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Orlando City vs. Philadelphia Union: Final Score 3-1 as Lions Sunk by Controversial Decision



A controversial play late in the first half spelled doom for Orlando City (10-7-8, 38 points) as it fell 3-1 to the Philadelphia Union (9-7-8, 35 points) this afternoon. What could’ve been a red card to Union forward Kacper Przybylko ended up as the Union’s first goal. Making matters worse, Przybylko scored a brace in the second half to end Orlando’s chances at a comeback.

Pedro Gallese was between the sticks and the Lions used a five-man back line in this one, with Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson, and Rodrigo Schlegel as center backs and Ruan and Kyle Smith as the two wingbacks. Junior Urso, Mauricio Pereyra, and Joey DeZart started in the midfield, with Tesho Akindele starting up top alongside Benji Michel. Nani and Andres Perea missed this game after being sent off in the team’s 4-2 loss to Montreal and both Daryl Dike and Silvester van der Water began this game on the bench.

Philadelphia dominated the first half as Orlando City found it difficult to get anything going offensively. In the 11th minute, the Lions had a decent chance when Akindele lost the ball near the end line but won it back. He ended up getting it to Pereyra at the top of the box, who was able to get a shot off, but it was blocked.

The Union nearly opened the scoring in the 14th minute when Jamiro Monteiro found space at the top of the box, using some fancy footwork to lose Junior Urso. His shot was just out of reach of the oncoming Jansson, but Schlegel blocked the shot from distance with his head.

Five minutes later, the Lions were forced into an early substitution when DeZart went down injured and was replaced by Raul Aguilera. Right after the change, Alejandro Bedoya played Monteiro right in front of goal. Fortunately for Orlando City, Monteiro was unable to make good contact and the ball went harmlessly out of play.

The second opportunity for Orlando City came in the 25th minute when Ruan took a shot from close range. Union goalkeeper Andre Blake had the near post covered, but the ball was deflected by Jack Elliott, who had extended his foot. The deflection forced Blake to slap the ball away, his first real action of the game.

Following the save, the Union went back on the attack. In the 30th minute, Bedoya played Olivier Mbaizo through on the right. The Cameroonian sent a dangerous ball across the box, nearly finding Cory Burke in on goal. However, Burke’s half-hearted attempt allowed the Lions to send it toward the top of the box. Leon Flach was waiting to collect it though and shot toward the far post, the ball rolling just wide.

The Union finally broke through in the 37th minute, though it was controversial. A Philadelphia free kick was quickly won by Orlando City, which tried to break out with numbers. However, a poor touch allowed the Union to regain control. With multiple Lions upfield, Burke found Kai Wagner at the top of the box and the midfielder’s shot was deflected past Gallese for the first goal of the game.

Replays showed that during the free kick, Przybylko elbowed Schlegel in the face, which should have been a free kick to Orlando City and possibly a red card for violent conduct for the forward. The assistant referee waved his flag, but was ignored by the referee, who let play go on. It was thought that VAR would’ve seen the infringement and reviewed the play, but the check informed Alan Kelly that he didn’t need to review it on the monitor.

In addition to the foul, it appeared as though there were multiple players offside and standing in front of Gallese during the shot. However, the referee didn’t call any of them offside and allowed the goal to stand.

“What I can tell you is what I saw first was a foul,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the game. “I would consider it a red card. It was flagged by the linesman. He saw it first. Second, the play that he was allowed to have advantage for us, I respect this decision of the referee on that part. But then, what I thought was (a player) well in between the shooter and our keeper. He’s blocking his side and was being part of the play.” 

“We were going to go on a counter attack,” Akindele said about the play. “And unfortunately, we lost the ball and they converted. That’s what good teams are gonna do. They had a couple guys in front of Pedro that could have been called offside or not. They didn’t call it offside.”

Despite the unlucky break, the Lions were fortunate to only be down one at the half. Philadelphia led the first half in possession (60%-40%), shots (8-1), shots on goal (3-1), total passes (209-150), passing accuracy (85.2%-74.7%), corners (4-1), and crosses (15-1).

The Lions did lead some first half statistical categories, but they were all defensive. These included duels won (28-17), tackles won (9-6), and clearances (18-3).

Orlando City came out much better to start the second half, beginning the period on the front foot. In fact, it didn’t take long for the visitors to get the equalizer.

In the 57th minute, Pereyra sent a good ball across the box for Ruan. Concerned about the wingback’s speed, the Union defenders provided plenty of space for him. So, despite Ruan being one of the smallest players on the field, he was able to redirect the cross toward the far post with his head. The header got past Blake and bounced off the far post for the equalizing goal.

The goal had Orlando City thinking of getting out of Philadelphia with at least a point, but that hope didn’t last long. In the 61st minute, Monteiro attempted to dribble down the Orlando City end line. He lost the ball to Smith, but Bedoya immediately won it back for the Union, laying it off to Monteiro. The midfielder found Przybylko, who could’ve been sent off in the first half for striking Schlegel, right in front of goal and the striker slammed it past Gallese, giving Philadelphia a 2-1 advantage.

Orlando City’s best chance after its goal came in the 74th minute. Ruan played a nice ball into the box for Junior Urso, who redirected it on target with his head. However, Blake was up to the task again, making the diving save and keeping the Lions behind by one.

Two minutes later, Sergio Santos had his first of multiple good chances on goal. Sent through behind the Orlando City defense, Gallese did well to cut down his angle. Santos shot but Gallese was right there to make the easy save. Orlando City was fortunate that Santos decided to shoot as he had Przybylko in the middle with no defenders around.

A bad situation almost got worse in the 80th minute. Santos once again was sent behind the defense, though it was questionable whether he was onside. Gallese came out of his box to tackle the midfielder, missing the ball and taking the Brazilian out.  With no defenders around, the referee could’ve considered it denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity, which would’ve been a red card for the Lions’ goalkeeper. But it was decided that Santos was too far toward the touchline, giving him a yellow instead.

In the 88th minute, the Lions did end up getting a player sent off. For the third time late in the game, Santos was able to get behind the defense, this time beating Carlos into the box. The usually solid center back grabbed the midfielder and pulled him down. Kelly immediately pointed to the spot and issued Carlos a red card.

The sending off was Orlando City’s third in its last two games. While the team will get Nani and Perea back next week, it will now be missing a key defender in Carlos.

To put a dagger in a disappointing afternoon, Przybylko stepped up to the spot and converted the penalty. So instead of being sent off in the first half, the Polish striker netted a brace and led his team to a 3-1 win.

It appeared at halftime as though this would be a lopsided affair. Despite the two-goal difference, the Lions made up ground in the second half. Philadelphia ended the game leading in possession (51.5%-48.5%), shots (13-9), shots on goal (8-4), total passes (381-365), passing accuracy (80.3%-80%), corners (4-3), and crosses (18-10). Orlando City led in duels won (51-42) and clearances (21-10).

The once defensively strong Lions have now conceded 12 goals in their last four games. This was the team’s third straight loss, the longest losing streak under Pareja.

“I think overall, especially our reactions in the second half when we tied the game and then we had control of it, we felt good,” Pareja said of the performance. “We could have had more. We have to say what came and take our responsibilities as well to keep improving. Try to get the team out of this moment that is difficult, but we are united and we will keep pushing.”

The Lions will look to end their losing streak Saturday night when they face the first-place New England Revolution in Foxborough, MA.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 12/2/23

The Pride sign a new keeper, the MLS playoffs continue, the USWNT is in action, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Salutations on this satisfactory Saturday, Mane Landers. We’re heading for the home stretch of 2023, and what a year it has been. Make sure that you are catching all of our Season in Review articles for both the Orlando City and Orlando Pride players. Things tend to happen personnel-wise in December, so be prepared. Until then, let’s check out today’s links. But first, let’s wish a happy 26th birthday to Orlando City goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar.

Pride Sign a New Keeper

The Orlando Pride signed Finnish goalkeeper Sofia Manner from FC Honka of Finland’s top flight, the Kansallinen Liiga. With the addition of Manner, the Pride have four keepers on the roster heading into 2024. Manner is expected to compete for the starting job, though the same could be said of both Anna Moorhouse and Carly Nelson. It is unlikely all four netminders will be on the Pride once the season starts. Manner has international experience and was the best keeper in the Kansallinen Liiga.

MLS Conference Finals Tonight

I wouldn’t blame you if you decided not to watch the remainder of the MLS playoffs after last weekend’s disappointing result. However, if you are going see how it all sorts out, you might want to study up on the matches. We’re all too aware that the Columbus Crew will be facing FC Cincinnati to see which club wins the Eastern Conference. Over on the other side, LAFC will take on the Houston Dynamo to determine the Western Conference champion.

MLS Player Moves

As the playoffs come to a close, the signings and transfers around the league are ramping up, but who will stay and who will go? New York Red Bulls midfielder Dru Yearwood is heading to Nashville SC as reported by The Athletic (paywalled) since Dax McCarthy is out of contract there and won’t be returning.

The Philadelphia Union have signed midfielder Jesus Bueno to a new three-year contract through 2026 with an option for 2027. Meanwhile, Gustavo Bou won’t be returning to the New England Revolution. So, um…maybe he’d like to come south and score goals for Orlando City rather than against the Lions? Before anyone gets too crazy, it should be on a non-DP deal.

USWNT Hosts China

The USWNT is back in friendly action against China this afternoon in Ft. Lauderdale at 3 p.m. and then on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. in Frisco TX. Interim head coach Twila Kilgore will be in charge since newly-named Head Coach Emma Hayes doesn’t start until the 2023-2024 Women’s Super League season in England is over. Hayes is the current head coach of Chelsea FC Women’s. This is the first match between the two teams since 2018, and a lot has changed. The USWNT has been very solid on defense in 2023, allowing only two goals back in the SheBelieves Cup.

Free Kicks

  • If you haven’t heard of a “sin bin,” think of it like a penalty box in hockey. The idea has been getting a runout in lower league matches in English football by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) with some good results. It’s not yet confirmed, but MLS may institute the change in 2024. The idea is to reduce dissension by having a player sit for 10 minutes during a match. Tottenham manager Ange Postecoglou has spoken out against the idea. What do you think of the concept?
  • Real Salt Lake has promoted Kurt Schmid to sporting director and interim chief soccer officer.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo will have to deal with a $1 billion class-action lawsuit for his role in promoting NFTs for Binance. Maybe that’s why he signed for Al-Nassr in the Saudi Pro League?
  • Speaking of the Saudi Pro League, it looks like Mohamed Salah may not be leaving EPL side Liverpool anytime soon. The prolific striker is looking for a new contract to stay at Anfield.
  • I’ll take things Pedro Gallese would not do for $400, Alex.

That will do it for today. Please go forth and enjoy your weekend!

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2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Kyle Smith

Let’s look back at The Accountant’s fifth MLS season.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Fullback Kyle Smith was originally signed on Dec. 21, 2018 when James O’Connor was Orlando City’s head coach. He proved to be a valuable Swiss Army knife-type player and earned a new contract on March 29, 2021 through the 2022 season with a 2023 club option. Orlando City picked up his 2023 option at the end of the 2022 season but then signed Smith to a new one-year contract for 2023 just weeks later with an option for 2024.

Let’s have a look back at The Accountant’s fifth MLS season.

Statistical Breakdown

Smith appeared in 25 matches during the 2023 regular season, starting 17 times and logging 1,501 minutes. It was his third-most appearances but his second-most minutes since making the jump from Louisville City to MLS ahead of the 2019 season. He scored one goal and assisted on three others, setting a new career high in the latter category. Smith attempted seven shots, putting two on target. He passed at a 78.7% clip, including nine key passes, five successful crosses, and 36 successful long passes. Defensively, Smith recorded 35 tackles, 16 interceptions, 40 clearances, and two blocked shots. He drew eight fouls while committing 20 and was booked five times on the year.

The 31-year-old appeared in all three of Orlando City’s three playoff matches — both off the bench — and logged 65 minutes. He did not score a goal or assist on one, attempting one shot, which he put on frame. He passed at an 82.5% rate in the postseason. He posted two tackles and a clearance defensively. He did not commit a foul or draw one and he wasn’t booked.

In the 2023 Concacaf Champions League, Smith came off the bench in the first leg at Tigres, playing minutes, passing at just a 25% rate (small sample size), did not attempt a shot, did not draw or concede a foul, and was not booked.

During Leagues Cup play, Smith appeared in all three of Orlando’s matches (all starts), logging 150 minutes. He did not contribute to a goal or attempt a shot in the tournament, committing four fouls and earning two yellow cards. Smith did not play in Orlando City’s lone U.S. Open Cup match.

Best Game

Smith’s best match of 2023 came in Orlando City’s 1-1 home draw against Atlanta United on May 27, and not only because that’s when he scored his lone goal of the season, although that doesn’t hurt. El Soldado started and went the full 90 minutes. He fired two shots on the night, putting one on target (and in the net), and passed at an exceptional 90.3% rate on 31 attempts, which was his third-best passing night of the season. He completed two successful long balls on two attempts, chipping in four clearances (second only to Antonio Carlos), a tackle, and an interception on the night. His big moment came in the 30th minute, when a well-worked attack up the left kicked out to him on the right side. Smith was perfectly positioned and made no mistake in putting the Lions ahead 1-0.

Although the match was spoiled by a late equalizer, Smith turned in one of his best performances since joining Orlando City and if not for his goal, the outcome might have been a lot more somber than a 1-1 draw.

2023 Final Grade

Smith received a composite score of 6 out of 10 for his 2023 performance from The Mane Land staff. This is an improvement over the 5.5 he earned last year but slightly below the 6.5 he earned for the 2021 season. Previously, Smith was given a 5.5 in 2020 and he got the same score after the 2019 season. The staff awarded Smith for his effort, versatility, and willingness to do whatever it takes to win. He is the quintessential team player. But beyond all of the above, he simply played well most of his minutes on the pitch. At his age, he’s going to struggle to contain the league’s speediest wing players, particularly when playing on his weaker left side, but his ability to adapt is unquestioned. The perfect example of that was when he was tucking inside from his fullback spot earlier in the season to add an additional player to the midfield and freeing Facundo Torres up to have more space in which to operate on the right side.

2024 Outlook

Smith’s return may ultimately rest with whether or not Oscar Pareja stays on with the Lions, although a decision might need to be made earlier than that, as the club must make a decision on his option. Pareja has valued Smith’s versatility and work ethic over the last few years, and with more competitions and matches than ever before, it’s always good to have a depth player who can plug and play in multiple positions. He played his second-most MLS minutes in 2023, so he’s still seeing the field plenty.

If I had to guess, and this section is for exactly that, I’d say the club will either exercise his option or sign him to a new one-year deal with an option year for 2025. However, what complicates matters is that Smith is over age 24 and has played five MLS seasons, which means he’s eligible for free agency. If he’s back in 2024, I would expect him to again be a key backup at both fullback positions, getting some spot starts in U.S. Open Cup or when fixture congestion is heavy.

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2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Abdi Salim

We continue our Orlando City player retrospectives with a look at one of the Lions’ 2023 draft picks.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City used its third pick of the 2023 MLS SuperDraft to select Abdi Salim with the 17th overall pick. Salim played his college soccer at Syracuse and the Lions picked up the center back to help with depth at a position that didn’t really have a ton of established bodies behind Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson, and Rodrigo Schlegel. He was then signed to a one-year deal in February that contained three option years for the 2024, 2025, and 2026 seasons.

Let’s have a look at Salim’s first season as a professional.

Statistical Breakdown

Salim made his Major League Soccer debut at home against FC Cincinnati on March 4. It was Salim’s only start of the year and he went the full 90 minutes as the Lions drew 0-0 against the eventual Supporters’ Shield winners. He made two other appearances in away games against D.C. United and Charlotte FC, both of which ended as 1-1 draws as he finished with 148 MLS minutes on the year.

Defensively he recorded four tackles, four interceptions, three clearances, a block, and won two aerial duels. He did not record any offensive statistics, but was solid with his distribution as he averaged 87.3% passing accuracy and completed one cross and one long ball each.

Given that it was only his first season as a professional, he spent the bulk of his time in MLS NEXT Pro with Orlando City B. With the Young Lions he played in 16 matches, starting 14 of them and racking up 1,162 minutes. He finished with 11 interceptions and a tackle while committing seven fouls and drawing 11 and picking up one yellow card. Salim took nine shots, put two of them on target, and scored a goal on each one he got on frame. He passed very well, finishing with a 90.2% success rate, two key passes, and 18 long balls.

Best Game

The honor of his best game goes to his first ever professional appearance, when he started and played the whole game in the aforementioned 0-0 draw against FC Cincinnati. Salim finished with three tackles, three clearances, and an interception while passing with 87% accuracy, completing a long ball on his only attempt, and helping the Lions keep a clean sheet at home. He was a bit shaky at first, as he was deployed as the third center back in a three-man back line, but he settled down in the second half and finished with a grade of 5.5 out of 10 from Nic Josey.

2023 Final Grade

Given that Salim didn’t crack 200 minutes and we require a minimum of 450 to award a grade for the season, he receives an incomplete for the 2023 season. He did some good things when down with Orlando City B, and filled in well enough with the senior side when called upon, but we simply need to see more of him in order to figure out what he’s really able to do.

2024 Outlook

It’s likely that Salim will spend more time with Orlando City B next season, but with no one seemingly laying claim to the fourth center back position, he should have a chance to show what he’s capable of during preseason. He seemed to be in competition with Thomas Williams for the back up spot not occupied by Rodrigo Schlegel, but he may have moved past him in the pecking order as he made more appearances than the Homegrown signing, both with OCSC and OCB. Regardless, as an inexpensive young player with potential, there’s no reason to think he won’t be here next year.

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