Orlando City at Chicago Fire: Player Grades and Man of the Match
Orlando City went to Chicago and will bring home one point that should have been three after a 0-0 draw against the Fire. We may never know if Ercan Kara actually handled the ball in the area, because the available replays were inconclusive at best, but referee Ismir Pekmic not only believed he saw Kara do it from those replays, which he watched repeatedly for several minutes, but after the game he also claimed Kara did it intentionally.
Pekmic also said regarding the VAR decision:
"Orlando #9 deliberately handled the ball using his arm in the attacking phase of play that led to the scoring of the Orlando goal."
— Austin David (@AustinDavid22) March 6, 2022
You really have to hand it to PRO — every year they find new ways to remove points from Orlando’s final total and absolutely lack any humility when doing it. If Kara clearly and obviously handled the ball intentionally on a goal originally ruled good, that should show up on the video in a matter of one viewing (because that’s how “obvious” works) rather than requiring several minutes of review.
Anyway, the Lions have to grin and swallow it yet again. They were at least able to keep a second straight clean sheet without the suspended Robin Jansson and get a result on the road.
Here’s how I saw the individual performances of the men on the pitch.
GK, Pedro Gallese, 7 — The Peruvian international did his job with four saves out of four on target and controlled his area for the most part. He didn’t have any especially spectacular saves. Of the four, the toughest was a rocket from outside the area that wasn’t too much of a reach for him and he was able to parry it over the bar for a corner, showing good control. The other three were fairly soft and right to him. He looked confident and passed at a strong 90.5% rate and connected on two of his four long balls. It was a good night for El Pulpo.
D, Joao Moutinho, 6 — The Portuguese fullback was mostly solid through the night, settling in after an early turnover to Xherdan Shaqiri. He didn’t allow attackers to get down to the end line for dangerous crosses and kept most of the play on his side out wide. He contributed two tackles, an interception and a clearance defensively while dealing with Chicago’s most dangerous midfielder much of the evening. He was able to get on the ball a lot, but like many of the Lions, he had trouble unlocking the Chicago defense, as the Fire’s back line and central midfielders did a good job on their own end. Moutinho passed at only a 71.2% rate. He connected four of his 10 long balls but none of his four crosses, but created a scoring chance from his left back position on a night when the Lions had few of those.
D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 6.5 — Schlegel got his first start of the season with Jansson sidelined after last week’s second yellow card. The Argentine and central defense partner Antonio Carlos were aggressive, often coming up the field to crowd Shaqiri. He had a scary challenge in the area early on against Fabian Herbers that had the home crowd screaming for a penalty. I think it was a good no-call, with Herbers flying in out of control and getting a piece of the ball, but it looked more a case of the attacker getting into Schlegel than the other way around. He and Carlos did well to limit Kacper Przybylko’s looks at goal, which was his primary focus. The Polish striker was limited to just one shot attempt. Schlegel had a tackle, an interception, a blocked shot and three clearances. His 80.5% passing rate wasn’t bad on a windy night in Chicago, although he was successful on only one of six long balls. His biggest knock was conceding four free kicks, with a couple of them coming from dangerous spots.
D, Antonio Carlos, 7 (MotM) — The Brazilian continued to show that preseason is overrated with his second strong showing of the year. He helped limit Przybylko to one weak header attempt and, as usual, had more territory to defend than his central defense partner due to Ruan serving as a de facto wingback further up the pitch. Carlos had two interceptions, a team-high four clearances, and a blocked shot. His 82.4% passing rate was tops among all outfield starters, although he connected on only three of 10 long balls. He had a shot attempt on a late set piece but his header went wide.
D, Ruan, 6.5 — The Brazilian speedster was creating issues down Chicago’s left side for Miguel Navarro and Herbers throughout the night, helping force turnovers, but he couldn’t quite get his crosses right in the attack, going only one of five for accuracy. He attempted one unsuccessful long ball and completed 21 of his 28 passes (75%). Defensively, he did well overall with a tackle and three clearances. He nearly allowed a goal to Brian Gutierrez in stoppage time but his positioning wasn’t a problem so much as his height on that play.
MF, Cesar Araujo, 6.5 — The MLS U22 Initiative midfielder has basically made the No. 6 role his own very quickly. Tasked with the difficulty of defending Shaqiri in the middle of the pitch, the young Uruguayan held his own. He had only one tackle, but largely worked well in either denying the ball to dangerous areas with his movement and positioning or forced the Fire to go wide into the channels. His 50 passes were the most by any non-back line player on the team and he completed 80%, including one of his two long balls. He unlocked the defense with a key pass, attempted one shot (off target), and drew a team-high five fouls (along with two of his teammates). His yellow card was laughably soft as he attempted to reach out and slow down an opponent but he whiffed.
MF, Júnior Urso, 6 — The Bear should have scored a goal, blasting a shot in off a defender in the 73rd minute, stepping into a layoff pass by Facundo Torres. Alas, the referee stole his moment along with two vital points. That would have been Orlando’s only shot on target in the game if it hadn’t been erased for…reasons. He had one key pass on 71.4% passing but was dispossessed a worrying, team-high five times. Still, he did well defensively with a tackle and two interceptions and kept the Orlando press organized.
MF, Facundo Torres, 6 — In their opening game, the Fire saw Inter Miami use the tactic of fouling Shaqiri a lot. It seemed that Chicago coach Ezra Hendrickson borrowed that tactic against Orlando, as his team employed it often, including five of them against Facu. One of those fouls, by Herbers, prevented an Orlando counter-attack and was sufficiently vicious that I honestly thought the red card would come out but it was only yellow. Torres was fouled well over those five times but only five were called as Pekmic allowed several two-handed shoves and clips from behind to go unpunished — mainly through the opening 45 minutes. Torres recorded one shot and three dribbles. His 62.1% looks quite pedestrian until you look at the rate of Orlando’s other starting attacking midfielders, though he was unsuccessful on three long balls and two crosses. His layoff for Urso should have been an assist if not for…well, you know. Defensively, he contributed a tackle and two interceptions.
MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 6 — The captain wasn’t able to leave his usual mark on the game. His passing was just 55% as the Chicago defensive midfield and back line played aggressively all night, which is a tactic that was successful because the wind prevented Orlando’s ability to play over the top into spaces in behind. Pereyra attempted one shot and created one chance. He was successful just once on six long balls and on one of three long balls. He had one tackle, an interception, and a clearance. Like Araujo and Torres, he was fouled five times and, much like Torres, it should have been more than that.
MF, Benji Michel, 3.5 — The Homegrown winger had a tough night offensively, although his defensive hustle was evident while he was on the pitch. After he was subbed off for Tesho Akindele, Chicago fullback Boris Sekulic was able to get forward more often. Benji’s passing rate of just 16.7% was simply dreadful and his hold-up play was lacking (four unstable touches, dispossessed once), forcing Oscar Pareja to sub on Tesho. He recorded a tackle and an interception on defense but had no shot attempts and no key passes on the offensive end.
F, Alexandre Pato, 6 — Much like his attacking teammates, Pato was roughed up quite a bit whenever Orlando got the ball in the attacking half, and for some reason he wasn’t even able to get some of the calls Pereyra and Torres got, drawing just two foul calls. He had one key pass on 63.6% passing but no shot attempts. He had one chance to get into a good shooting position but took an uncharacteristically heavy touch and the chance evaporated. He was active defensively with one tackle, an interception, and two clearances.
MF, Tesho Akindele (52’), 6 — Tesho’s lack of lateral quickness allowed Sekulic to dribble past him a couple of times but the Lions’ hold-up play got noticeably better when he came on for Michel. His work rate and pressure was evident as always, as the Canadian posted two interceptions and a blocked shot. He passed at a 77.8% rate, giving the Lions something that had been lacking on the left, but he attempted no shots and didn’t create scoring chances on a night when the Fire were dealing with any attack by simply crushing guys. He did well to switch the play on the disallowed goal, getting the ball over to Torres on the left. That provided the space to score the goal, but…yeah.
F, Ercan Kara (72’), 5.5 — The Austrian came off the bench and made a difference in his first minute on the pitch, winning an aerial ball in the box, which led to Urso’s goal. It should have been a game-changing play. It’s possible that the ball hit his arm, but nothing shown on TV or on the referee’s monitor — which was shown on television and seemed to have the exact same two angles we saw — should have resulted in any overturned call. Kara was officially only credited with three touches and he completed his one pass attempt. He didn’t have a shot or a key pass but chipped in one defensive clearance. It will be nice to see what he can do when he’s 90-minute fit and fully integrated.
MF, Andres Perea (88’), N/A — Perea came on late for a tiring Torres but didn’t play enough minutes to warrant a grade or impact the match. He completed one of his three passes and won an aerial on his eight touches.
That’s how I saw the performances in Orlando City’s road draw. It’s difficult to look beyond the statistics sometimes but Chicago did a great job of playing the weather conditions, crowding the Lions up high to force low-percentage balls over the top on a gusty night and fouling everywhere. The Fire’s strategy was helped by a referee who was quite lenient until midway through the second half (which is, not coincidentally, when Orlando started looking more dangerous) and by Orlando’s complete lack of ability to hold onto the ball on the left side for the first 50+ minutes.
Be sure to vote in the poll below for your Man of the Match.
|Other (tell us who in the comments)||1|
Orlando City at New York Red Bulls: Three Keys to Victory
What does Orlando City need to do to earn all three points on the road at Red Bull Arena this Saturday night?
Orlando City is back on the road this Saturday with a match against the New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ. The Lions have four results in the last four matches, but only one win. That needs to change if this team is going to be a serious contender once the playoffs come around.
Orlando City defeated the Red Bulls 1-0 to begin the 2023 MLS regular season at Exploria Stadium. Now the Lions have a chance to sweep the Eastern Conference rival in the regular season with another victory. What does Orlando City need to do to get all three points on the road this weekend?
Take Advantage of Tired Legs
The Red Bulls are coming off a midweek away match against Inter Miami, and a flight back to New Jersey. That means that new Red Bulls skipper Tony Lesesne won’t have as much time to game plan as Oscar Pareja will with a full week between matches. It also means that there may be some tired legs on the Red Bulls’ side of the pitch.
If Orlando City can get through the first half with either the lead, or at least even on the scoreboard, it will be tougher for New York in the second half, especially once the hour mark hits. Use possession and passing to make the Red Bulls run as much as possible and then hit them with the fresh legs of Duncan McGuire to finish them off.
Score First, Score Second
We saw what happens when Orlando City doesn’t find a way to get a second goal in the last match against Atlanta United. They don’t call them the Cardiac Cats for nothing. The Lions must get the early lead to make New York chase the match, but they also need to get a second goal before the Red Bulls can get their first.
If Orlando City can go up by two goals, it will be demoralizing for a team that is playing twice in four days, and will have the tired legs mentioned above. It will also give the Lions the mental confidence to potentially get a third goal, as the club did against Inter Miami. Finishing the chances and putting the match to bed early is a big key to victory.
Keep a Clean Sheet
The Red Bulls haven’t scored a ton of goals this season, nor do they have any player lighting things up on the offensive side of the ball. Orlando City hasn’t earned a clean sheet since the April 29 match against the LA Galaxy. The Red Bulls are the type of opponent that could help the Lions solve that dilemma.
Doing so will mean Pedro Gallese must continue being one of the best keepers in MLS. Many of the goals conceded this season are not on him — not all, but certainly many. Michael Halliday will still be with the USMNT U-20 squad this weekend and we might see Oscar Pareja employ three at the back in his absence. If so, it will be contingent upon whoever is lined up on the right to deal with John Tolkin when he presses up the pitch, which he will.
If the three center backs do their job, and if Cesar Araujo plays like he usually does, then the attack will likely come from the flanks. It is contingent upon the wingbacks to make sure they don’t neglect the defense, especially later in the match.
That is what I will be looking for this Saturday night as the Lions look for a fifth straight result. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
Lion Links: 6/1/23
MLS All-Star voting is underway, midweek MLS results, Sevilla wins Europa League, and more.
Welcome to June, Mane Landers! I hope May treated you well as we get ready for another month filled to the brim with soccer. The Florida summer is heating up, so make sure to stay hydrated out there as we break out the beach umbrellas and dust off the grills. But for now, let’s jump into today’s links!
MLS All-Star Voting Begins
Voting is underway for the 26 players who will be selected for the MLS All-Star Team this summer. Of those 26 players, 12 will be chosen from a combined vote from fans, media, and current players. Orlando City defensive midfielder Cesar Araujo was noted as a candidate who could make this year’s team. Personally, I think goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, center back Robin Jansson, and forward Ercan Kara have a real shot at playing in the All-Star Game if they keep up their form. This year’s MLS All-Star Game will take place against Arsenal in the nation’s capital, with D.C. United Head Coach Wayne Rooney at the helm.
MLS Midweek Action Brings Plenty of Goals
The Lions weren’t in action for this midweek round of games, but there was still plenty of soccer to enjoy from the other MLS teams. Atlanta United and the New England Revolution battled to a 3-3 draw at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Carles Gil and Bobby Wood gave the Revs a 2-0 lead heading into halftime. Atlanta then scored three times in the second half, only for Gil to find an equalizer in stoppage time. It wasn’t the only high-scoring game of the evening either, as the Columbus Crew won 3-2 over the Colorado Rapids thanks to a goal and two assists from midfielder Lucas Zelarayan. Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference, FC Cincinnati beat New York City FC 3-1 and D.C. United and CF Montreal played to a 2-2 draw. Orlando City’s next opponents, the New York Red Bulls, won 1-0 at Inter Miami.
Sevilla Wins Seventh Europa League Title
It took a penalty shootout to decide the winner of this year’s Europa League final, with Sevilla beating AS Roma in Budapest. It was the Spanish club’s seventh time lifting the Europa League trophy. This win salvaged a rough La Liga season for Sevilla and it will play in the Champions League next year. Paulo Dybala gave Roma the lead in the first half, but an own goal levelled things in the 55th minute. Chris Smalling nearly gave Roma the win in extra time, but his header hit the crossbar. It was Jose Mourinho’s first defeat in six European finals and Roma will aim to qualify for the Europa League again when it takes on Spezia in its final Serie A game of the season on Sunday.
More Teams Claim Spots in U-20 World Cup Quarterfinals
Host Argentina was bounced from the U-20 World Cup after a 2-0 loss to Nigeria in the U-20 World Cup. After a scoreless first half, Nigeria struck twice and will face either Ecuador or South Korea in the next round. The other South American nations in action fared a bit better than Argentina, with Brazil cruising past Tunisia, 4-1, in a match that included three goals in stoppage time, and Colombia beating Slovakia, 5-1. In a clash between European sides, Italy won 2-1 over England after Cesare Casadei scored from the spot in the 87th minute. In the quarterfinals, the U.S. will face the winner of today’s match between Gambia and Uruguay.
- Orlando City B moved up a spot to seventh in the MLS NEXT Pro power rankings.
- Orlando City’s U-12 team is returning to Orlando with some new silverware.
- St. Louis City midfielder Eduard Löwen won MLS Goal of the Matchday for his free kick goal against the Vancouver Whitecaps.
- Lesle Gallimore was named as OL Reign’s next general manager after serving as commissioner of the club’s girls academy since 2020.
- Rumors are swirling that Inter Miami and FC Barcelona will join forces to sign Lionel Messi, with Miami signing him as a free agent and then loaning him to Barcelona.
- Arsenal forward Beth Mead will not play for England in this summer’s Women’s World Cup as she continues to recover from her ACL injury.
- American coach Jesse Marsch, who was dismissed from Leeds United earlier this year, has been linked with a move to AS Monaco in Ligue 1.
- Dundee United announced that American midfielder Ian Harkes is one of six players who will leave the club after it was relegated. Harkes has played for the Scottish club since 2019, joining from D.C. United.
- The Soccer Tournament kicks off today and you can check out the full slate of games.
That’s all I have for today. I hope you all have a wonderful start to June!
Lion Links: 5/31/23
Nani will return to Exploria Stadium for celebrity match, Amanda Allen scores again for Canada, U-20 USMNT defeats New Zealand, and more.
Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you down in Florida. There’s not much new with me up here in Chicago. Now that high school sports have finished up for the school year, I’ll be busy this summer working at Wrigley Field. There is plenty to get to today, so let’s get to the links.
Nani Will Return to Exploria Stadium for Celebrity Match
Former Lion captain Nani will return to Exploria Stadium on June 23 to participate in the celebrity soccer match called The Beautiful Game. The 36-year-old expressed his thoughts on his return to Orlando and taking part in this match next month.
“For me it is an honor to be back in Orlando and be with the fans one more time,” said Nani. “I can’t wait to see my friends from the club, The Wall and all Orlando City supporters again. I’m thankful for this opportunity to play one more time with Roberto Carlos, Ronaldinho, and so many legends.”
Nani played three seasons for the Lions, recording 28 goals and 23 assists in 77 appearances for the club. The match will feature icons such as Ronaldinho, Roberto Carlos, Carlos Valderrama, Javier Mascherano, and Rivaldo as well. The match will also have halftime entertainment, and more additions to the rosters set to be announced at a later date.
Amanda Allen Scores Again in Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship
Orlando Pride forward Amanda Allen made the starting lineup again for Canada in the 2023 Concacaf Women’s U-20 Championship in the Dominican Republic. In Canada’s final group stage match against the U.S., Allen converted a penalty kick for Canada’s first goal in what finished as a 5-2 loss for her side.
It was Allen’s second goal of the tournament, but she was injured in this match as well. Canada finishes second in the group, with the U.S. on top. On Friday, the U.S. will play Costa Rica and Canada will face Mexico in the semifinals.
U-20 USMNT Advances to World Cup Quarterfinals
Orlando City defender Michael Halliday came on as a substitute in the 71st minute for the U.S. U-20 Men’s National Team in its U-20 World Cup match against New Zealand. The U.S. shut out New Zealand 4-0 to advance to the quarterfinals in Argentina. That victory gives the U.S. its fourth-consecutive shutout in the tournament. Austin FC midfielder Owen Wolff, San Jose Earthquakes forward Cade Cowell, FC Dallas defender Justin Che, and Hajduk Split midfielder Rokas Pukstas all scored for the Americans. In the quarterfinals on Sunday, the U.S. will face the winner of tomorrow’s match between Gambia and Uruguay.
Interim Head Coach Anthony Hudson Leaves USMNT
The U.S. Soccer Federation announced that Anthony Hudson is leaving his role as the USMNT’s interim head coach to pursue a new opportunity. Hudson is reportedly set to take a head coaching role with a club in the Middle East. He was the head coach of the U.S. U-20 team in 2020 and had been an assistant under Gregg Berhalter for the USMN before being named interim head coach in January. Hudson will be replaced by B.J. Callaghan, who will be the interim head coach for the USMNT for the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup competitions this summer. Callaghan has been an assistant coach with the USMNT over the last four years and was previously an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Union.
USMNT Will Host Ghana and Germany for October Friendlies
The USMNT will play two international friendlies in October against Germany and Ghana. The U.S. will take on four-time World Cup Champion Germany on Oct. 14 in East Hartford, CT. The last time the USMNT played Germany was in 2015, with the Yanks winning 2-1. On Oct. 17, the USMNT will face Ghana in Nashville. The Black Stars will look to get their first win on American soil against the Stars and Stripes. Ghana eliminated the Americans in the World Cup in 2006 and 2010, but the U.S. defeated Ghana in the group stage at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The last time these two sides met was in 2017, when the USMNT edged Ghana, 2-1.
- The latest MLS Power rankings were released. The Lions moved down one spot to 15th after their 1-1 draw against Atlanta United.
- The LA Galaxy parted ways with President Chris Klein. Head Coach and Sporting Director Greg Vanney will remain with the club. The Galaxy have missed the playoffs in four of the last six seasons.
- Former Netherlands forward Quincy Promes will be prosecuted for his involvement in drug trafficking. Promes is accused of allegedly smuggling 1,360 kilos of cocaine in 2020.
- Juventus is reportedly emerging as the leader in the race to acquire Christian Pulisic on a transfer from Chelsea. Pulisic has one-year remaining on his contract with the English Premier League side.
- Forbes.com’s James Nalton shared his insights on five potential USMNT players to watch during the U-20 World Cup .
- An arrest warrant has reportedly been issued in Brazil for LA Galaxy midfielder Douglas Costa for unpaid child support.
- Is it just me or did The Athletic forget to mention our beloved Lions’ U.S. Open Cup run last year?
That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Wednesday and I’ll see you next time.
Orlando City at New York Red Bulls: Three Keys to Victory
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