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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire: Player Grades & Man of the Match



Winning is fun! It wasn’t necessarily the prettiest win (torrential rain will do that to a soccer game), but Orlando City grabbed a much-needed 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire courtesy of a second-half Benji Michel goal. Let’s have a look at how I rated each player in the win.


GK, Mason Stajduhar, 8 (MotM) — The Homegrown goalkeeper takes the honors for this one as he earned his first MLS shutout with a great performance. Our own Sean Rollins mentioned that Mason looks to have much better command of his box than he did during his first few games with Orlando City, and I think that was on display Saturday night. Aside from one occasion where Joao Moutinho headed a ball away that Stajduhar was coming to claim, he was on the same page with his defenders for the duration of the match. He did a good job of judging when he needed to come and claim a ball, and then followed through well on making contact or catching each one of them. He also made two excellent saves, with one in second half stoppage time that preserved all three points for the Lions. Overall, a much deserved Man of the Match.

D, Joao Moutinho, 7 — Joao didn’t have as much influence on the offensive end as he sometimes does, and his shot that went wide of the post in the second half when he was in an advanced position was disappointing, considering that the Lions had numbers forward. With that being said, it’s been good to have him back in the lineup, and while his crossing wasn’t as much of a weapon in this game as it can be, he still put a few very dangerous balls into the box. He was also rock solid defensively and was particularly good at helping provide an outlet when Chicago pressed high. Statistically, he passed at an 89% rate, completed one dribble and won an aerial duel.

D, Robin Jansson, 7 — This was another in a long line of good showings for the Swede. He totalled three interceptions, two clearances and a block while being the physical presence in defense that we’ve come to expect of him. I can’t help but feel that a goal is coming for Jansson sooner rather than later, and he wasn’t far away with a fierce left-footed drive from outside the box in the second half that didn’t quite start dipping in time to sneak under the bar. His other numbers going forward included a 95% passing rate with a key pass thrown in for good measure.

D, Antonio Carlos, 7.5 — Like his partner in central defense Jansson, Carlos continues to barely put a foot wrong defensively. He had another great game vs. Chicago with three tackles, two interceptions, a whopping eight clearances and an equally impressive five blocks. One sliding interception/clearance in his own box with the second half winding down was particularly eye-catching but he continues to be a pillar of defensive solidity even when he isn’t making the flashy play. To cap things off he passed the ball at a respectable enough 85% rate. All-Star snub, thy name is Antonio.

D, Ruan, 7 — The thing that impressed me most about Ruan in this game was his crossing. His delivery from wide areas isn’t always the best, and if he can become more consistent in that area then look the hell out. Against Chicago he did just that, with one of his two crosses finding the head of Chris Mueller with the other being met by Benji Michel. Like Moutinho, he didn’t have quite as much of an offensive impact as he sometimes does, although again, like Moutinho he was very good defensively. His numbers of one tackle, five interceptions and three clearances back that up.

MF, Junior Urso, 7 — The Bear did a bit of everything in this game. Defensively he had three tackles, two interceptions and two clearances while putting in his typical shift of hard running and gritty play in the middle of the field. Offensively he had two key passes, a dribble, and a shot. The shot he maybe should have done better with, as it was a header from pretty close range that he could only direct right at Bobby Shuttleworth. It ended up being one of Orlando’s better chances on the night, but with all of the other contributions he made, it’s hard to hold it against him too much.

MF, Joey DeZart, 6.5 — This was definitely a better outing for DeZart than his midweek performance against Nashville. It may be that the 90 minutes he played on Wednesday helped him get up to the speed of the game and get his feet under him, because he did well in his defensive midfield role. The 23-year-old recorded two tackles and an interception while passing the ball at an 85% clip. He didn’t really impact the game offensively, but honestly that’s not exactly what he’s on the field to do and he did well to open up the defense a few times. This was a solid performance from DeZart, and hopefully its one that he can build on.

MF, Silvester van der Water, 7.5 — Van der Water carried the most threat for Orlando on the night and very nearly was involved in two goals. He was desperately unlucky to have his left-footed shot crash off the inside of the far post and stay out, but that chance was a definite sign that he was up for this one. Scarcely a minute later he chased a ball down the right hand side and put a cross into a fantastic area, but neither Tesho Akindele or Benji Michel could convert the chance. His influence waned a little after that, although to be fair it would have been quite a task of maintaining that degree of threat for the remainder of his time on the field. Still, he had three shots, two key passes, two successful dribbles, two interceptions and a tackle. Another impressive game from the Dutchman.

MF, Benji Michel, 7 — Benji made up for failing to take the aforementioned first half chances in the best way possible, by putting away the next chance the fell his way. It wasn’t as easy as it might have looked either, and he did very well to take his time, pick his head up, and absolutely smash his shot low and into the corner where Shuttleworth couldn’t reach it. He also completed a dribble that was a pretty fantastic sequence where he picked up the ball on the left side of midfield, brought the ball past a couple defenders and out to the right side of the field, picked his head up and played a great diagonal ball over the top to Junior Urso. It was good to see him get back among the goals after having some difficulty in front of net in recent games.

F, Nani, 6.5 — The captain’s night was cut short by some muscle tightness that he’s been dealing with lately and all-in-all that was probably a smart move with the MLS All-Star Game right around the corner, followed by a match against Inter Miami just two days later. In his 29 minutes on the field Nani completed two dribbles and passed at a 83% clip, but rather understandably, wasn’t able to make a particularly big impact on the game. However, he showed well enough in the short time he was on the field, and personally I’m hoping that he isn’t given too much to do out at the All-Star festivities.

F, Tesho Akindele, 7.5 — Tesho had himself a damn good game in this one. For one thing, he created the turnover that led to Benji’s goal and also got his career high fifth assist on it. Besides that though, he had two shots, two key passes, two dribbles, was fouled three times, made one tackle and had four clearances. Outside of the numbers though, his hold-up play was excellent and if anyone claims otherwise I’ll happily take you to task on that point. He did a great job of not only winning the balls that were sent up to him, but also finding his teammates once he had done so and bringing them into the game. He also made smart runs and all-around worked hard for the whole game. If not for Mason’s heroics as the game wound down, he would have been my choice for MotM.


MF, Chris Mueller (29’), 6.5 — Cash was brought into the game for Nani and had a bit of a tough task since he didn’t look to get much, if any warmup time. He didn’t play his best game in purple, but by no means was he bad either. He had one shot, one key pass and was fouled once, but didn’t have a ton of impact in the game. He maybe should have done better with his header in the first half, although to be fair to him he had to generate most of the power himself and the ball was slightly behind him. Still, he filled in well enough after being brought on cold, and was effective at holding the ball in the corner and helping the Lions chip away at the clock some.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel (79’), N/A — The man with the golden hands was brought on for goal-scorer Benji Michel to help shore things up defensively. He did just that with a blocked shot. An odd statistical quirk is that he apparently did not attempt a pass during the 17 minutes that he was on the field, which seems super weird, but there you go.

D, Emmanuel Mas (85’), N/A — Like Schlegel, Mas was subbed on for van der Water to help lock down the game defensively. He contributed one tackle to the cause and passed the ball at a 75% rate. He’s sneakily a pretty crafty fullback, and I’ve enjoyed watching him play so far.

MF, Raul Aguilera Jr. (85’), N/A — An MLS debut for the Homegrown Player! Aguilera came on for DeZart to help get the game over the finish line and succeeded with two clearances and some hard running in midfield. He didn’t have a ton of time to show what he can do, so he’ll be one to keep an eye out for going forward.

That’s how I saw the grades during this one. Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments and don’t forget to vote for who you think should have been the Man of the Match.

Polling Closed

Mason Stajduhar75
Antonio Carlos12
Benji Michel4
Tesho Akindele4
Other (shout them out in the comments)2

Orlando City

2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Alex Freeman

We start our Orlando City player reviews with a look at a Homegrown fullback who made his MLS debut this season.



Image courtesy of Orlando City B

Orlando City signed fullback Alex Freeman to a Homegrown Player contract on February 15, 2022. He became the Lions’ 12th Homegrown signing and his deal runs through the 2025 season with a club option for 2026, but the youngster did not see action in Major League Soccer last season. With the departure of Ruan, there was an opportunity for Freeman to win a job with the first team in camp but he wasn’t quite ready to make the jump, instead playing an important role with Orlando City B throughout the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season.

Let’s take a look back at Freeman’s 2023 campaign.

Statistical Breakdown

Freeman made his MLS debut on April 29 in a 2-0 home win over the LA Galaxy. It was not just his debut with the first team, but it was also his only appearance with the senior squad in 2023, although he did make the substitutes’ bench a few times after that. Officially, he logged only one minute, entering in the 93rd minute. He was only on the pitch a matter of seconds, so it’s unsurprising that he registered nothing on the stats sheet.

The son of former NFL receiver Antonio Freeman, Alex starred with OCB in 2023. In MLS NEXT Pro play, Freeman appeared in 24 of OCB’s 28 matches, starting 22, and logging 1,855 minutes. He finished tied for third on the squad in goals (4), adding three assists and passing at a 79.1% success rate. Freeman attempted 25 shots, putting 11 on target, and contributed 10 key passes. He committed 22 fouls, drew 27 on the opposition, and was booked four times. He also started OCB’s playoff match at Columbus, playing 89 minutes in the Young Lions’ 2-1 road loss. Freeman didn’t contribute a goal or assist or attempt a shot in the match, but he passed at an 88% rate, created one scoring chance, and committed one foul.

Best Game

With only one MLS appearance to his credit, the default best game for Freeman came on April 29 in Orlando City’s 2-0 home win over the LA Galaxy. Freeman didn’t even officially touch the ball in the game, but it’s not every day a teenager gets to play in an MLS match, and I’m sure it was a special moment for him. It was certainly a milestone in his professional soccer career.

2023 Final Grade

As Freeman fell well short of the minimum 450 minutes played mark to receive a rating on our 1-10 scale, The Mane Land has no choice but to mark his grade as incomplete for the 2023 season. There are areas of Freeman’s game that need a bit of refining, but at the same time, it’s easy to see why he landed a Homegrown contract, why Orlando City would find him an intriguing prospect, and why he’s been getting called up by the United States for U-20 international duty. His attacking presence was huge for OCB in 2023 and he was one of the key players that led the Young Lions to the postseason.

2024 Outlook

I would expect Freeman to get more seasoning at OCB in 2024, although he’ll be given opportunities in preseason camp to show whether he’s closed the gap on the likes of Michael Halliday and Kyle Smith (assuming both return). If the club moves on from both Halliday and Smith, it’s not hard to picture Freeman starting the season providing depth at right back for the first team. Having just turned 19 in August, Freeman has a lot of potential and he should start to unlock that within the next year or so.

This is the first of our 2023 Orlando City Season in Review articles. Every player who played minutes this past season and who finished the year on the club roster will be reviewed (exceptions may be made for players let go when the club officially announces its roster moves). Players who logged fewer than 450 minutes (combined regular season plus playoffs, Concacaf Champions League, U.S. Open Cup, and Leagues Cup) will receive a composite score between 1 and 10 as determined by a panel of The Mane Land writers, while those who did not reach that threshold will receive an incomplete grade.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 11/29/23

Orlando Pride players called up by Brazil, MLS announces 2023 Best XI, latest MLS roster moves, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers I hope all is well down in Florida. I’ve been very busy working throughout the holiday weekend at Under Armour. This week I’ll be working at Wrigley Field for Winterland while getting ready to cover high school wrestling tomorrow night. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Pride Players Called Up By Brazil for Friendlies

Orlando Pride defender Rafaelle and forwards Marta and Adriana have been called up to the Brazil Women’s National Team for its upcoming friendlies.

Brazil will play two matches against Japan on Nov. 30 and Dec. 3 in Sao Paulo before playing Nicaragua on Dec. 6 at Estadio Fonte Luminosa in Araraquara.

MLS Announces the 2023 Best XI

Major League Soccer announced its 2023 Best XI, recognizing the league’s top players at each position. There were no Orlando City players selected for the team and eight players received the honor for the first time. Those players are St. Louis City’s Roman Burki and Tim Parker, FC Cincinnati defender Matt Miazga, Atlanta United duo Thiago Almada and Giorgos Giakoumakis, Houston Dynamo midfielder Hector Herrera, LAFC’s Denis Bouanga, and Columbus Crew forward Cucho Hernandez. Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar made the Best XI for the third consecutive time, while teammate Walker Zimmerman was named to it for the fifth time. MLS MVP Luciano Acosta of FC Cincinnati rounds out the list.

Latest MLS Off-season Roster Moves

The Colorado Rapids announced their latest roster changes as they prepare for the the 2024 season under new Head Coach Chris Armas. The club exercised its options for defender Andrew Gutman, midfielder Ralph Priso, and forward Calvin Harris. The Rapids declined contract offers to seven players, with the most notable names being defender Steven Beitashour and goalkeeper William Yarbrough, although the Rapids are in discussions about re-signing Yarbrough. Elsewhere, the New England Revolution exercised the permanent transfer option on forward Tomas Chancalay, signing him to a Designated Player contract through 2026, with a club option for the 2027 season.

UEFA Champions League Roundup

Champions League action returned in Europe, as we get close to wrapping up the group stage in a couple of weeks. Manchester City overcame a two-goal deficit to beat RB Leipzig 3-2 and win Group G. Newcastle United had a chance to qualify for the round of 16 but gave up a late penalty to Paris Saint-Germain, which Kylian Mbappe converted to end the match in a 1-1 draw. Borussia Dortmund beat AC Milan 3-1 to book its spot in the knockout stage. PSG, Newcastle, and AC Milan are all still alive in Group F heading into the final matchday in December. Shakhtar Donetsk won 1-0 against Royal Antwerp and also still has a shot to advance on the final matchday. Lazio, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, and Young Boys all won their respective matches as well. Today’s matches include Manchester United on the road against Galatasaray, Real Madrid taking on Napoli, and Sevilla facing off with PSV Eindhoven.

Free Kicks

  • Concacaf has announced that BMO Stadium, Dignity Health Sports Park, Shell Energy Stadium, and Snapdragon Stadium will be the four venues that will host matches for the 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup.
  • Barcelona midfielder Gavi will be sidelined for up to 10 months after undergoing knee surgery after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee.
  • The International Football Association Board approved a trial for sin bins, meaning players punished for dissent or specific tactical offense would be temporarily removed from the match for a set amount of minutes.
  • You have got to see this goal from Cwrt Rawlin FC in the Welsh seventh division.

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Wednesday and I’ll see you next time.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 11/28/23

Luciano Acosta named MVP, Americans in action, scheduling news for U.S. national teams, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Happy Tuesday, everyone. I’m dragging a little today after having an extended period of time off for the Thanksgiving holiday, but there’s no rest for the wicked and the only way out is through. With that being the case, let’s get into today’s news.

Luciano Acosta Wins MLS MVP

In a piece of news that plenty of people likely saw coming from several miles away, Luciano Acosta has been named Major League Soccer’s Most Valuable Player. Acosta racked up 34 goal contributions during the regular season, finishing the 2023 campaign with 17 goals and 14 assists as the driving force behind his team’s run to the Supporters’ Shield. He was voted the best player in the league by quite some margin and won the award in a landslide, taking 60.37% of the votes to Denis Bouanga’s 14.97% and Thiago Almada’s 6.46%.

American Stars in Midweek Action

There are a number of United States Men’s National Team players that will be in action this week, with several UEFA Champions League clashes highlighting the viewing slate. Christian Pulisic, Yunus Musah and AC Milan will face Giovanni Reyna’s Borussia Dortmund today in a game with huge ramifications for both teams. Malik Tillman, Ricardo Pepi, and Sergino Dest may play in PSV Eindhoven’s match with Sevilla tomorrow, and a win would likely go a long way to securing a place in the Round of 16. Additionally on Wednesday, Brenden Aaronson and Union Berlin have a chance to make a big move towards a place in the Europa League, as a win over Braga would leapfrog the German club into third place in Group C.

USMNT & USWNT Scheduling News

The USMNT will open its 2024 slate of games with a match against Slovenia on Jan. 20 in San Antonio. The match will fall outside of an international window, meaning that the January camp roster will largely be made up of domestic-based players. The USMNT has faced Slovenia twice before, with the most recent time being a 3-2 win in Ljubljana courtesy of a Jozy Altidore penalty kick.

While we already knew that the United States Women’s National Team would play China PR on Dec. 5 in Frisco, we now know that one of the team’s legends will be honored before the game. The U.S. Soccer Federation has announced that former Orlando Pride defender Ali Krieger, who stated in March that she will retire following the NWSL season, will be honored before the match. Krieger played 108 games for the USWNT and is a two-time World Cup winner with the team.

Notable Women’s Players to Miss International Matches

A pair of high profile women’s players will miss upcoming international games. First up, Sam Kerr will not feature in Australia’s back-to-back friendlies against Canada due to a foot injury. Kerr has struggled with injuries this year and her availability was limited during this summer’s World Cup.

Alexia Putellas will miss Spain’s two Nations League matches against Sweden and Italy after picking up a left knee injury. Putellas had missed Euro 2022 due to an ACL tear, but was back to help her side win the World Cup several months ago. Fortunately for Spain, the team is well positioned atop its group and has enough players in the squad that it shouldn’t feel her absence too keenly.

Free Kicks

  • A pair of Willian penalties and an early Alex Iwobi goal helped Fulham beat Wolverhampton, with American defenders Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream also starting.
  • New York Red Bulls forward Tom Barlow is reportedly headed to the Chicago Fire.

That’s all I’ve got for you this morning. Y’all stay safe out there.

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