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Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Player Grades and Man of the Match

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Orlando City and Inter Miami battled to a scoreless draw at Exploria Stadium. A missed penalty by Tesho Akindele was just one part of an overall frustrating performance by Orlando’s offense. Defensively, the Lions secured their seventh shutout of the season against a Miami side that scored six goals in its previous two games. While the result may leave some pulling their hair at what could’ve been a win, the Lions stretched their unbeaten streak in MLS games to six games.

Now, let’s dive into how each Lion rated and who earned the title of Man of the Match.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 6.5 — In his first start for Orlando since July 25, Gallese made two saves to secure his sixth clean sheet this season. In the 23rd minute, the ball fell to Rodolfo Pizarro after a corner and Gallese was able to get a strong hand to the striker’s shot at point-blank range. In the second half, Gallese did a good job covering every angle to stop Gonzalo Higuain’s shot from the end line. It was an otherwise quiet night for the Peruvian as he had just 18 touches and was accurate on one of his two attempted long balls.

D, Joao Moutinho, 6.5 —The left back put some great balls into the box throughout the match, including a few long throw-ins. Of his seven crosses, three were key passes that found their mark while one was blocked. Moutinho led the team with 83 touches and 66 passes. Of those passes, Moutinho completed 92% of them, which is fantastic considering the distance on his misses. He prevented much danger from coming down his side, made no massive mistakes, and he had one clearance. All in all, it was a good performance from Moutinho and he should benefit once Orlando’s offensive players fully recover to take advantage of his crosses.

D, Robin Jansson, 7 — The masked Swede seemed to have scored from a short corner, but Akindele made a faint touch on the ball from an offside position. Jansson has lurked outside the box during Orlando’s set pieces in recent weeks, so it was nice to see he has the chops to make that play work even if the goal was disallowed. Defensively, he did well to keep Miami’s attacking trio of Pizarro, Higuain, and Robbie Robinson relatively quiet. Jansson led the team with three clearances, putting out fires when Miami started to get momentum. He completed 55 of his 59 passes for a great 93% success rate. Of those four inaccurate passes, two were quite deep and Jansson did well sending the ball downfield for Orlando’s wingers to chase down. Jansson had 69 touches, third-most on the team, and did well on both sides of the ball.

D, Antonio Carlos, 7 (MotM) — Carlos had a good read on Higuain for most of the game, either making sure he was in position to cut off service to the Argentinian or trapping him offside. The Brazilian center back had three interceptions and two clearances on defense, showing some athleticism to make good plays on the ball no matter the angle. Yet again, he was a threat on corner kicks and nearly scored a game-winner. Nani delivered a good ball into the box and Carlos was able to get it on target, but Miami goalkeeper Nick Marsman came up with a great save to deny Carlos of his third goal this season. Carlos had 67 touches and completed 89% of his 61 passes to help Orlando build out of the back. It was another strong performance from Carlos and would’ve been a night to remember if not for Marsman’s heroics.

D, Ruan, 6 — The right back used his speed to cause problems for Miami’s defense early on. However, his crossing left something to be desired as only one of his five crosses found their mark. His quickness helped cover up some defensive lapses, particularly late when Higuain picked his pocket and forced Ruan to run him down. Still, Ruan went the distance and had a tackle, an interception, and a clearance on the defensive end while still being able to turn on the jets late to help create chances late in the match. He had 66 touches and was successful on 87% of his 38 passes in a good performance.

MF, Junior Urso, 6.5 — The Bear had a good opportunity in the fifth minute, crashing the box on an early corner and sending his header just wide of goal. It was his first of two shots, the second coming late in the match as he tried to curl a shot into the top left corner but it didn’t dip enough and went into the stands. Urso had a strong defensive performance with two tackles, three interceptions, two clearances, and a defensive block. The Brazilian midfielder also finished second on the team in touches with 81 and completed 54 of his 60 passes for a solid 90% success rate. With the midfield decimated by absences, Urso played every minute and did well in this one.

MF, Joey DeZart, 6 — It was DeZart’s third straight start for the Lions and a solid outing in central midfield. He did well clogging up Miami’s passing lanes and connecting Orlando’s defense with its offense. The 23-year-old had to come off in the 73rd minute due to an injury. Hopefully it isn’t too serious as DeZart has certainly been improving by getting playing time with Sebas Mendez, Andres Perea, and Uri Rosell unavailable. DeZart finished with 51 touches, an interception, and 48 passes at an impressive 96% success rate.

MF, Silvester van der Water, 6.5 — The Dutchman made some nice runs and touches to help spark chances on offense and led the team with four key passes. He had 41 touches and one shot over the course of 72 minutes, not quite getting on top of a bouncing ball in the box and sending it off target. Defensively, he chipped in with a tackle and an interception as he hustled all over the right side of the pitch. Van der Water was also successful on four of his five attempted dribbles and completed 80% of his 20 passes. The 24-year-old showed plenty of skill and tenacity, but wasn’t able to contribute towards a goal in this scoreless affair.

MF, Chris Mueller, 6 — Mueller led the team with three shots, with one deflected and the other two off target. He was unsuccessful on all three of his attempted crosses, although one of them caught Nicolas Figal’s arm to cause the penalty. Mueller made a key pass from a corner kick to set up a great chance for Urso early on as well. The 24-year-old was only successful on two of his six attempted dribbles and didn’t have any defensive stats. He completed 90% of his 30 passes and had 55 touches before being subbed off in the 89th minute for fresher legs in the final minutes.

MF, Benji Michel, 6 — Michel did well when making runs downfield to put Miami’s defenders in tough positions. His touch was also much better in this match compared to recent matches as he brought down long balls sent his way with ease. However, both of his attempted crosses were thwarted by Miami and he was only successful on one of his three attempted dribbles. Michel played all 90 minutes and had two shots, sending a header wide and then having the other blocked in the box. He had 31 touches, a clearance, and was accurate on 87% of his 15 passes.

F, Tesho Akindele, 5.5 — The Canadian striker had a chance to give Orlando an early lead from a penalty kick in the 12th minute, but his shot was poor and barely troubled Marsman. It was the first of two shots from Akindele, the other being a header sent wide. Akindele was offside when he got a touch on Jansson’s shot from distance. It’s hard to blame Akindele on that play, especially considering his touch helped the ball find the bottom left corner, but it helped culminate in a frustrating night for the 29-year-old. His usual hustle created some opportunities, as he forced Miami into some long ball mistakes that created Orlando attacks. He was subbed off for Daryl Dike at the half and ended the game with 17 touches, a clearance, and eight passes at an 88% success rate.

Substitutes

F, Daryl Dike (45’), 5.5 It was Dike’s first Orlando appearance since July 3, coming on for Akindele at halftime to give the Lions some needed bite on offense. His only shot was a header from a difficult position that he couldn’t direct towards goal due to the speed and angle. Dike started to impose himself on the match as the game wore on, with his cros nearly causing an own goal and making a key pass in the box, but ultimately wasn’t able to break the deadlock. He had just 12 touches, a few of them much too heavy, but won both of his aerial duels, and completed two of only three pass attempts. His rust was apparent but with more minutes his form should return and it was important to get him back on the field.

MF, Nani (71’), 5.5 — Nani wasn’t able to give Orlando the finishing touch it desperately needed during this match. He had no shots or key passes and was unsuccessful on both of his attempted crosses in open play, although he whipped in a nice corner kick that Carlos nearly scored from. Nani delivered the team’s final two corner kicks of the match when it was in search of a winner, but neither made it past the defender on the near post to reach the crowded box. Still, it’s nice to see Nani get some action after his injury last weekend and traveling for the MLS All-Star events this week. He had 23 touches during his shift and completed 15 of his 16 passes for a 94% completion rate.

MF, Raul Aguilera Jr. (71’), 6.5 The 22-year-old came on for DeZart and did a decent job stringing together passes and hustling on defense. Aguilera amassed 26 touches and completed every single one of his 25 passes. With DeZart’s injury and the absences in the midfield, we may see more of the Homegrown Player as the season wears on.

D, Emmanuel Mas (88’), N/A — Mas came on late in the match to give the Lions some fresh legs. He completed both of his passes — short attempts on the left side — and had five touches. There wasn’t enough to properly grade him in this match.

MF, Alexander Alvarado (88’), N/A Alvarado had two touches and completed his only pass of the game in another brief cameo for the Ecuadorian winger. Like Mas, Alvarado didn’t get enough action for a rating in this match.


That’s how I saw things play out in Orlando’s 0-0 draw with Miami. Make sure to weigh in on how you feel about the grades in the comments below and to vote for who you think deserves the title of Man of the Match.

Polling Closed

PlayerVotes
Antonio Carlos17
Pedro Gallese12
Robin Jansson13
Junior Urso3
Other (let us know in the comments below)3

Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew

Find out what you should expect from the Columbus Crew on Saturday, courtesy of someone who knows them best.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

After returning from a successful trip to the West Coast, Orlando City will be staying in town for Memorial Day weekend. Next up on the schedule for the Lions is a visit from the reigning MLS Cup Champions, the Columbus Crew.

A date with Columbus means I spoke with Collin Johnson of the always excellent Massive Report, and he was kind enough to help bring us up to speed on what to expect from the Crew this year. I also answered some of Massive Report’s questions about Orlando City, which you can find over at their place.

Talk me through the Crew’s off-season transfer business. Who were some of the big departures, and who has been brought in to replace them?

Collin Johnson: It was a pretty quiet off-season from the Crew. They focused on extending current contracts (and getting rid of bad contracts) rather than bringing in a big name acquisition. The bigger news were the contracts they were able to get rid of. Kevin Molino’s $700k+ salary was bought out before the season started, while Julian Gressel ($900k+) opted to take a deal with Inter Miami after losing his place in the starting lineup during the 2023 MLS Cup playoffs.

Rudy Camacho, Steven Moreira, Darlington Nagbe, Mohamed Farsi, and Sean Zawadzki all signed new deals. Academy and Crew 2 midfielders Cole Mrowka and Taha Habroune signed full first-team deals, though both are expected to jump back and forth between the second team and the first team. Derrick Jones was signed as a free agent. Many thought the very tall defensive midfielder would slot in as a center back in the Wilfried Nancy system, but all of his time has been spent as a DM (and it has gone relatively well aside from a shocking red card against Charlotte).

The only transfer fee paid this off-season was, ironically, to Pachuca for Marino Hinestroza. Hinestroza is an MLS U22 Initiative player who plays a similar style to Alex Matan but is faster and a bit better at finishing. With Hinestroza on the field, Columbus looks to stretch defenses in a different way than the typical wingback defensive stretching.

Columbus has been excellent defensively, with the 13 goals conceded on the season tied for second-fewest in the league. What’s been working so well at the back?

CJ: The defensive recovery extends back to the 2023 season and probably has two factors. First is the team getting comfortable in the Wilfried Nancy system. The expectation is that players will hold onto the ball until the last second before playing a pass to get out of trouble. At times last year that resulted in turnovers and goals by opponents. You can really see this in the play of Yeven Cheberko. Cheberko struggled in his half season with the Black & Gold in 2023 but this season has played like a new signing, splitting time as the starting left center back. Cheberko has the ability to break multiple lines with his passing, and now that he has improved in his Nancy system confidence, he has begun to live up with the potential he had as a new signing.

The other factor is Rudy Camacho. Camacho joined in the summer transfer window from Montreal, so he was already familiar with the Nancy system. Immediately he slotted into the center spot of the back three and conducted the rest of the defense. As soon as he joined the team, the defense took a huge step forward.

The Crew have done about as good a job balancing Concacaf Champions Cup play and the MLS schedule as possible, and currently sit above the playoff line. How have they been able to find a good balance, when most teams struggle mightily in one competition or the other?

CJ: Realistically it has been a bit of a struggle. Columbus is getting results now but most of the matches during the meat of the Concacaf Champions Cup run were draws. When the Crew beat Montreal on May 16, that was their first league win since March 16. Still, grabbing some draws during that run and staying alive in the playoff hunt are absolutely accomplishments for this team. Part of the reason for this success is the team’s depth. Hinestroza adds another attacking option up top while Derrick Jones is able to spell Aidan Morris/Darlington Nagbe in the midfield. Zawadzki has been a Swiss Army knife for the Black & Gold, slotting in at nearly every position on the field aside from goalkeeper. Nancy has also been willing to use his substitutes after a 2023 season when his sub pattern was frustratingly limited.

The Black & Gold also have the good fortune to get a bye through the group stage of this summer’s Leagues Cup, so they can push a bit harder during a congested few months with the expectation of multiple weeks off in July.

Are there any players who will be unavailable due to injury, suspensions, etc.? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?

CJ: Cucho Hernandez is officially out for Saturday’s match. He has had a nagging back injury and it is expected that he is being held out as a precaution and to be healthy for the Concacaf Champions Cup final in June. Without Cucho these last two weeks, the Crew have grabbed back-to-back road wins for the first time in what seems like forever. Without Cucho, the attack is a bit more multi-faceted. Diego Rossi has picked up the slack and started to look like the former Golden Boot winner that he is.

Rossi will start with a target striker, assuming this is Christian Ramirez, and likely Alex Matan. Depending on the game state, Nancy will slot Jacen Russell-Rowe into Matan’s spot to attack with two target strikers up top. The midfield duo of Nagbe and Morris is a mainstay, though the team has tried to manage Morris’ minutes as the season has gone on. Expect to see Zawadzki or Jones replace Morris/Nagbe around the 75th or 80th minute. In the back we’ll see Yaw Yeboah, Malte Admundsen or Cheberko, Camacho, Steven Moreira, and Mohamed Farsi.

I’m guessing the below is what they roll out:
Patrick Schulte; Malte Amundsen, Rudy Camacho, Steven Moreira, Yaw Yeboah, Mohamed Farsi; Aidan Morris, Darlington Nagbe; Alex Matan, Christian Ramirez, Diego Rossi.

I don’t see Columbus grabbing a third straight road win but they are playing well right now so I’m guessing we see a hard-fought draw. Columbus 2-2 Orlando. 


Thank you to Collin for providing the scoop on the Crew. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/24/24

Orlando City prepares for the Crew, Barbra Banda an NWSL MVP favorite, Orlando Pride announce sleeve sponsor, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! The gauntlet of Orlando soccer home games starts tonight when the Orlando Pride take on the Portland Thorns in a clash of win streaks. I’m working for most of the weekend, but am looking forward to watching some soccer and playing my way through the Ace Attorney games during my spare time. For now though, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

Orlando City Gets Ready to Host the Crew

Orlando City is on a three-game unbeaten run and will take on the Columbus Crew Saturday night in an Eastern Conference showdown. The last time these two sides met was in the 2023 Eastern Conference semifinals with the Crew winning in extra time to eliminate the Lions. It’s the third consecutive road game for the Crew after winning 3-1 against both CF Montreal and the Chicago Fire. Saturday’s match is also the Crew’s last match before the Concacaf Champions Cup final on June 1. Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja spoke on how the Lions will be up to the task regardless of which players take the field for Columbus. Pareja also spoke about how Duncan McGuire is working his way back from the injury he suffered last week.

Barbra Banda Named MVP Frontrunner

ESPN updated its rankings of players in contention to be named NWSL MVP this season and Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda tops the list. The Zambian forward hasn’t been with the Pride for long, but she has scored six goals in six games to help the Pride win seven straight games. Opposing defenses haven’t figured out a way to stop her, and it’s fair to think of her as an MVP favorite alongside fellow attackers in the league like Sophia Smith and Temwa Chawinga. Pride defender Emily Sams also earned herself a spot on the list, ranking 11th. It’s nice to see her get some deserved recognition for her role in the Pride’s stellar defense this year.

Orlando Pride Announce Sleeve Sponsor

A partnership was announced between the Orlando Pride and Heart of Florida United Way, a charity that’s supported families in Central Florida for the past 85 years. As part of the partnership, Heart of Florida United Way will become the first sleeve sponsor for the Pride and its logo will be on the right sleeve of both of the Pride’s jerseys this year. A new ticket program is also being created for 50 tickets to be donated to a local charity for each Pride home game.

Orlando City Unveils Watch Party Schedule

The schedule for this Orlando City season’s watch parties is out, along with the lineup of this year’s included pubs. Each pub will have MLS Season Pass access for fans to watch Orlando’s games this year and there will be chances to win tickets and autographed items at the watch parties as well. There are three new pubs added to the lineup this year, including The Castle Irish Pub at College Park, Paddywagon Irish Pub in Dr. Phillips, and Winter Garden’s Hagan O’Reilly’s. The first watch party will be at The Hammered Lamb in Ivanhoe Village on June 1 when the Lions face off against the New York Red Bulls.

Free Kicks

  • Pride midfielder Evelina Duljan was called up to join Sweden’s U-23 team for the upcoming Four Nations Tournament.
  • NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman became the first woman to be named Sports Business Journal‘s Sports Executive of the Year.

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

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to earn all three points at home against the Crew?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Orlando City earned seven points during a three-match stretch over eight days. Now the Lions will look to keep things rolling against the Columbus Crew this Saturday night at Inter&Co Stadium. The Crew are currently sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 21 points compared to Orlando City in 10th with 16 points.

What do the Lions need to do to get a victory at home against the Crew?

Switch Focus

Orlando City has lucked out because Columbus striker Cucho Hernández will not play, as he is nursing a back injury. Hernández has often been a thorn in Orlando’s side when the clubs play, so his absence is definitely good news. However, that doesn’t mean that the defense can relax. The Crew still have a potent attack with players like Diego Rossi, Jacen Russell-Rowe, Aidan Morris, and others. Columbus has scored 19 goals so far this season, which is four more than Orlando’s 15. I think it is likely that Oscar Pareja will stick with the 3-5-2 formation, meaning the pressure will be on the back three of David Brekalo, Wilder Cartagena, and Rodrigo Schlegel.

Goals Needed

Orlando City left it late against San Jose before Jack Lynn scored in the 89th minute to give the Lions a victory. That’s not to say there weren’t wasted chances — because there were — but it was enough that night. It likely won’t be enough against Columbus. We don’t know the status of Duncan McGuire’s injury as of this writing, but I would be surprised to see him in the lineup, let alone getting the start. That means we will likely see Jack Lynn alongside Luis Muriel up top. Lynn is no McGuire, but he is able to get into good spaces in the box and has a nose for goal. Another goal from him or Muriel could make a big difference.

Scheduling Factors

I’m not saying that Wilfried Nancy will be looking ahead to the Concacaf Champions Cup final against Pachuca the following week, but a trophy is a trophy, and it could impact who he plays and for how long. He might be keeping Hernández out for precautionary reasons to allow him time to be ready for the final. It’s possible that he risks points against Orlando City in pursuit of hardware. Pareja doesn’t have it any easier with Orlando City playing a midweek match at the Chicago Fire next Wednesday before heading to New Jersey for a match against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, June 1. May has been brutal for the Lions, and though the team has made the most of it so far, it doesn’t get any easier. How much will rotation affect Orlando’s ability to get all three points?


That is what I will be looking for Saturday night. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!

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