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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.

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.

Polling Closed

Rodrigo Schlegel1
Junior Urso6
Pedro Gallese17
Antonio Carlos23
Cesar Araujo14
Other (tell us who in the comments)1

Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/16/24

Nico Lodeiro earns recognition, Marta up for Goal of the Week, MLS stock watch, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I hope you had a good weekend and got your taxes filed correctly and on time. It was a good weekend for Orlando soccer, as the Orlando Pride, Orlando City B, and Orlando City went undefeated and picked up seven of the nine points on offer. As always, we have a lot to talk through today. Before we get into today’s links, let’s all wish Luis Muriel a happy birthday!

Nico Lodeiro Makes Team of the Matchday Bench

Midfielder Nico Lodeiro has earned recognition for his part in Orlando City’s 3-2 win over D.C. United, making the bench of the latest edition MLS Team of the Matchday. The Uruguayan entered the fray in the 72nd minute and helped OCSC come back and take all three points. He took the corner kick that David Brekalo equalized from, (even though he was not initially credited with the assist) and provided an outstanding through ball for Duncan McGuire’s game-winner. Sean Rollins graded him a 6.5/10 and named him Man of the Match in his player grades as well. Here’s hoping he keeps up the good work!

Marta’s Goal Nominated

Marta’s game-winning strike during Friday’s contest against Utah Royals FC has been nominated for NWSL Goal of the Week. On the road and in the game as a substitute, it didn’t take long for the Brazilian to make her mark on the match. She was barely on the field for five minutes when she met a ball that was rolling across the box with a first-time strike that she powered in off the back post. It proved to be the game’s only goal and was enough to give the Pride their first win of the season. Make sure you vote for her to win this week’s honor!

MLS Stock Watch

The fortunes of Major League Soccer teams are in constant flux, and it’s always nice to keep track of how your enemies are doing. Former Lion Sacha Kljestan weighed in on which clubs’ stock went up and which went down after the weekend’s games. We start on a good note, as a resilient performance from Orlando City saw the good guys pick up their second win of the season. The LA Galaxy hammered the Vancouver Whitecaps by a score of 3-1, and proved that their place atop the Western Conference standings is no fluke. On the other side of the coin, Toronto FC has given up 10 goals in its last three matches, and Jon Herdman needs to find a way to keep things from getting worse until the Reds’ group of injured players can return to the field.

Americans in Midweek Action

There are two big matches featuring American players this week, so get them marked down on your calendar and don’t miss any of the action. Thursday sees Christian Pulisic, Yunus Musah, and AC Milan travel to the Italian capital to try to overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit to Roma in the Europa League quarterfinals. Musah started Sunday’s match against Sassuolo and Pulisic subbed on in the second half as Milan clawed its way back to a 3-3 draw. Friday then has Juventus and Weston McKennie traveling to Cagliari for a Serie A tilt. Juve is currently third in the league and needs to keep picking up results to secure a UEFA Champions League place for next season.

UEFA Champions League Preview

Speaking of the Champions League, the quarterfinals wrap up today and tomorrow and there are a number of storylines to keep an eye on. Luis Enrique is strong in his belief that Paris Saint-Germain can overcome a 3-2 loss in the first leg to advance past Barcelona. Xavi has promised that Barca will look to attack rather than sitting and protecting its lead. Elsewhere, Bayern Munich will be without the suspended Alphonso Davies and likely Kingsley Coman due to injury, and their replacements will be hard pressed to contain Ben White and Bukayo Saka. Finally, Edin Terzic’s substitutions gave Borussia Dortmund a spark in the team’s 2-1 loss to Atletico Madrid in the first leg, which means the coach may have a selection headache on his hands as he tries to lead his side to a comeback.

Free Kicks

That’ll do it for me this morning. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Player Grades and Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions perform in Orlando City’s 3-2 win over D.C. United?



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City came back from two deficits against D.C. United to claim a huge 3-2 win this weekend — the team’s second victory of the season. It looked like it would be a long night for the Lions in the first 20 minutes, but they turned it around. Down a goal late, David Brekalo and Duncan McGuire converted to earn Orlando City three points.

Here’s how I saw the individual performances by the Lions.


GK, Pedro Gallese, 6 — Gallese took his usual position in goal and had a strong night. He allowed himself to get pushed out of the play on the opening goal by Christian Benteke, though it arguably should’ve been a foul on D.C. He ended the game with four saves from six on-target shots, including two huge saves in second-half stoppage time. In addition to his shot stopping, Gallese completed 51.9% of his 27 passes, including seven of his 20 long balls. He was also credited with three clearances on the night.

D, Kyle Smith, 5.5 — Smith got the start at left back in this game over Rafael Santos, recording 53 touches. He had three tackles, three clearances, and a blocked shot. Going forward, he only completed 76.5% of his 34 passes, but connected with his lone cross and five of his nine long balls. He also won two aerial balls and was booked just before coming off for handling a ball that he should’ve cleared, giving D.C. a free kick in a dangerous position. The defender was replaced by Santos in the 73rd minute.

D, Robin Jansson, 6 — Jansson was a strong point for Orlando City once again in this game. He recorded one tackle, two interceptions, a blocked shot, and three clearances. Going forward, the center back completed 80.4% of his 46 passes, including four of his seven long balls. Arguably his biggest play of the game was drawing a foul late at the top of the box when D.C. was pushing for an equalizer.

D, David Brekalo, 6 — Brekalo had 60 touches and completed 76.6% of his 47 passes, including three of his 13 long balls. Defensively, he recorded one tackle, one interception, and two clearances. He made his first significant offensive impact as a Lion by getting his head to a Nico Lodeiro corner kick in the 82nd minute to even the game at 2-2.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6 — Thorhallsson only had 58 touches in the game, but the right back made the most of them. He completed 76.7% of his 30 passes and three of his six long balls, but failed to connect on his lone cross. Defensively, he recorded two tackles and three clearances. However, his biggest impact came in the 28th minute, when he got his head onto Ivan Angulo’s cross to even the game at 1-1.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 5 — Araujo’s 70 touches were the most on the team for this game. He only completed 78.2% of his 55 passes, but connected on two of his four long balls. Defensively, he won two tackles and blocked one shot while committing a team-high four fouls. He was also late getting over to cover Gabriel Pirani on the second goal for D.C. Overall, it wasn’t one of Araujo’s best games.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 5.5 — Cartagena started in the defensive midfield alongside Araujo. He recorded 41 touches and completed 81.3% of his 32 passes, including a key pass, his one cross, and one of his three long balls. Defensively, he recorded two clearances. As is common with the midfielder, he was booked in the first half for standing over Jared Stroud after a foul by Angulo. He was taken off during a triple substitution in the 72nd minute, replaced by Lodeiro.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 6 — Angulo was the least involved of the midfielders, only recording 35 touches. However, he completed 76.2% of his 21 passes, including a wonderful cross to Thorhallsson on the Lions’ first goal of the night. His lone shot was off target, but he helped defensively with a tackle and team-high three interceptions.

MF, Facundo Torres, 5.5 — Torres recorded 50 touches in this game and completed 90.9% of his 33 passes with no key passes. He was accurate on only one of his three crosses, which was an issue. His lone shot was off target but not by much, as he sent his effort just wide of the right post from outside the area. He came off in stoppage time after the Lions took the lead for center back Rodrigo Schlegel.

MF, Martin Ojeda, 5.5 — Ojeda started in the attacking midfield for this game, recording 46 touches. He completed 71.4% of his 21 passes, including two key passes, one accurate cross on his four attempts, and two of his four long balls. He also had four unstable touches and an off-target shot. Defensively, the attacking midfielder had a team-high four tackles, helping his team retain possession before being replaced by Duncan McGuire in the 72nd minute.

F, Luis Muriel, 5 — Muriel got the start alone up top, but had a difficult night. He got involved in the game with 36 touches and completed 64.7% of his 17 passes, including two key passes. He took two shots, with one on target, and completed two dribbles, but had five unstable touches. He could’ve had a much better performance, but attempted to dribble through the opposition in the box rather than finding a teammate, losing possession. The forward’s night ended in the 87th minute when he was replaced by Felipe.


D, Rafael Santos (73’), 5.5 — Santos came on in the 73rd minute for Smith at left back. He had 14 touches and completed seven of his 10 touches (70%), but failed to connect on his one long ball and three crosses. He also didn’t record any defensive stats in his 17 minutes of action.

MF, Nico Lodeiro (72’), 6.5 (MotM) — Lodeiro came on in the 72nd minute for Cartagena, looking to make a difference. The midfielder touched the ball 18 times and completed 75% of his 12 passes, including two key passes, two of his three crosses, and one of his three long balls. Both of his shots were on target and his through ball for McGuire in second-half stoppage time gave him the assist on the game-winning goal. Although the stats sheet credited Torres with the assist on Brekalo’s goal, it was the veteran who took the set piece, which should result in a two-assist night once the league has had a chance to review the tape (see below…even Evan Weston calls him ‘Torres’ on his call). Lodeiro was a game-changer when he came on so, despite his lack of minutes, he earns my Man of the Match.

F, Duncan McGuire (72’), 6 — McGuire came on with Lodeiro as the Lions were chasing the game. He had 14 touches and completed 44.4% of his nine passes. However, the striker was brought on to score and did so in stoppage time, timing his run perfectly and finishing well on the breakaway. He also recorded a tackle and clearance but gets a high grade from me for doing exactly what he was brought on to do in scoring the winning goal.

MF, Felipe (87’), N/A — Felipe came on for Muriel as the Lions looked to see out a point, but he only touched the ball three times. He completed both of his passes, but didn’t record any other stats in his minimal time on the field.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel (90+2’), N/A — Schlegel came on right after the game-winning goal for Torres as the Lions looked to see out the win. He had two touches and an incomplete pass, but no other statistics.

That’s how I saw the individual performances in Orlando City’s win over D.C. United. Let us know how you saw the game and vote for your Man of the Match below.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/15/24

Lions beat D.C. United, Pride pick up road win over Utah Royals, Barbra Banda arrives in Orlando, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you down in Florida. Orlando City and the Pride both won over the weekend, and there has been plenty of action in European soccer. Over the past week, I’ve been busy covering high school sports like lacrosse and softball. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Lions Top D.C. United

Orlando City overturned a late 2-1 deficit to win 3-2 against D.C. United at Audi Field over the weekend. David Brekalo scored the equalizer in the second half to tie the match at 2-2. Duncan McGuire came off the bench in the second half and scored in stoppage time, as the Lions beat D.C. United for the first time since Oct. 2, 2021. The Lions were 0-3-1 against D.C. United over the last two seasons prior to Saturday’s win. Orlando has now picked up points in each of the last three matches. Orlando City will be on the road again this weekend when it takes on CF Montreal on Saturday.

Orlando Pride Defeat Utah Royals; Help Arrives

The Orlando Pride got their first win of the 2024 NWSL last Friday with a 1-0 against the Utah Royals. Marta came off the bench in the second half and scored the lone goal to seal the win for Orlando. The Pride drew each of their first three matches to start the season against Racing Louisville, Angel City FC, and the Chicago Red Stars. Friday’s result means the Pride have six points through four league matches and are fifth in the NWSL table.

Despite needing four matches to pick up their first win of the year, the Pride are ahead of last year’s pace at the same point in the season, and remain undefeated (1-0-3) despite still waiting to play with this off-season’s marquee signing, Zambian international striker Barbra Banda. The new Pride forward arrived on Sunday to a warm welcome at Orlando International Airport.

It will be interesting to see how quickly Seb Hines can get Banda acclimated to the club and the league. Orlando could use Banda’s offensive firepower, as the club has struggled to score goals in the early part of the season. The Pride will be back in action against the San Diego Wave this Friday.

Bayer Leverkusen wins Bundesliga; Manchester City Leads EPL Title Race

Bayer Leverkusen cruised to a 5-0 win against Werder Bremen on Sunday to win its first ever Bundesliga title with five league matches left to spare. Xabi Alonso’s side won the league title by a 16-point margin, ending Bayern Munich’s 11-year run as title holders. Leverkusen is also unbeaten through 43 matches across all competitions. Meanwhile, in England, we have a new Premier League title race leader as Manchester City crushed Luton Town 5-1 on Saturday. On Sunday, Arsenal lost 2-0 to Aston Villa and Liverpool lost 1-0 to Crystal Palace. There are six match days remaining and this race could go down to the wire. Manchester City is at the top of the table with 73 points, while Arsenal and Liverpool remain two points behind in second and third, respectively, with 71 points.

Free Kicks

  • Houston Dash winger Maria Sanchez has reportedly requested a trade four months after signing a record-breaking deal in NWSL history in the off-season to remain with the club.
  • Manchester United edged Chelsea 2-1 to beat the Blues for the first time ever. Making the win even bigger was that it took place in the Women’s FA Cup semifinal. United will play Tottenham in the final at Wembley on May 12.
  • The EFL Championship is three weeks away from its finale, with a few clubs featureing Americans still in the mix for promotion. Josh Sargent’s Norwich City side holds the final playoff spot, while Haji Wright’s Conventry and Duane Holmes’ Preston North End in the hunt for a shot at promotion.
  • The AS Roma versus Udinese match was suspended after defender Evan Ndicka collapsed away from play and had to be stretchered off. The game was tied at 1-1 with about 20 minutes remaining when Ndicka went down. The club shared this update on social media.

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Monday, and I’ll see you next time.

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