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Orlando City

2021 Orlando City Season in Review: Benji Michel

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Orlando City made Benji Michel the club’s fifth ever Homegrown Player signing on Dec. 31, 2018. After a promising first two years in purple, the club picked up Michel’s option for 2021 following the 2020 season. Michel had scored five goals in each of his first two MLS seasons and seemed to be trending upwards heading into 2021.

Let’s take a look at how the winger fared in his third season after seeing the most minutes thus far in his professional career.

Statistical Breakdown

Michel destroyed his previous personal career highs in appearances, setting new marks in games played (34), starts (19), and minutes played (1,870). His old records in those categories were, respectively, 21 games (last year), nine starts (in 2019), and 943 minutes (2019), as Oscar Pareja deployed him as a fill-in when Nani or Chris Mueller were unavailable (or out of form, in the latter’s case) and at times as a second striker. While such a jump in time on the pitch might predict a similar leap in production, Michel scored a career-low four goals after netting five in each of his first two years. He did, however, set a new career high in assists, albeit only with three, besting last year’s previous total of two, which he set in 13 fewer starts and more than a thousand fewer minutes on the field.

His low goal total is surprising given the fact he more than doubled his previous career high of 16 shots by firing 35 times, and set a new career mark for shots on goal (14 — just four more than last season). He managed to raise his passing accuracy to a career high 81.5%, with 14 key passes but just four accurate crosses. He was offside four times for the third consecutive year, but given his jump in minutes, that is an improvement.

Defensively, he chipped in 12 tackles, nine interceptions, and 12 clearances. He won 27 aerial duels. Michel committed a career-high 24 fouls but also drew a career-high 38. He received three yellow cards — another career high.

Michel started in Orlando’s lone playoff match in 2021, playing 75 minutes at Nashville, providing no goals, assists, or shots, with an 80% passing rate on just 15 attempts, although two of those were key passes. He was dispossessed five times in that match and had five unstable touches, so it wasn’t his sharpest game — although the same can be said for several other Lions that day. He added three tackles and committed three fouls while drawing only one from the opposition.

In Orlando City’s Leagues Cup match against Santos Laguna, Michel played 32 minutes and attempted two shots (both off target). He won two of his three duels, did not commit a foul, and was not fouled.

Best Game

Michel’s best match of 2021 was easily the Lions’ 5-0 win at home over the San Jose Earthquakes on Aug. 12. He was a monster in that game, drawing an early penalty that Nani converted and scoring two of his four goals on the season in this one game. He set season highs in shot attempts (5) and shots on target (3) — both of which he equaled in a later game against the Chicago Fire. Michel started the match and played the full 90 minutes, passing at an impressive 90.48% rate on 21 attempts. He committed two fouls but also drew two, including the penalty on Florian Jungwirth.

The first Michel goal in the match was all effort, as he had to stick his foot around a shielding defender to poke the ball into the net, doubling Orlando’s lead to 2-0 at that point in the game. His goal celebration became an iconic City moment as he donned a cowboy hat that came out of the stands.

Michel completed his brace in the 90th minute, finishing calmly off an assist from Tesho Akindele.

2021 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Michel a composite rating of 5.5 out of 10 for the 2021 season. This is a bit of a disappointment after giving him a 6 in 2019 and another 6 in 2020. The overall feeling was that the Homegrown was given more opportunities than ever and as a result should have improved upon his overall goal contribution numbers. Given the huge jump in playing time, one extra assist but fewer goals seems a step in the wrong direction in terms of production. There were matches when he played well, but throughout the season he was inconsistent with his first touch and was too easily dispossessed or took an unforced wayward touch that prevented a scoring chance from materializing. The Lions’ drop in production from both Michel and Mueller on the wings in 2021 was a key reason the team had to start its all-too-brief playoff campaign on the road.

2022 Outlook

Orlando City exercised Michel’s contract option for 2022, so he’s in the club’s plans for next season. However, 2022 seems like an important year in Michel’s career. With Nani and Mueller moving on, the Lions will need to rebuild wing depth. Michel didn’t cement himself as an MLS starter with his play in 2021, despite given the opportunity to do so. He’s obviously got the talent to succeed, but he must become a more consistent offensive threat by working on his first touch and his decision making in terms of knowing when to take on the defense and when to slow things down to maintain possession. The good news is that he’s starting to show signs of rounding out his overall game, but to become a full-time starter he’ll need to produce at a higher level and be more consistent around the penalty area. This could be an upcoming make-or-break season for the Orlando-area native’s time as a Lion, and City fans are hoping he makes the leap in his fourth year.


Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)

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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