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Orlando City

Orlando City at Nashville SC: Player Grades and Man of the Match

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Orlando City finished up their three match road trip heading into Music City to take on Nashville SC. The Lions did a good job maintaining possession to try to keep Nashville off the scoreboard, but a penalty and a counterattack made things difficult for Orlando City on the road. Possession was obviously the name of the game for Óscar Pareja, as Nashville is a team that can score in bunches. But that also plays right into Nashville’s game plan of sitting back and waiting for mistakes, too. Despite the challenges, Orlando City was able to secure a 2-2 draw, and earn a point on the road.

Just a note for those who read our player’s grades: Each staff member has their own scale on how they grade players. My grading involves not just stats and key moments, but also how the player performs against my expectations. If you disagree with how I, or any of our staff, approach our grades, I sincerely encourage you to join The Mane Land staff so you can use your own criteria. Now, let’s see how the Lions did in the come back draw against their Eastern Conference foes.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 6.5 — Gallese made the initial save on the penalty, but he couldn’t contain it, and Nashville scored on the rebound. That’s just a tough position for a keeper, and one you hope he doesn’t have to deal with ever. I’m not sure what happened on Nashville’s second goal. It might be he moved late, or was second guessing. Regardless, it was a tough shot to save. Randall Leal was in the middle and had either side to choose from as the defense left him plenty of space. El Pulpo’s distribution was fine, though his teammates don’t always seem to be able to give him a quicker outlet. He did, however, make four saves, and one interception. He attempted 23 passes at an 87% passing rate and connected on seven of 10 long balls.

D, João Moutinho, 6 — Moutinho was able to contribute to the offense, as Pareja wants his fullbacks to do. He played well going forward, and was okay when Orlando City was on defense, though he did get turned around a time or two. On defense he had five tackles, three interceptions, and committed one foul. He attempted 85 passes and had a 87.1% passing rate with two key passes, while completing two of three long balls and earning one foul. He came off in the 92nd minute for Kyle Smith.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 6.5 — Schlegel will miss the next match thanks to yellow card accumulation. Our own Michael Citro predicted this on The Mane Land PawedCast this week. To be fair, Schlegel spent most of the night marking Walker Zimmerman on every free kick and corner Nashville took (which was too many). He actually did a pretty good job keeping Zimmerman from impacting the match, only getting picked once by Jack Maher on several attempts to do so. His yellow hurt his overall performance, and he nearly earned a second yellow and a sending off moments later, but was spared thanks to unexpected leniency by referee Drew Fischer. Defensively, Schlegel made one tackle, two clearances, and committed three fouls. Offensively, Schlegel had two shots, with one on target. He also attempted 73 passes and had an 84.9% passing rate, while attempting three long balls.

D, Antônio Carlos, 5.5 — Having a match off didn’t do Carlos any good as he gave away the ball in Orlando City’s half at least twice. He attempted 71 passes and had an 84.5% passing rate, with one key pass, and completed six of nine long balls. He made three clearances, and committed three fouls. Remember that I base my grades on how well a player does against my expectations, which are based on his normal play. This was not the best Antônio Carlos, particularly when he allowed Hany Mukhtar to get on the wrong side of him which could have led to a second Nashville goal had the forward crossed in front rather than shooting into side netting.

D, Ruan, 6 — Ruan was able to range up and down the pitch as usual, but didn’t necessarily create chaos for Nashville in the offensive end. He did make two key passes, and completed one of four crosses. Defensively, he made one clearance. Ruan attempted 25 passes and had a 92% passing rate. He came off in the 92nd minute for Emmanuel Mas.

MF, Júnior Urso, 7 — How nice is it having a healthy Urso/Sebas Mendez combo in the midfield? Like the rest of the midfield, Urso put in the work to keep the ball away from Nashville. He also did well transitioning the ball from the defense to the offense. The Bear took one shot that was on target in the 44th minute but it had nothing on it. Otherwise, Urso had one key pass, and drew five fouls. Defensively, he had one clearance. He attempted 51 passes, had a 90.2% passing rate, and made one key pass.

MF, Sebas Mendez, 6 — Other than committing the penalty that led to the first goal for Nashville, Mendez had a pretty good match [Insert Mrs. Lincoln joke here]. Of course, that penalty was important and as such his grade is not as high as it could be. He was good in possession and made two successful dribbles. Defensively, he had one clearance, two blocked shots and committed one foul. He attempted 65 passes at a 92.3% clip. He came off in the 83rd minute for Tesho Akindele as Orlando tried to press the attack.

MF, Alexander Alvarado, 6 — Alvarado was a surprise start for the Lions as Pareja seemingly wanted to give Nani more rest. The rarely seen Alvarado probably played the best he has all season, but also the most he has all season. He wasn’t exactly a force to be reckoned with, but he didn’t hurt Orlando. Alvarado had two successful dribbles, was fouled twice, and committed one foul. He attempted 22 passes with a 95.5% passing rate. Alvarado came off for Nani in the 66th minute. He didn’t create much danger but did help maintain possession in tight quarters throughout his time on the pitch.

MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 7 — Pereyra wore the Captain’s armband to start the match with Nani on the bench, and he showed why he had the honor. Magic Mo pulled the strings of Orlando’s offense throughout the match. As the Lions played themselves into the match, he was able to create a more effective role for himself. He had two shots, with one on target that forced a diving save. His free kick effort deflected off a defender and went just wide in the 39th minute, so just a little more sharpness to beat the wall might have produced a stunner. Pereyra made four key passes, and suffered two fouls. Defensively, he committed one foul. He attempted 89 passes with an 83.2% passing rate and made one successful cross. He also completed two of four long balls. His biggest blemish was that he was unable to thread some of the passes he attempted and played into Nashville’s strategy of sitting back and looking to counter. This led to Leal’s goal when his pass attempt hit Moutinho in the back and jump-started the counter.

MF, Silvester van der Water, 6 — Like much of the Orlando City offense, van der Water took a bit to get going, and he had some heavy touches, but he eventually settled down and was able to contribute to Orlando City’s possession based game plan. Offensively, van der Water had one shot that wasn’t on target, was fouled once and dispossessed once. Defensively, he made three tackles, and had one clearance. He attempted 24 passes with a 79.2% passing rate, with three successful long balls out of four attempts. He came off in the 66th minute for Benji Michel.

F, Daryl Dike, 8 (MotM) — Calling Man of the Match was easy for me this time. Dike put in a shift. He earned fouls, did well in his holdup play, and once he got involved in the match, made sure that Nashville knew it. Add to that he was having to go up against Zimmerman all night and you can see how he’s coming back into form. Most importantly, he earned the penalty and then promptly put it in the back of the net. Decisively. It was that goal that gave the Lions hope, and allowed the comeback. Dike attempted two shots, with both on target. He also suffered three fouls, had one successful dribble, and was dispossessed twice. Defensively, Dike made one clearance, blocked one shot, and committed one foul. He attempted 12 passes with an 83.3% passing rate, attempted one long ball, and had one cross.

Substitutes

MF, Nani (66’), 6.5 — Nani wasted no time trying to impact the game with three shots taken and one of those on target and the other two coming close from outside the box. He had one successful dribble and suffered one foul. The captain attempted 15 passes with an 86.7% passing rate, and was successful on his one long ball. I know that people online will say his biggest contribution is that he didn’t take the penalty kick, but Dike grabbed that ball the second that the penalty was given. There was no way he wasn’t taking it. Given that Nani was on the bench to start this second consecutive important road match might mean he has a lingering knock, or it might mean nothing. Orlando City’s injury report means next to nothing, but I still feel it’s telling. That being said, the Lions did score both goals once Nani hit the pitch and his excellent corner delivery would have been an assist if Benji Michel had gotten onto it instead of the Nashville defender.

F, Benji Michel (66’), 7 — Offensively, Benji had one shot that was not on goal. Defensively he committed one foul. He attempted 4 passes with a 100% passing rate. Normally, that would mean an N/A for a grade, but he was the guy that forced the own goal on Brian Anunga to even the score and earn the point. Plus he did it without shoving Anunga or putting his forearm into the man’s neck. For that alone, he earns a good grade.

F, Tesho Akindele (83’), N/A Tesho was brought on to help with the attack as Orlando City tried to equalize late in the match. To be fair, he did help. He maintained possession in Nashville’s half and offered himself up as another attacker that Nashville had to defend instead of just focusing on Dike. He earned the corner kick that created the tying goal and another in the 96th that might have produced a winner had Fischer not spotted some foul while the cross was in the air. He attempted six passes with a 66.7% passing rate but wasn’t on the pitch quite long enough to earn a grade.

D, Emmanuel Mas (90+2’), N/A — Mas was one of two late fullback subs that Pareja put on to spell Ruan and Moutinho as Orlando tried to ensure the club earned a point on the road. He attempted one pass and completed it.

D, Kyle Smith (90+2’), N/A — Smith was the other sub mentioned above. He did not get a touch on the ball.


That is how I saw the game. How do you feel about the individual performances? Tell us by commenting and voting on the Man of the Match below.

Polling Closed

PlayerVotes
Mauricio Pereyra4
Daryl Dike27
Junior Urso0
Sebas Mendez2
Rodrigo Schlegel0
Other: Put answer in the comments0

Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. New York City FC

Get all the information you need on NYCFC, courtesy of someone who knows them best.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Another Orlando City match is right around the corner, and the Lions will try to keep the good vibes going during what has been a productive July. It won’t be easy though, as they welcome New York City FC to the familiar confines of the purple palace.

A date with the Pigeons means I caught up with Matthew Mangam, of the excellent Hudson River Blue. As always, he was very helpful in bringing us up to speed on New York City.

When last we talked, you said that this team needed to find its offensive spark again. It certainly managed to do that when it put four past Orlando City. Has that trend continued in the games since then?

Matthew Mangam: It definitely did not happen in the two matches after the win against Orlando. NYCFC did score first against Austin but ultimately lost, and couldn’t even manage two shots on goal against Chicago, drawing 0-0. Last game, NYCFC came back from 2-0 down to tie 2-2 with Atlanta United. The goals came from unusual scorers, Mounsef Bakrar and Talles Magno. So, the offense hasn’t been great recently but with the return of Magno, it can only get better. Players like Hannes Wolf and Santi Rodríguez have slowed down as of recently, resulting in guys like Alonso Martínez to see less of the ball and get fewer scoring chances.

With 29 goals conceded, NYCFC has one of the stingiest defenses in the league, what has made that unit so good?

MM:  NYCFC’s defense is solid, but it wouldn’t be complete without Matt Freese. The All-Star snub has made tons of amazing saves this season to earn NYCFC results and he seems to get better and better as time goes on. Also, the back line of Birk Risa and Thiago Martins has been consistent throughout the season, allowing for the two to get comfortable playing together. Although the right back spot has changed every so often, Kevin O’Toole has stayed as the starting left back. James Sands as the defensive midfielder does a great job in winning the ball back and protecting Martins and Risa. The defensive unit is the same from last season, so it’s only getting stronger with every game played.

It’s always fun to check in on former Lions, so tell me a bit about Andres Perea. How has he performed this season?

MM: Andrés Perea has been good this season, but not as good as he was last season during his loan spell. Perea does have two goals this season and one assist, but he’s given the ball away more than last season. He’s also not been as accurate passing-wise but I am still a huge advocate for him. He just suffered an injury against Chicago and may be out for some time, but I have no doubt that when he returns he’ll be back to his usual self. We’ve seen Nick Cushing use Perea in a three-man midfield with Keaton Parks and Sands as well. He doesn’t seem to be a certain starter, but he’s one of the few midfield depth pieces NYCFC has.

Will anyone be absent due to injuries, suspensions, call-ups, etc.? What is your projected starting XI and score prediction?

MM: NYCFC had five players out against Atlanta. The only set returner is Sands, who is back from yellow card suspension. I’m not sure if Cushing will want to rush back players such as Tayvon Gray, O’Toole, and Perea with such a quick turnaround. Malachi Jones had surgery after the injury he suffered against Orlando and will be out for several months. So, to guess a starting XI that I don’t think will be right, this is definitely the hardest one to predict yet this season.

4-2-3-1: Matt Freese, Christian McFarlane or Kevin O’Toole, Birk Risa, Thiago Martins, Ilenič or Tayvon Gray, James Sands, Keaton Parks, Agustin Ojeda, Santi Rodríguez, Hannes Wolf, Alonso Martínez.

I think the final score will be 2-2, it’ll be an entertaining game.


Thank you to Matthew for the information on NYCFC. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 7/19/24

Dagur Dan Thorhallsson signs new contract, Orlando Pride sign National Team Replacement Players, MLS roster rules change, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! I’ll be spending a majority of the day traveling, as I have a flight to Boston this morning and then a drive up to Maine. It should be a nice weekend with friends, and I’m planning on consuming as much lobster as possible while I’m up there. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Dagur Dan Signs New Contract

Orlando City has signed Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to a new contract that will keep him in the City Beautiful through 2026, with an option for 2027 as well. The versatile player joined Orlando before the 2023 season and has flourished at right back since moving there. He’s locked down the position, so it makes all the sense in the world that Orlando would want to keep him around. Thorhallsson has two goals and three assists to his name so far this season and is a key part of the team’s game plan when attacking.

Ramiro Enrique Makes Team of the Matchday Bench

Forward Ramiro Enrique earned a spot on the bench of the latest Team of the Matchday for his efforts in Orlando’s 3-0 win over Nashville SC on Wednesday. Enrique’s rocketed strike capped off a solid performance, as he was also a force in the air and looked dangerous at the top of Orlando’s offense. The 23-year-old forward was also selected as Man of the Match in our Nic Josey’s player grades for the game. Enrique now has three goals in his past three games, so it’s nice to see him get some deserved recognition.

Orlando Pride Sign National Team Replacement Players

Midfielder Claire Winter and goalkeeper Kenna Caldwell were signed by the Pride as National Team Replacement Players for this international break. The Pride are without seven players due to the Olympics and Winter and Caldwell are available for selection for the upcoming  NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup. Caldwell was a non-roster invitee to the Pride’s preseason and has been training with the team since. Winter has played in Denmark, Spain, Ireland, and Puerto Rico over the course of her career, and she was also a National Team Replacement Player for NJ/NY Gotham FC back in 2021.

MLS Makes Changes to Roster Rules

MLS clubs will have a bit more flexibility in terms of roster construction after the league announced changes that go into effect now that the secondary transfer window is open. Teams can now use all three Designated Player slots and all three U22 Initiative slots, eliminating the limitations that hamstrung some of those slots in the past. There’s also now an option for teams to build their roster with two DP slots, four U22 Initiative slots, and $2 million more in General Allocation Money. Speaking of GAM, up to $3 million of total transfer revenues can be converted into it, which is more than double the amount that it was before.

Only time will tell if these changes are enough to make the league more competitive with others, both on the field and in the transfer market. I feel like the increased flexibility is a positive, and I suspect savvy general managers will find ways to optimize their rosters fairly quickly. Let’s hope Luiz Muzzi can work some magic this transfer window.

USMNT Falls in Latest FIFA Rankings

After a disappointing Copa America that included a group stage exit, the United States fell five spots to 16th in the latest men’s FIFA rankings. While the U.S. underperformed, I do think it’s worth noting that strong tournaments from Uruguay, Germany, and Switzerland also played a part in them rising above the U.S. in the rankings. Mexico dropped two spots to 17th, while Panama and Canada both jumped up eight spots to 35th and 40th, respectively.

Spain moved up five places to third in the rankings following its dominant Euro 2024 run, while Argentina remained at the top after winning Copa America. Colombia jumped up three spots to claim ninth place, while Croatia fell out of the top 10 and is now in 12th.

Free Kicks

  • Former Lion Benji Michel will reportedly sign with Real Salt Lake. The Homegrown Player left Orlando on a free transfer to join FC Arouca in Portugal in January of 2023. It’s definitely going to be weird seeing him play for another MLS team if this comes to pass.
  • The Houston Dynamo made a splash by signing German winger Lawrence Ennali as a U22 Initiative Player. The 22-year-old joins from Polish club Gornik Zabrze for a reported transfer fee of $3 million and should give the Dynamo some needed firepower to compete in the Western Conference.
  • The Philadelphia Union traded away $150,000 in 2024 GAM to St. Louis City in exchange for Samuel Adeniran. The 25-year-old forward scored eight goals for St. Louis last season and the club can receive another $300,000 in GAM if conditions are met as well.
  • Toronto FC added American defender Henry Wingo as a free agent. although it gave $75,000 in 2025 GAM to D.C. United for his discovery rights. The 28-year-old has spent the past four years with Ferencvárosi and has MLS experience due to his time as a Homegrown Player with the Seattle Sounders.
  • The three divisions of the English Football League can be watched through CBS Sports this upcoming season. It’s notable news for those who want to watch Wrexham AFC or Americans like former Lion Daryl Dike.
  • Manchester United has officially signed 18-year-old defender Leny Yoro from Lille. Yoro started in 30 games for Lille last season and United reportedly paid a $67.6 million transfer fee for his services.
  • Patrick Vieira and Strasbourg have parted ways, leaving the French club without a manager just a month before the Ligue 1 season starts. Strasbourg finished 13th in the standings in Vieira’s first year with the club last season.
  • Borussia Dortmund has signed Serhou Guirassy, who scored a whopping 28 Bundesliga goals for Stuttgart last 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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Orlando City

Orlando City Signs Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to New Contract

The Icelandic midfielder-turned-fullback extends his deal to stay in Orlando through at least 2026.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City announced this afternoon that the club has re-signed Icelandic midfielder/fullback Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to a new contract. The new deal will keep the 24-year-old in purple through the 2026 MLS season with a club option for 2027.

“Since Dagur has arrived at the club, he has proven himself to be someone who is adaptive and versatile in all situations, showing a willingness to do whatever the team requires of him in any scenario,” Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “His dedication to hard work and to his teammates is visible every day. He’s a consummate professional, both on and off the pitch, and we’re excited to have him representing our club for the foreseeable future.”

The Lions signed Thorhallsson on Jan. 31, 2023 to a two-year contract with a pair of option years. He joined OCSC from Breidablik in Iceland’s top flight and made his first appearance for the club less than a month later, coming off the bench in Orlando City’s 1-0 opening day win over the New York Red Bulls on Feb. 25, 2023, coming on in the 78th minute to replace Martin Ojeda. After spot duty to start his Orlando career, Thorhallsson converted to fullback and has developed his game and has become a regular starter.

In his career with Orlando City, Thorhallsson has made 54 appearances (34 starts), playing 2,998 minutes. He’s scored four goals and added six assists, passing at an 85.7% rate. He was a part of one of the league’s best defenses in 2023 and has been a key part of a recent improvement by the Lions in their own end. Counting all competitions, Thorhallsson has participated in 65 games (40 starts), adding an assist in non-MLS games to go along with the numbers above. After his first season with Orlando City, The Mane Land staff gave Thorhallsson a solid grade of 6.5 out of 10 for the 2023 season.

“I am so happy to have extended my contract with this amazing club,” Thorhallsson said in the club’s release. “Since I came to Orlando, it has felt like home, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity I have gotten to play for the best fans in the country. There’s nothing better than a warm, Orlando night at Inter&Co Stadium, so I can’t wait for many more to come. The fans deserve the best, and that is what I will continue to try to give while I am here in Orlando.”

Prior to joining Orlando City, the native of Hafnarfjörður, Iceland native scored 11 goals and added seven assists in 40 appearances with Breidablik, helping the club win the Icelandic championship in 2022. He has appeared in four matches with Iceland’s national team and represented Iceland previously at the U-16, U-17, U-18, U-19, and U-21 levels, scoring two goals at the youth international level.

Thorhallson spent his youth career with Icelandic clubs Fylkir and Haukar, as well as Belgian side Gent from 2013-2018. He began his senior career with six appearances at Haukar in 2016 in his mid-teens. He returned to Iceland from Belgium and appeared in 16 matches with Keflavik, scoring one goal during the 2018-2019 season and appeared in one league match and four cup matches on loan with Norwegian side Mjøndalen IF. He signed with that club in 2019 and made 12 appearances in league play over two seasons from 2019-2021. During that time, he also played 12 games on loan with Kvik Halden FK in 2019, scoring five goals, and played in 20 matches on loan with Fylkir, scoring once.

What It Means for Orlando City

Thorhallsson arrived as a potential midfield replacement for Junior Urso at the beginning of 2023, but with his versatility and willingness to play anywhere, he cemented himself into the right back position around the Leagues Cup break in 2023, helping the Lions go on a successful final run that lifted the club to second in the Supporters’ Shield standings. While he is still developing at the position, and is sometimes still prone to errors, he’s only 24 and has plenty of upside.

Able to tuck inside and help in the midfield, play on the wing, and serve as a wingback or a fullback, Thorhallsson can plug into a lot of spots across multiple formations. He provides Oscar Pareja with some tactical options on how to use him. Thorhallsson has already equaled his goal (2) and assist (3) totals from 2023 in fewer games (albeit more minutes). He has a good rapport with winger Facundo Torres on the right side of Orlando City’s attack and possesses good instincts about when to overlap and when to cut inside.

The signing extends a promising Orlando City career. He should be in the midst of his prime years over the next two seasons, and provides a solid and dependable player.

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