Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Player Grades and Man of the Match
The Cardiac Cats are back as Orlando City scored in stoppage time to win 2-1 over D.C. United and climbed back up the Eastern Conference standings. Both of Orlando’s goals came from corner kicks as Robin Jansson and Daryl Dike found the back of the net to overcome an early goal by Julian Gressel.
Let’s dive into how each Lion performed in the team’s first win since Sept. 4.
GK, Pedro Gallese, 5 — Gallese was beaten at the near post by Gressel’s powerful shot from distance that seemed to catch the Peruvian goalkeeper off guard. El Pulpo also had a nervy moment early in the second half when he couldn’t handle a cross into the box, but D.C. ultimately wasn’t able to capitalize on the opportunity. Apart from those moments, it was a fairly quiet night for Gallese as he had one save and 26 touches. He completed 15 of his 19 passes for a 79% rate and was accurate on three of his seven attempted long balls. While he hasn’t had a clean sheet since a scoreless match with Inter Miami on Aug. 27, this was the first time since that match that Orlando hasn’t conceded multiple goals in a game. Gallese will join Peru for World Cup qualifiers during this international break.
D, João Moutinho, 6 — Moutinho was fairly involved when on the field, but was taken off at halftime. He had 50 touches in Orlando’s first half and 40 passes at an 83% completion rate. His only attempted cross was unsuccessful as Orlando’s other playmakers weaved most of the team’s chances. Defensively, Moutinho had a tackle, an interception, and a clearance. If his substitution was due to an injury concern, at least he has time to recover as Orlando’s next game isn’t until a road trip to face FC Cincinnati on Oct. 16.
D, Robin Jansson, 7.5 (MotM) — The Swede did a great job following through on a corner kick to score Orlando’s first goal, slamming the ball into the net after Hamid made a save. It was Jansson’s second goal of the season as he continues to make an impact on set pieces. On the defensive side of things, Jansson had three interceptions and a defensive block to limit D.C.’s chances alongside Antonio Carlos. He had 63 touches and completed 87% of his passes. Jansson is the Man of the Match for helping Orlando respond to Gressel’s goal with one of his own and also clamping down on a D.C. offense that scored 12 goals in the previous four games leading up to this match.
D, Antonio Carlos, 7.5 — Carlos led the Lions with seven interceptions as he used great vision and his large frame to cut off passes and regain possession. He also had a tackle and three clearances to help keep D.C.’s offense quiet. He made an important defensive play in the 40th minute to prevent an Ola Kamara breakaway. The center back completed 50 of his 52 passes for a 96% success rate, which is fantastic considering D.C.’s high press to try to force mistakes. Carlos was calm, cool, and collected with 70 touches in the match and no committed fouls — important since he entered the match one yellow card shy of a suspension. His two shots came late in the match as Orlando hunted for a winner. Both were deflected, with the first going out for the corner that led to Dike’s goal.
D, Ruan, 5.5 — The right back’s crossing ability still leaves something to be desired as he was unsuccessful on all three of his attempts. However, one of those crosses was a low effort to Dike that had to be forced out for the corner that resulted in Orlando’s first goal. Ruan seems to be getting better at cutback passes into the box after sprinting down the right side rather than trying to loft the ball in front of goal for someone to head in. He had three tackles and his quickness allowed him to chase down loose balls before D.C. players could reach them. He got beat down his side a couple of times and gave the ball away in his own end a few times in the first half, which affected his score. Ruan played every minute and finished with 68 touches while completing 75% of his 44 passes.
MF, Sebas Mendez, 7 — The Ecuadorian midfielder led the Lions with 97 touches and also had 90 passes at a great 96% success rate. Mendez’ role was crucial for the Lions to get past D.C.’s press as he served as an outlet for passes to help build possession. He had two interceptions and a clearance to help solidify Orlando’s defense in the center of the field. While he didn’t make much of an impact on offense beyond helping the Lions string together passes, his presence allowed players like Mauricio Pereyra and Nani to push higher upfield.
MF, Junior Urso, 5.5 — While Urso made a great play by safely intercepting a low cross in front of goal without putting it into his own net, that initial chance for D.C. was created by Urso’s dispossession and his attempted clearance didn’t end the danger. It was a series of moments that happened for Urso in the match as he tended to turn the ball over and then hustled to make up for it. He also gave away a couple of unnecessary free kicks in his defensive half. He played all 90 minutes and had 77 touches while completing 50 of his 60 passes for an 83% success rate. Urso had a tackle, an interception, and a blocked shot in the match. Offensively, he was able to get enough behind his header from a corner to force a save from Hamid, with Jansson there to put it away. That was one of his two shots and the other was deflected late in the match for a corner. Urso has played every minute of Orlando’s past five games so the international break comes at a great time for the Bear.
MF, Benji Michel, 5.5 — The Homegrown Player used his speed to make great runs throughout the match, flying under the radar a bit to find good spaces. His only shot came in the 35th minute as a great ball by Nani found him in the box. Michel made a nice cutback to shake his defender, but his shot skipped just wide of goal. He didn’t have any key passes and his only cross was unsuccessful. He finished with 36 touches in 82 minutes of action and chipped in with a clearance and an interception when defending.
MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 6.5 — Pereyra did well pulling the strings for Orlando’s offense before coming off in the 71st minute for Silvester van der Water. Both of Pereyra’s two key passes were from corner kicks, including the great service that led to Orlando’s goal. He also attempted two crosses in open play but neither found their target. Pereyra also had a shot, but it was deflected. He finished with 60 touches and completed 83% of his 46 attempted passes.
MF, Nani, 6.5 — The captain was most productive in the first half. Nani made two key passes to set up good opportunities for Orlando and also had two shots, although both were deflected. His only cross of the match was unsuccessful and he shifted to a central role once Pereyra was subbed off. Nani wasn’t able to get much going in the second half and was taken off in the 81st minute for fresher legs. He had 61 touches, three clearances, a tackle, and 44 passes at an 84% success rate. Nani hasn’t scored or made an assist in his past five appearances, but this was his longest shift during that stretch and he will have time to rest before Orlando’s next match.
F, Daryl Dike, 7 — With two defenders covering him, Dike literally rose to the occasion in the final moments of the match to head the ball into the underside of the crossbar and into goal for the game-winner. Dike was outright unstoppable whenever the ball was in his vicinity during the match, using his strength to get past defenders and making two clearances with his head as well. His goal was one of his two shots, the other going off-target early on in the match. D.C. was determined to lock him down and he ended the game with just 26 touches and seven passes at a 100% completion rate as Orlando struggled to get him involved when D.C. dug in its heels in the second half. Regardless, Dike gave Orlando all three points with his late winner and has scored in three straight matches against the Eastern Conference’s toughest opposition.
D, Emmanuel Mas (46’), 6 — The left back came on for Moutinho at halftime and ended up leading the Lions with four tackles and three clearances. He did well on both sides of the ball and came alive on offense once Mueller joined the fray as the pair used their speed and footwork to attack the left side. Mas had 64 touches and was successful on 85% of his 41 passes. It was a solid outing from the Argentine defender.
MF, Silvester van der Water (71’), 5 — Van der Water came on for Pereyra and wasn’t able to make much of an impact with no shots or key passes. His only cross was unsuccessful and he finished with 13 touches and eight passes at a 75% success rate. It wasn’t his best outing, but he wasn’t terrible by any means and helped switch the flow of play when needed.
MF, Andres Perea (81’), N/A — Coming on late for Mendez, Perea completed 14 of 15 passes for a 93% success rate and had 15 touches. He wasn’t involved much in the team’s late push for a goal as D.C. was still capable of going on the counter if Orlando’s attack fell apart. While he didn’t play enough minutes to be graded, he still earns some bonus points for giving Dike a pair of sunglasses during his goal celebration. But where did he get them?
F, Tesho Akindele (81’), N/A — The Canadian nearly scored the winner in the 88th minute with a sliding shot to put the ball on target, but Hamid came up with a great save from his knees and it was cleared off the line. It was his only shot of an otherwise quiet performance as he only had three touches and one pass, which he completed.
MF, Chris Mueller (82’), N/A — It was Mueller’s first appearance since a cameo on Sept. 15 and the winger tried to make the most of his few minutes on the field. He had 26 touches and completed nine of his 13 passes for a 69% completion rate as he worked to make something happen while both of Orlando’s Designated Players were off the field. Mueller delivered the team’s only successful cross in open play, had two key passes, and was also successful on three of his five corner kicks, including the game-winning assist. His corner kick for Orlando’s winner was sublime as he delivered a great ball into traffic for Dike to reach and flick towards goal. With Mueller leaving the team after this year and only a few home games left this regular season, it will certainly be a moment to remember.
That’s how I saw things play out in Orlando’s 2-1 win at home. 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.
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Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids
Familiarize yourself with the Colorado Rapids, courtesy of someone who knows them best.
Another Orlando City game is almost upon us, as the Lions look to both extend their five-match unbeaten run and pick up two wins in a row. This week sees the Colorado Rapids come to town for the first home game of June.
A match with the Rapids means I spoke to Matt Pollard, of Burgundy Wave. That’s another site that has gone independent and the folks over there are continuing to provide great coverage of the Rapids, so make sure to check them out!
What were some of the big incoming and outgoing transfers for the Rapids ahead of this season?
Matt Pollard: The three biggest incoming players in terms of expectations were Kévin Cabral, Connor Ronan, and Andreas Maxsø.
Cabral is probably the highest-risk, highest-reward signing when it comes to the Rapids going after distressed assets. So far, it hasn’t panned out. He presses well, but that’s about it. The same issues he had at LA Galaxy (getting called offside, not finishing) are present here in Colorado. The difference is, he’s the focal point instead of the third player opposing defenses worry about.
Ronan and Maxsø have been great. Ronan was brought in to play alongside Jack Price. When Price went down for the season, Ronan stepped into the No. 6 role and adjusted well. He’s tidy at the back, works hard off the ball, and is one of the better assist providers on the team. Maxsø has been good defensively in the air and good at emergency defending. The Rapids typically give up goals by making a series of small errors. Rarely is the Great Dane one of those players who makes a mistake on a goal.
It’s hard to say if there were any significant departures from last year’s team. Most fans weren’t surprised or bummed out when Gyasi Zardes signed for Austin FC. The left back position has been an issue, so maybe Lucas Esteves. But he had some attitude issues and was hot headed. Robin Fraser’s such a culture guy, he wasn’t worth the headache.
It’s been a difficult start to the season for Colorado, what has been the biggest reason for the team’s struggles?
MP: Injuries. Injuries. Injuries. Price went down for the season in his second appearance. Diego Rubio has had three separate injuries. Maxsø was under concussion protocol for two games. I’ve lost count of how many players have had hamstring issues. As I’ve written about previously for Burgundy Wave, the infrastructure at Dick’s (Sporting Goods Park) is showing its age. The team had a really bad stretch in March and April with practice fields and winter sticking around. They’ve missed key players. They’ve had limited depth. All while playing eight games in May. Hopefully a full week of training has them healthy and refocused for Saturday.
With plenty of games left to play and only sitting six points out of the play-in spots, the Rapids are far from dead and buried. What needs to happen for Colorado to turn the season around?
MP: Get healthy and get going offensively. Rubio is still their only reliable chance creator. All their goal scorers have been streaky. If Rubio comes back healthy and can give the Rapids the production he had last year (a club-record 16 goals and seven assists), that would be fantastic. Add in Cabral, Jonathan Lewis, and Braian Galván having a good finishing streak, and they could be ok. Orlando fans should be wary of Michael Barrios coming off the bench tomorrow. All 12 of his goals for the Rapids have come in the second half.
Are there any players who will be unavailable for selection due to call-ups, injuries, suspensions, etc? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?
MP: The injury report just came out and there are only four players on it. That’s tied for the lowest of the season! Rubio is questionable, and Fraser’s been really cautious with his key players coming back from injury. I can’t see him getting more than 20 minutes Saturday. Moïse Bombito is suspended for a harsh second yellow against San Jose, so expect Lalas Abubakar to start at center back. Price is out, as mentioned previously. Max Alves is still removed from team activities as he’s under investigation for participation in a sports gambling scheme in his native Brazil.
Marko Ilic; Danny Wilson, Andreas Maxsø, Lalas Abubakar; Sam Nicholson, Keegan Rosenberry; Connor Ronan, Bryan Acosta, Cole Bassett; Jonathan Lewis, Darren Yapi.
I think Orlando wins a tight, ugly game. Oscar Pareja knows how to poop-house the Rapids. 1-0, Facundo Torres scores. I do think we’ll see one of the better performances from the Rapids of this winless stretch for what that’s worth.
Thank you to Matt for the excellent info and helping get us up to speed on the Rapids. Vamos Orlando!
Lion Links: 6/9/23
Orlando City gets ready for the Colorado Rapids, OCB faces FC Cincinnati 2 on Sunday, U-20 World Cup final is set, and more.
How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope this Friday finds you well as we gear up for a weekend filled to the brim with Orlando soccer. My friends are taking me out for teppanyaki and scorpion bowls tonight, so it should be a pretty nice day on my end. Hopefully your Friday goes smoothly as well. Now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.
Orlando City Prepares for the Colorado Rapids
The Lions are on a five-game unbeaten run as they get ready for a home match tomorrow night against the Colorado Rapids. Facundo Torres scored twice in the team’s 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls last weekend. Hopefully he can keep the momentum rolling against a Colorado team that’s allowed 25 goals this season and sits last in the league in points per game, with just two wins in 17 matches. Pedro Gallese also recorded his 26th clean sheet for Orlando in last week’s win, and could make his 100th appearance as a Lion tomorrow night. The Lions will have to keep an eye on Irish midfielder Connor Ronan, who has six assists in his first season with the Rapids.
Orlando City B Aims to Bounce Back at Home
After a 3-0 defeat to Toronto FC II in Canada this past weekend, Orlando City B will look to right the ship on Sunday at home against FC Cincinnati 2. The Young Lions are unbeaten at home this season, winning four of their six games at Osceola Heritage Park. The last time these two teams played was in August of last year, with Cincy winning in the penalty shootout following a 2-2 draw. Although he didn’t score in that match, OCB forward Jack Lynn scored three goals against Cincinnati last year and currently leads OCB with six goals this season. Sunday’s match should be a good opportunity for OCB’s offense to bounce back against a leaky Cincy defense.
USMNT Players Focused Despite Coaching Search
With European seasons over, American players who have been plying their trade abroad are back in the U.S. to prepare for the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup this month. The team will be coached by B.J. Callaghan in an interim capacity while the search for a head coach continues. Although not having a permanent head coach for these tournaments isn’t ideal, Nashville SC center back Walker Zimmerman spoke on how the team still knows how to get the job done.
“We’re a team that has a very strong team chemistry, strong culture within our group. And we know that for us, not much has changed right now,” said Zimmerman. “We know the same principles, style of play, expectations, accountability – all those things are the same. So I think that’s player-driven, to hold each other accountable to the standards that we’ve set over the past four years. BJ, he’s on top of it. He’s knowledgeable about what we want to do, how we’re going to go about these games.”
The roster includes many of the players who featured in the World Cup last year, but the striker position is one to watch due to the new faces involved. Folarin Balogun is with the team for the first time and it will be interesting to see how he measures up against Ricardo Pepi, Alex Zendejas, and Jesus Ferreira. We will get to see who spearheads the USMNT’s attack next Thursday, when the Yanks take on Mexico in Las Vegas.
Italy and Uruguay Reach U-20 World Cup Final
Only two teams remain in the U-20 World Cup after Italy and Uruguay each won their semifinals. Uruguay, which beat the U.S. in the quarterfinals, beat Israel 1-0, thanks to a goal in the second half from Anderson Duarte. In Italy’s semifinal against South Korea, Cesare Casadei’s terrific tournament continued as he gave Italy the lead in the 14th minute. South Korea equalized soon after with a penalty kick, but 17-year-old forward Simone Pafundi scored a nice free kick to send Italy into the final.
The final will take place on Sunday at 5 p.m., with the third-place match set for 1:30 p.m. It will be Italy’s first time playing in a U-20 World Cup final, while it will be Uruguay’s third time after losing in 1997 and 2013.
- American defender Josh Wynder is headed to Benfica. The Portuguese club signed the 18-year-old from USL Championship club Louisville City for a reported $1.2 million transfer fee, which would be a record amount for a USL player.
- FC Cincinnati and the Houston Dynamo will host in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals. Both matches will be on Aug. 23, with the Dynamo playing Real Salt Lake and Cincinnati facing Inter Miami.
- Speaking of FC Cincinnati, the club is reportedly close to signing Gabonese forward Aaron Boupendza as a Designated Player for a $7 million transfer fee. Boupendza had 11 goals in 17 appearances for Al-Shabab in the Saudi Pro League this past season.
- Brooklyn will be home to a USL League One team, which will begin playing in the 2025 season.
- Liverpool agreed to buy back its Melwood training ground with the intention of turning it into a training facility for its women’s team.
- Czech police stated that 23 West Ham and Fiorentina fans were arrested for their actions while in Prague for the Europa Conference League.
- Liverpool signed midfielder Alexis Mac Allister to a contract through 2028. The 24-year-old had 12 goals and three assists last season for Brighton.
That’s all I have for you today. Have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!
Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids: Three Keys to Victory
What does Orlando City need to do to earn all three points at home against the Rapids this Saturday night?
Orlando City is back home in Exploria Stadium and hosting the Colorado Rapids this Saturday night. The Lions are coming off a big road win over the New York Red Bulls, and will want to extend the five-match unbeaten streak. What does Orlando City need to do to secure all three points at home this weekend?
Survive the First Half
Colorado has been better in the first half of matches this season than in the second half. The Lions can expect the Rapids to come out strong, looking for an early goal. If Orlando City can play smart on defense, maintain possession, and limit Colorado’s chances for the first 45 minutes, plus stoppage time, the odds of winning at home go up.
I’m most worried about the first 15 minutes and the last five minutes of this half. It’s going to be contingent upon the effective midfield pairing of Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena to break down the Rapids’ attack. Araujo was in training this week despite going off injured in the last match, indicating it wasn’t that serious and he may be available. Cartagena has quietly been fantastic the last few matches, and there’s no reason to think that won’t continue.
Behind that pair is another line of defense, including Robin Jansson and Antonio Carlos, that can clean up anything else that gets through. Carlos has mostly been great, although he’s had a few less-than-stellar matches, and Jansson has been excellent. If Orlando City weathers the first half in good shape, I’ll feel better about the Lions getting three points.
Ride the Hot Feet
Oscar Pareja has trotted out the same starting lineup the last couple of matches, and I don’t expect he will mess with the success. After the last match, Ivan Angulo and Facundo Torres will be feeling pretty good, and we don’t want those confidence-boosting performances to be wasted. There will be plenty of time to let them rest if they can help provide the team with a two-goal lead after the 60 minute mark.
The same goes for Ercan Kara. No he didn’t have a goal last match, but that had more to do with dealing with the New York Red Bulls press than anything else. His last goal was three matches ago against Inter Miami, but he is putting the work in regardless, and I think he’s primed to find the back of the net against Colorado.
Regardless of the scoreline, look for Pareja to bring on Martin Ojeda and Duncan McGuire to either put the match away or look for a positive result. Duncan can be a terror against a team that doesn’t play well in the second half, and Ojeda seems due for a goal. He certainly isn’t shy about taking chances, and eventually one of them is going to result in a goal.
Too many times in Orlando City history, the Lions have played a team on a winless streak — the Rapids haven’t won in their last six matches — and been the team to let the opposition get back on track. The Lions are also riding a five-match undefeated streak heading into Saturday’s match. It’s the type of match that tends to worry scarred Orlando City supporters, and I have those bad thoughts and feelings as well. As Michael Scott said on The Office, “I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.” If Orlando City could not feed into that phenomenon, it would be great.
I think that sometimes the Lions want to give the home crowd a win so badly that they get nervous and end up pressing too hard, or trying to slip a pass into too tight of a window. When that happens, the natural flow of an offense that is looking better, passing better, and scoring goals will give the ball away cheaply. My suggestion is for the players is to just relax. Pretend it’s a road match if necessary, but just keep calm and let the match develop naturally.
That’s what I’ll be looking for this Saturday night from my seat in Exploria Stadium. Since I’ll be down for this one, please make sure to say hello if you see me.
Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids
PawedCast Episode 351: Colorado Rapids Preview, the Miami Messi Mess, and More
Lion Links: 6/9/23
Orlando City B vs. Toronto FC II: Final Score 3-0 as OCB Falls in Shortened Game
My First Orlando City Road Match: New York Red Bulls
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