a perfect setting for Loera to receive more minutes. He’s an intriguing player, but might not be good enough to contribute at an MLS level right now.


That’s how I judged this one, what were your thoughts? Leave your ratings below and vote for your man of the match.

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PlayerVotes
Pedro Gallese35
Alexander Alvarado1
Rodrigo Schlegel1
Other (Comment Below)3

Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. LAFC

Get some insider information on LAFC courtesy of someone who knows the team best.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

We find ourselves at the end of another week, which means that another Orlando City match is almost upon us. Following a two-week break, the Lions will return to action with a home contest against LAFC.

A date with LAFC means I got some insider info on the opposition from Trebor Tracy, the managing editor of Angels on Parade. They’re another former SBNation blog that has gone independent, and they continue to do excellent work covering LAFC, Angel City FC, and Orange County SC, so make sure you check them out!

Catch me up on some of LAFC’s off-season transfer business. Who are some names that were brought in, and who went out the door?

Trebor Tracy:  LAFC came into this season as close to a rebuild project as you can be for a team many expect to compete for championships and trophies each year. In the off-season the team saw 15 departures from the 2023 squad, and that’s not counting loans out. Among the bigger names leaving Los Angeles were both goalkeepers that helped lift LAFC to the 2022 MLS Cup, midfielder Kellyn Acosta, defenders Denil Maldonado and Diego Palacios, and of course, the departure of inaugural signing Carlos Vela. This was a team expected to look completely different this season and it has. As for the arrivals, the team spent the off-season loading up on the likes of goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, forwards Kei Kamara and Cristian Olivera, and defender Omar Campos. The rough start to the year for Los Angeles had a lot to do with the newness of the team and having to build that familiarity within the XI. 

Of the incoming transfers, who has made the biggest impression? Is there anyone who you’d like to see performing better than they have been so far?

TT: Its been hard for LAFC to replace a lot of the departures — not just in terms of production, but leadership and experience in several cases. While not technically an off-season arrival, Cristian Olivera, who arrived in summer window of 2023, really came into his own this season. With an entire off-season under his belt, he has by far been the best of the new arrivals for LAFC. He is producing goals, creating opportunities for others, and has that confidence this team thrives off of. On the other side of the coin, Hugo Lloris has been the biggest disappointment. In fairness to him, he has drastically improved during the team’s recent run, but the start of his MLS career had him easily one of the worst keepers in the league. 

LAFC is on a five-game unbeaten run in league play, what’s been working so well for the team during this stretch?

TT: Speaking of that run, the play of Lloris is why they have done so well recently. Well, that and Denis Bouanga appears to have found his soccer boots again. The 180 those two have done has been the catalyst for the team’s great run of form lately. 

Will any players be unavailable for selection due to injury, suspension, call-ups, etc.? What is your projected starting XI and score prediction?

TT: Availability reports come out night before the match, and we have the team presser this afternoon. with a few players set to return, I am unsure at the moment as to who exactly will be  ready to go.


Thank you to Trebor for helping get us caught up on LAFC. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City Needs to Start Using the Scoreboard Again

A deep statistical dive into Orlando City’s offensive struggles. We’re warning you…there will be math (but we do it for you).

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

One of the more memorable scenes in my favorite movie of all time, Bull Durham, is when the manager walks into the showers after another loss, yells at the team about their recent performance, and ends with “this (baseball) is a simple game: you throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. You got it!?” Soccer is, of course, a little different but the concept remains the same. You pass the ball, you shoot the ball, you score the ball. Unless you are Orlando City, recently.

Anyone can look at the recent results for Orlando City and see that goals have been, shall we say, less than plentiful. But why is that happening? Well, one idea may be that another team in Orlando is using up all the goals, with the Orlando Pride having scored 19 (excluding opposition own goals) to Orlando City’s 15, with the Pride having played four fewer games to boot, but goals are not a zero-sum equation (I know you asked your math teacher for years when you would ever need to use equations in the real world; you’re welcome!), so let’s dive into what has been going on for Orlando City and take a look at what may be causing an average of 0.94 goals/game (again, excluding opposition own goals) in the 2024 MLS season after an average of 1.6 goals/game in 2023.

Wayne Gretzky famously said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take,” but I do not think a lack of shots taken is the main culprit for this Orlando City team this season. Yes, in the last match against the Red Bulls the Lions only managed five shots (all stats in this article are courtesy of fbref.com,  in collaboration with Opta, which codes thousands of matches every weekend across hundreds of competitions all over the world), but for the 2024 season, Orlando City is averaging 11.8 shots/game, 1.1 shots/game fewer than the league average of 12.9 but actually 0.1 higher than Orlando City’s 11.7 shots/game from 2023. Orlando City’s 11.8 shots/game ranks 23rd in all of MLS — not great, but the team with the most shots/game, St. Louis FC at 16.8, has only earned one more point than Orlando City after playing the same number of games, and the correlation (I told you there would be math) between shots/game and goals is relatively weak (r = 0.25, a strong positive correlation would be an r between 0.7 and the maximum r value of 1.0), so a higher value of shots/game does not necessarily lead to more goals.

What does tend to lead to more goals is more shots on target. I know, I know, you never would have thought of that. And as we look into shots on target for Orlando City in 2024, lo and behold, this is where we start to really see where the problems have arisen this season. Orlando City ranks 26th in MLS this year with 29% shots on target, so when you combine a rank of 23rd in shots/game with a rank of no. 26 in shots on target, you get a team that has scored a low amount of Goals as compared to the rest of the league. Orlando City’s 29% shots on target rate in 2024 is an 18% decrease from its 2023 shots on target percentage of 36% (7% raw decrease (36%-29% = 7%) but an 18% percent decrease (29%/36% – 100% = -18%), and the Lions’ 29% shots on target percentage is 1.28 standard deviations below the MLS average.

This is probably the time for me to tell you I was that high school math teacher who students asked about using math in the real world, and I did teach AP statistics, where we frequently talked about standard deviations and 1.28 standard deviations below the average is, in this case, to use a technical term, u-g-l-y and they ain’t got no alibi.

Is it as ugly as Bubba Sparxxx rapped about back in 2000? Was that just a question to make a pop culture reference about a song I enjoyed when I was in high school? Yes and yes. The first time I ever heard former Orlando City coach Adrian Heath interviewed he said, “Goals change games,” which of course is obvious and means that those who are taking the most shots need to be game changers. Looking at the table below, we can see who has been taking the shots and the differences between 2024 and 2023:

At first glance there is some good news. Orlando City’s leading shot takers this year are generally shooting on target around the league average, but it is on the clinical side, the goals per shot on target and goals per shot attempt where we can see that Orlando City is struggling.

We do see that Duncan McGuire continues to be clinical when he gets his shots on target, but the big drop for him is that last year he put nearly three out of every four shots on target and this year he is down to something much closer to the league average of around one out of every three. Among players with at least 17 shots last year (I chose this number because it would be 0.5 shots/game across 34 games and because it is my father’s favorite number), Duncan ranked first out of 244 MLS players in shots on target percentage and in goals per shots on target, and though his numbers this year are still above average, he is down to 43rd and 13th out of the 108 players who have taken more than 17 shots, respectively (keeping the same shot volume threshold for consistency). Four other major takeaways from me on this chart:

  • Facundo Torres was second on the list for most shots taken in 2023 and was an excellent finisher (this does include penalties, but they are shots and you have to make them), but in 2024 he is tied for fifth in shots with Dagur Dan Thórhallsson at only 15 shots taken.
  • Martin Ojeda remains a high volume shooter, but he is looking much more like Jordan Poole than Steph Curry this year with a lot of shots on target but not a lot of makes. And by not a lot I mean, sadly, zero.
  • Orlando City as a whole is taking shots from slightly closer to the goal but the team’s most frequent shooters are shooting from farther away than last year, and you do not need me as a math major to tell you that goalkeepers would prefer long shots over close shots.
  • Ercan Kara was a somewhat maligned striker for Orlando City, but he was pretty lethal when he got a shot off, putting more than two out of every five shots on frame and scoring at twice the MLS average on goals/shot. His 2023 shot volume is low on this chart because he left halfway through the season, but in his two years in MLS he scored at 21% and 22% on goals/shot, which put him in the upper echelon of shooters in the league.

Going back to McGuire and where he ranked in all of MLS, here is a heat map, but with the corresponding percentile ranks of Orlando City’s players among players who took at least 17 (hi Dad) shots (red to green scale — 0% (dark red, very low performance) to 100% (dark green, very good performance).

The comparisons between 2024 and 2023 are the most stark again in the columns involving goals, as in 2023 Orlando City’s most frequent shooters were scoring in the upper echelons of all MLS players, and this year there is much more red/orange than green for those with at least 17 shots. The other biggest differences of course surround who is taking the shots. Luis Muriel has arrived and has taken the most shots in 2024, but looking at his career shooting stats there is not a lot of evidence that being a lethal finisher is something in his skillset. Barbra Banda he is not, but then again nobody is Barbra Banda (except Barbra Banda), and expecting Muriel to change his playing style to be more of a finisher rather than initiator while adapting to a new league and teammates is lot to ask for someone who joined after the season began.

The bigger need for Orlando City is to get McGuire back on the field and to get Torres going, Facundo’s shots/90 minutes is down more than 50% from last season (largely owing to playing a lot of wingback over the last several weeks), and for someone who was in the 94th percentile in goals/shot in 2023 to have decreased their shot volume by so much is the opposite of what you want. Plus, Facundo is my son’s favorite player and he misses seeing Torres’ selfie celebration.

I want to end with a positive, however, and that is wrapped around the concept of regression to the mean. In the case of Orlando City this would actually likely be a positive regression as opposed to a negative one. During the last four years, MLS has been remarkably stable in terms of goals/shot on target (35%, 32%, 33%, 33%) and goals/shot (12%, 11%, 11%, 11%). Just because the league has been stable does not mean that Orlando City automatically will improve, but with the talent of the players on the squad and their history, I think it is more likely than not that Orlando City’s low performance so far in 2024 will come back up towards league average — much like a Major League Baseball player’s batting average on balls in play often evens out over time based on their level of skill.

Orlando City has talented players, including many who led the team to the best record in the team’s history last season, and I believe it is likely that we will start seeing small increases in goals/shot on target and goals/shot as the season progresses. I certainly hope we do, because it is much more fun when Orlando City masters this simple game and scores the ball, scores the ball, and scores the ball.

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Lion Links: 6/14/24

Orlando City prepares to take on LAFC, Lions linked with Alan Saldivia, Orlando City B draws against Chattanooga FC, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! I’m working for most of this weekend but am still looking forward to the absurd amount of soccer ahead of us. Both Orlando City and the Orlando Pride have games Saturday, and the 2024 Euros should give us some exciting matches from teams we don’t watch all too often. Let’s dive right into today’s links!

Orlando City Prepares for LAFC

The international break is over and Orlando City is back in action Saturday night for a home game against LAFC. It’s been a difficult season for the Lions so far, and they have been shut out in three of their past five games. Points have been hard to come by at home for Orlando and a match against one of the best teams in the Western Conference won’t make that any easier. With David Brekalo at the Euros, Rodrigo Schlegel is expected to start and it would be his 100th MLS appearance. Ramiro Enrique would also make his 50th appearance across all competitions as a Lion should he take the field.

Lions Linked Reportedly Bow Out of Bid to Sign Defender Alan Saldivia

With the MLS summer transfer window looming, a rumor surfaced of Orlando City making an offer to sign Uruguayan center back Alan Saldivia from Colo-Colo in Chile. The Lions reportedly offered $1.5 million for the 22-year-old, but that doesn’t reach the $2.2 million Colo-Colo wants at minimum. The Lions reportedly would not go higher. While center back isn’t exactly a pressing need for the Lions at this time, Saldivia would have given the team a young and talented player who could anchor the defense for years to come.

Orlando City B Drops Points in Disappointing Draw

OCB hosted Chattanooga FC and had to settle for a 2-2 draw after giving up a lead not once, but twice. The Young Lions had Chattanooga on the ropes late in the match, taking the lead just before the end of normal time, only to get punched in the mouth in stoppage time and then lose the penalty shootout. It was the second straight 2-2 draw at home for the Young Lions and they’re still on the hunt for their first win this month. OCB’s next game will be on the road against New York City FC II on Wednesday.

Getting Ready for the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs

The MLS NEXT Cup playoffs kick off Saturday as the best teams across four age groups compete in a knockout format. Orlando City’s U-15 squad was recognized as one of the title contenders in its age group and will take on Real Salt Lake in the round of 32 on Saturday . The team also did well in MLS NEXT Flex, and Jakob Garcia, who has scored 18 goals in 21 games, is the kind of attacker who can make all the difference in knockout matches. Orlando’s U-17 team is capable of making a run as well, although it faces a tough first match on Sunday against the Philadelphia Union, which won the 2024 Generation Adidas Cup. It should be a fun tournament, and hopefully Orlando’s teams can advance far enough to be included in the games streamed on MLS Season Pass.

Free Kicks

  • Carl Robinson is back in MLS after Atlanta United hired him as an assistant coach. The 47-year-old played for Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls to close out his playing career and also served as the head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
  • Chicago Fire Designated Player Xherdan Shaqiri reportedly wants to return to Europe. The 32-year-old has been with the Fire since 2022 but hasn’t lived up to his billing and his contract is set to expire after this season.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!

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