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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Final Score 2-1 as Daryl Dike’s Header Wins It at the Death



Daryl Dike saved his best moment for last with a perfect header off a Chris Mueller cross to lift Orlando City to a 2-1 win over D.C. United at Exploria Stadium. The Lions (11-8-9, 42 points) snapped a five-game winless streak when Mueller’s corner kick delivery found Dike’s head and the ball skipped off the underside of the crossbar and in for the winner to beat D.C. (12-12-4, 40 points).

Robin Jansson’s goal off an earlier corner kick scramble had canceled out a Julian Gressel cannon shot in the first half and the teams seemed destined to split the points until Dike’s goal. It was the forward’s third straight game with a goal and lifted the Lions back over United in the tight Eastern Conference standings. Orlando swept the season series from D.C. (2-0-0) — the first time the Lions have done that to United since 2017.

“I think it was a very important night for us,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “And it was emotional for us, of course, because we have seen how hard (the players) worked to get over this hurdle, this period of three weeks where we couldn’t get results. Our players were very united.”

Pareja had just about his pick of the roster for this match as everyone was available except the injured Alexandre Pato and Uri Rosell and the suspended Rodrigo Schlegel. Pedro Gallese started behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Sebas Mendez and Junior Urso took their spots in the central midfield, with Benji Michel and Mauricio Pereyra connecting with Nani and Dike up top.

There wasn’t much going on for the first five minutes of the game except 22 guys kicking the ball around, but that changed in the sixth minute. A ball forward for Dike was won by D.C. and sent to the right side. Gressel smashed a shot from distance that caught Gallese a bit off guard and it had the power to beat him to make it 1-0.

The first look for Orlando came in the 14th minute when a corner kick found Nani who fired a shot that was deflected. The ball pinged around in traffic and found Dike, who hit a shot over the bar. Two minutes later, Ruan got down the right and sent in a good low cross that Steve Birnbaum deflected just inches wide of his own left post. But the ensuing corner led to the Lions’ equalizer.

A good service into the area was headed on goal by Urso and Bill Hamid made a sprawling save. Jansson was there to smash the rebound into the roof of the net to tie the game at 1-1 in the 17th minute.

“I went to the second post and I saw the guys were in the middle there,” Jansson said. “I think it was Antonio, Dike, and maybe Urso or someone else. They got a touch to the goalkeeper, who put the rebound off on the second post and I was there to grab that rebound up and hit it in the net. I’m happy about the goal and happy for the team that we broke the bad momentum we have had. Hopefully this is something we can keep building now the last couple of games.”

Orlando looked vulnerable after scoring, with Carlos doing some emergency defending a couple of times to break up play but conceding dangerous corners. But the Lions settled back down and held some possession to calm the game back down.

Michel should have put Orlando on top in the 35th minute. Nani made a ridiculous pass to send Michel into the box on the left side. The winger made a good move to cut inside on his right foot but then sent his shot just inches wide of the far post.

That was the last good opportunity for either side in the first half and the teams went into the break all even. Orlando dominated possession in the first half (64.7%-35.3%) but often couldn’t decide what to do with it in the final third. The Lions had more shots (7-4) and shots on goal (2-1), and was more accurate with the ball when passing (87.1%-76.7%).

Emmanuel Mas came on for Moutinho to start the second half and D.C. pressed to try to find a goal early in the half, keeping Orlando penned in its own end for the half’s opening minutes. The Lions helped them with that by being loose with the ball, turning it over and playing into D.C.’s hands.

The first good chance came when Paul Arriola fired over the bar in the 48th minute. A minute later, Gallese spilled a seemingly routine ball and allowed D.C. to recycle an attack into the area, ending in a weak header on goal. Moments after that, Urso gave the ball away cheaply and ended up having to clean up the ball just in front of his own goal line.

Shortly after that, Orlando started to settle down and pass the ball better. D.C. began to drop into a defensive formation, content to earn a point on the road at worst and to ideally score on the counter, if possible. The Lions were able to get into some good positions but couldn’t quite find that final pass to unlock the defense.

In the 88th minute, the Lions created some danger in transition. Second-half sub Silvester van der Water did well to deflect a ball and Dike got onto it. The big forward passed up a shooting opportunity to slip between defenders but lost his balance after contact with a defender and he could only slide the ball to the right. Tesho Akindele made a sliding effort to direct the ball toward goal but Hamid made a huge initial save and then it was cleared off the line before van der Water could tap it home.

That looked like it was going to be the last good chance of the match but the Lions won a late free kick and made the most of it. Mueller sent in a fantastic cross and Dike flicked it on, sneaking it just under the bar for the late winner in the 97th minute. For Mueller, it was his first direct goal contribution since July 3, when he scored in a 2-1 loss to the New York Red Bulls.

“Chris had just served a good ball near post, and so I decided to go near post this time and flicked it on to the goal and the ball went in and emotion just came over me,” Dike said. “I’m just so happy we got a win in front of the fans.”

Dike celebrated and somehow ended up with a pair of sunglasses on his face. He said that Andres Perea brought them to him.

“I don’t know where he got them from but they ended up on my face,” Dike said.

“It seems like one point was not enough for them in front of our fans,” Pareja said of his team. “They brought that energy at the end that was what we were looking for to change the road now.”

With D.C. content to look for counter opportunities, the Lions led in most statistical categories, leading in shots (12-11), shots on target (4-2), corners (9-5), possession (64.8%-35.2%), and passing accuracy (86%-75.3%).

“I think we were the best team on the field,” Pareja said. “I think we got the three points because we always were constant on our intentions in trying to hurt United, which is a very good team also, who have strong transitions. But today our heart was bigger and that’s why we’re very proud.”

The win, combined with other results, lifted Orlando from seventh back into third place in the Eastern Conference.

“At this time of the year, every single point matters,” Dike said. “We tell each other every single second of the game matters, every play matters, whether it be the first minute, whether it be the 90th minute. You saw it from last game, you saw it from this game, that we’re going to keep fighting until the whistle is blown in order to get the points that we need.”

Orlando City now gets a rare rest with the international break, resuming play on Oct. 16 at FC Cincinnati.

Orlando City

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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Orlando City

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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Lion Links

Lion Links: 12/1/23

Rodrigo Schlegel fined, MLS roster updates, USWNT faces China tomorrow, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Welcome to December, Mane Landers! It always feels like a good sign when a month starts on a Friday. I don’t have many plans this weekend beyond helping a friend move and trying to make pad Thai for the first time. It should be a nice next few days to reset after a hectic week. But for now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

MLS Issues Disciplinary Rulings After Playoff Games

Orlando City center back Rodrigo Schlegel was fined an undisclosed amount by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for not leaving the field in a timely manner after receiving a second yellow card in the team’s playoff match with the Columbus Crew. Schlegel did not crowd the referee or plead his case disruptively, but he did linger a bit before exiting the match. It was one of many fines handed out by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for violations during the playoffs, and Crew forward Cucho Hernandez was fined for embellishment for going to ground clutching his face after Schlegel shielded the ball from him.

The Vancouver Whitecaps players and staff received fines and suspensions for their actions during and after their playoff match with LAFC on Nov. 5. Head Coach Vanni Sartini was fined $20,000 and suspended for an additional five games for entering the field of play in a confrontational manner and his comments about the refereeing following his team’s elimination. Vancouver defender Mathias Laborda was also handed a one-match suspension for his actions during the match.

MLS Teams Update Rosters as Deadline Looms

The deadline for MLS teams to decline contract options is today and clubs around the league are getting their affairs in order. The Portland Timbers confirmed that Sebastian Blanco won’t be with the team next year, as he was out of contract after seven seasons with the club. Designated Player Jaroslaw Niezgoda and fellow forward Franck Boli had their options declined by Portland as well. FC Dallas triggered the options on the contracts of midfielder duo Asier Illarramendi and Liam Frasier, while declining the options for midfielder Facundo Quignon and defender Jose Martinez. The New York Red Bulls kept a key part of their defense by signing Dylan Nealis to a contract through the 2024 season. Nashville SC declined seven options, and veterans Dax McCarty and Fafa Picault are out of contract. Both players could be worth keeping an eye on as an Orlando supporter, depending on if Wilder Cartagena and Ivan Angulo will return. According to The Athletic‘s Tom Bogert, McCarty is not likely to return to Nashville.

Racing Louisville Names Beverly Yanez as Head Coach

Beverly Yanez was announced as Racing Louisville’s next head coach after serving as an assistant coach during the 2023 season. The 35-year-old retired as a player in 2020 and was an assistant coach with NJ/NY Gotham FC for two years before joining Louisville prior to this season. Louisville has yet to reach the playoffs since joining the NWSL in 2021 and Yanez is now the club’s third head coach. She’s earned plenty of praise from Louisville’s players and it will be interesting to see how her first season as a head coach goes in 2024.

Alejandro Bedoya Receives Impact Award

Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya won the MLS Impact Award, along with a $100,000 contribution by Audi to The Philadelphia Equity Alliance. Bedoya has worked with the nonprofit to promote inclusive economic growth and reduce poverty. He was also named 2022 MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year for his efforts to make a difference in the Philadelphia community. The Crew’s Darlington Nagbe and Nashville’s Taylor Washington were the other finalists for this year’s award.

Analyzing China Ahead of USWNT Friendlies

The United States Women’s National Team will close out its 2023 schedule with a pair of friendlies against China this month. The two nations will clash tomorrow at 3 p.m. in Fort Lauderdale before playing again in Frisco on Tuesday at 8 p.m. Although China lost all three of its group stage games in this past summer’s World Cup, it recently won the bronze medal in the Asian Games. China fell short in Olympic qualifying though, and 2022 AFC Women’s Coach of the Year Shui Qingxia’s contract was terminated, with Wang Jun taking over in an interim capacity for these friendlies. The USWNT should be able to find success on set pieces and crosses, although China has been working on strength training this year to compensate for that weakness. Tang Jiali, Zhang Linyan, and Shen Menglu are a few of the players in China’s versatile attack that could spell trouble for the Americans.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando Pride defender Rafaelle started as Brazil’s captain and Marta and Adriana came off the bench in a 4-3 win over Japan in a friendly. In her international debut, 19-year-old forward Priscila gave Brazil the late winner. The two teams will play again on Sunday.
  • The Kansas City Current dedicated their press box to journalist and Kansas City native Grant Wahl.
  • The New England Revolution have promoted Curt Onalfo to sporting director after four years as the club’s technical director. Onalfo served as the interim sporting director after Bruce Arena’s resignation in September and now gets the job fulltime.
  • The MLS Players Association released a statement regarding Matt Miazga’s three-game suspension.
  • Pierre Emerick-Aubamayeng scored a bicycle kick and a late winner as part of his hat trick in Marseille’s 4-3 win over Ajax in the Europa League.
  • The 2023 Women’s College Cup semifinals kick off tonight, with Florida State facing Clemson and BYU playing Stanford. There are many talented players in action who are worth watching tonight before the NWSL Draft next month.
  • Lyon, which is last in Ligue 1 with just seven points from 12 games, has sacked Fabio Grosso after less than three months as head coach.

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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