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Orlando City vs. LAFC: Player Grades and Man of the Match

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Well, I don’t think that went the way any of us were hoping it would. Orlando City had an excellent first half but a lapse of concentration and house of horrors error saw the Lions fighting an uphill battle all night long. The question now is, how did the men in purple grade individually in Orlando City’s 4-2 home loss to LAFC?

Let’s have a look at my player grades and Man of the Match from a night to forget for the good guys.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 5 — It was a pretty quiet game from El Pulpo. Gallese passed at a 100% rate on his 13 attempts, which was good, but he was unable to do anything about any of the four LAFC goals, finishing with zero saves on LAFC’s four shots on target. The first two he was completely helpless on, and he might have gotten a bit stranded at his near post on Brian Rodriguez’s opener for the visitors, but it’s hard to be too picky considering the defensive breakdowns in other areas. He’ll have wished he did better on Ilie Sanchez’s go-ahead goal, since it went in fairly close to him, but he didn’t see it until late as it came through a mass of bodies. Overall, a tough night for Orlando City’s netminder.

D, Joao Moutinho, 7 — This was probably one of Moutinho’s better games of recent memory. He was menacing going forward and popped up in the attack often, usually to good effect. He completed a dribble, passed at a 77% rate, made two tackles, three interceptions, a clearance, a blocked shot, and won an aerial duel. His 92 touches led the team and he also did very well to move into unoccupied space at the back post and blast his shot low into the far corner for his goal. He loses points for failing to track Rodriguez into the box on the opening goal, but it was a mostly good night for him. He led the team in shots (4) and tied for the team’s most shots on target (2), creating one scoring chance.

D, Antonio Carlos, N/A — It was not good to see Carlos go down after only 15 minutes, and even worse to see him need a stretcher to be taken off the field. Hopefully the injury is nothing more than a nasty hyperextension but only time will tell. The Brazilian was playing pretty well up until he went down, and it might not be an accident that Orlando shipped an unusually high amount of goals in a game played mostly without him. Before going off, Carlos completed all 11 of his pass attempts.

D, Robin Jansson, 6 — It was a mixed bag from Jansson. He did some really good things like winning two aerial duels and recording one tackle, two interceptions, and a clearance, passing at a 91% clip, and getting forward into the attack a couple times. Nine of his 11 long balls were accurate. Unfortunately, he and Moutinho failed to communicate in time to track Rodriguez on the first goal. It wasn’t a bad game from the Swede, but it wasn’t his best either.

D, Ruan, 5 — The good things Ruan did were recording a tackle, an interception, and a clearance, and completing a dribble. The bad is the hesitation on Carlos Vela’s ball that led to the first goal and the monstrously ill-advised back pass that gifted LAFC its second goal. He seemed to be trying to head it back for Gallese to collect, but he was in traffic and it was horribly misjudged, and the visitors couldn’t have asked for anything easier. That he was subbed out in favor of Kyle Smith while Orlando City was chasing the game was likely half due to tired legs and half due to a performance that he’ll want to put in the rearview mirror.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 6 — At 89%, Araujo passed the ball well, creating two scoring chances and completing two of his four long balls, and defensively he also made two tackles. He picked up a completely needless fourth yellow card of the season for getting in Francisco Ginella’s face after he was deemed to have fouled his fellow Uruguayan, and he took umbrage with the decision. The youngster also had a couple of bad giveaways in the midfield on a night where LAFC looked dangerous on the counter to begin with.

MF, Junior Urso, 5.5 — This score maybe feels a little harsh, but the Bear’s influence on proceedings faded badly after halftime. He recorded a tackle and an interception and passed at 89% on the night. He also attempted one shot that didn’t hit the target and drew five opposition fouls, but his second half display contrasted badly with what he was able to do in the first period. Like the rest of Orlando City, he wasn’t able to get involved offensively as much during the second 45 minutes, and he also struggled to slow LAFC in transition moments.

MF, Facundo Torres, 6.5 — Torres looked lively out there, and was unlucky to not get an assist on an absolutely beautiful run of first-half play. Unfortunately, he wasn’t able to hold or curl his run long enough to beat the offside trap. Still, he led the Lions with three successful dribbles, had one tackle and one interception, created two scoring chances, completed one of his two long balls, and passed at an 87% rate. He drew three fouls on LAFC with his quick movement, and all three could have been yellow cards. He looks more and more comfortable every week.

MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 7 — Pererya’s pass over the top to Ercan Kara for Orlando’s opening goal was perfection. The vision to see it, the weight and accuracy to put the ball exactly where it needed to be…chef’s kiss. He then did just as well to pick out Moutinho and deliver the ball to him for Orlando’s second goal, and he had a hugely influential first half. Like most everyone else, his second half was less effective but he still finished with four chances created, one dribble, two tackles, and two assists (one primary, one secondary). He was accurate on four of six long balls. The biggest knock on his performance is that he struggled to connect with teammates in the attacking half after halftime.

MF, Alexandre Pato, 7.5 (MotM) — Man, Pato is just different gravy. He looked dangerous from the moment the ball was kicked. He combined well with Torres and Kara on the goal that was chalked out for offside and he continues to see passing lanes and runs that no one else on the field does. His volleyed goal was supremely difficult to pull off, yet he made it look easy. He waited for the ball to drop, kept his knee over it without leaning back, and fired it low into the corner where Maxime Crepeau couldn’t reach it. He was heavily involved aside from his goal with two successful dribbles, two chances created, a tackle, and he even won an aerial duel. He maybe could have done better with a late header that he didn’t place far enough away from Crepeau late, and his passing rate of 53.9% needs to be better, but he was still the Lions’ best performer on the night.

F, Ercan Kara, 7 — It was a good night from Kara. He’s still yet to open his scoring account but his awareness to head the ball back across goal for Pato to volley home — for his second MLS assist — was excellent and the quality of the header itself was also top notch. His dummy for the offside goal was very clever, and he too looks to be meshing better in the attack with every passing game. He was unlucky not to grab a late equalizer for the Lions but he couldn’t generate enough power on a well-placed header and was unable to get it past Crepeau. He had the second-most shots on the team, with three (one on frame), created a scoring chance, and it feels like a matter of time before he gets off the mark. He chipped in a pair of defensive clearances as well.

Substitutes

D, Rodrigo Schlegel (18’), 5.5 — Schlegel had a difficult task on the night, as he came in completely cold for the injured Carlos and was asked to deal with the high octane LAFC attack. For the most part, he did well. The Argentine led the team in tackles with three, won one aerial duel, recorded two interceptions, two clearances, and a block, and passed at a 95% rate. However, he got caught well up the pitch on the first LAFC goal and he could maybe have smacked the ball clear before Sanchez scored, but he didn’t, and then got picked by an LAFC player and was unable to fight through and get his body in the way. All in all, it was a typical hard-working shift from him but one he’ll want to improve upon.

D, Kyle Smith (72’) 6 — Smith had an interception, a tackle, and won an aerial duel in a little over 15 minutes on the field. Overall, he didn’t impact the game much and he wasn’t able to add anything offensively, but the numbers back up that he was his usual solid self defensively.

F, Benji Michel (72’) 6 — Benji provided a bit more verticality to the Orlando attack after coming on, and was given long balls to run onto several times. He had a decent chance to shoot or pass on the left side of the goal shortly after coming on but a heavy touch meant that Orlando had to settle for a corner. He whistled a shot very close to the far post and made an absolutely lung-busting recovery run to make a slide tackle and prevent a chance for LAFC on the counter.

F, Tesho Akindele (83’) N/A — In a brief cameo, Tesho didn’t have a ton of influence on the game with only three touches of the ball. He did win an aerial duel and pressed hard from the front as usual.

F, Silvester van der Water (83’) N/A — Van der Water had 10 touches in his brief time on the field and his deflected cross very nearly resulted in a goal for Alexandre Pato.


That’s how we saw the individual performances in this one. Feel free to share your opinions down in the comments, and make sure to vote for the Man of the Match in the poll below.

Polling Closed

Player Votes
Joao Moutinho 12
Mauricio Pereyra 4
Ercan Kara 1
Alexandre Pato 39
Other (Shout them out in the comments) 0

Orlando City

Flashback Friday: April 13, 2018 — Orlando City vs. Philadelphia Union

Hop in the time machine as we reminisce about a classic Orlando City game from six years ago.

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Carlos Romero, The Mane Land

During the two-week break we’ve had since Orlando City’s last competitive match, I’ve had some time to go back and revisit some of the matches that the team has played in the past. What better thing to do when considering the heavy emphasis that the club has placed on its 10th season as a member of Major League Soccer?

So, before the Lions take on D.C. United tomorrow, let’s hop in the time machine and reminisce about a game that OCSC played six years ago — almost to the day.

The date was Saturday, April 13, 2018, and the Lions found themselves on the road in Philadelphia. The Jason Kreis-coached team had won two games on the bounce and entered the contest with a record of 2-2-1 (7 points), while the Union sat at 1-1-2 (5 points). The Orlando team sheet on the day looked wildly different from what we’re used to seeing these days, as no one on that gameday roster is still with the club. Kreis deployed his team in a 4-2-3-1, which will be plenty familiar to Orlando fans by now, but that was where the similarities ended.

Philadelphia’s XI had a few familiar faces however, with Andre Blake in goal, Jack Elliot at center back, Matt Real at left back, and Alejandro Bedoya in midfield.

The Union began the game strong, with Keegan Rosenberry getting off a shot from long distance, and David Accam beating RJ Allen down the right and delivering a dangerous cross that fortunately didn’t have any teammates attacking it. Despite the slow start, Orlando almost opened the scoring just inside 10 minutes when Amro Tarek had a shot cleared off the line after being picked out by Yoshi Yotun from a corner.

Philadelphia continued to be dangerous, and Orlando’s task got more difficult when Allen went down with a hamstring issue in the 21st minute. The Lions were already missing Jonathan Spector through concussion and Scott Sutter with the dreaded lower body injury, so Cristian Higuita entered the fray while Will Johnson moved to right back.

The Lions’ resilience paid dividends a few minutes before halftime. Dom Dwyer timed a perfect run to stay level with Real, and Sacha Kljestan delivered him the ball by way of an outstanding lifted pass. Dwyer showed outstanding invention to settle the pass using his back, and then turned to curl the ball beyond Blake for the game’s first goal and the 99th of his career.

The goal seemed to unlock something in the good guys, as the first-half-fun didn’t end there. The second goal of the night had a bit of fortune to it, as Chris Mueller collected the ball in midfield and drove toward the box. A heavy touch meant he lost the ball, but Philadelphia couldn’t clear its lines and the ball came right back to him off the foot of Elliot. From there, it was a simple matter of taking a touch to settle himself and then firing low and hard past Blake and into the far corner.

The Lions took that 2-0 lead into halftime, but after the restart they once again found the Union streaming forward toward their goal. Bendik made his second big save of the night in the 53rd minute from a Fafa Picault shot, and it wasn’t the last time he was called on, as he denied Bedoya in the 62nd minute.

Justin Meram provided some moments of danger as the half wore on, and probably should have had an assist as the clock struck 90 minutes, but Dwyer fired his shot off target. Bendik had to make one big final save in the 94th minute to stop Borek Dockal’s effort, and when the whistle blew for full time the Lions’ had escaped with a 2-0 win.

The home side finished with 55% of the ball to Orlando’s 45%, and outshot OCSC by a whopping 20-8, but a lack of clinical finishing proved to be the Union’s undoing (sound familiar?).

That win meant the good guys had won three on the bounce, and a strong start to the season continued as that streak ultimately stretched all the way to six victories in a row. Sadly, the good vibes didn’t last. The last league win of that six-game streak came on May 6 in a 3-1 home victory over Real Salt Lake, and then the bottom fell out. The Lions lost nine straight league games, Kreis lost his job after the sixth of those losses, and Orlando only won two more league games for the remainder of the season.


Ultimately, the 2018 season proved to be the most difficult that the club has endured since joining MLS. OCSC’s total of 28 points is the lowest that the team has ever finished with in a season, and only a truly woeful San Jose side prevented the Lions from claiming the Wooden Spoon. Still, the win over Philadelphia — and the win streak that it was part of — were bright spots early in the year, and it’s always fun to look back on those. With a little luck, the Lions will get a similar result on the road against D.C. United tomorrow. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/12/24

Orlando Pride play in Utah tonight, Orlando City B earns a point, Europa League quarterfinals begin, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City B

Happy Friday! I hope this week has gone smoothly for you as we gear up for even more Orlando soccer tonight and tomorrow. It should be a nice next few days, even if I’m working for most of it. I don’t have many plans outside of work beyond bonding with my cat and trying a new stuffed bread recipe. Let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world!

Orlando Pride Play the Utah Royals Tonight

The Orlando Pride are on the road tonight for a showdown with the Utah Royals at 9:30 p.m., and you can catch the game on NWSL+ or through Bally Sports if you’re local. Although the Royals are an expansion team this year, the Pride last squared off against the previous Royals back in 2019, with Orlando losing all three games to Utah that season. This season, the Pride are riding a three-game unbeaten streak. However, they are also still on the hunt for their first win after three consecutive draws. While the offense awaits the arrival of Zambian striker Barbra Banda, the Pride have managed to score off of a set piece in each of their three games so far. While a draw on the road wouldn’t be awful by any means, hopefully the Pride can get a solid tally in the win column tonight.

Orlando City B Draws Philadelphia Union II

OCB went on the road to take on Philadelphia Union II and earned a single point after a 1-1 draw and penalty shootout. The two teams traded goals in the first half, but the Young Lions were on the back foot for most of the second half. While Orlando’s offense sputtered, the defense survived chance after chance from Philadelphia to send the game to a shootout. Orlando lost the lengthy shootout, 7-6, claiming just one point, but at least the Young Lions didn’t leave Pennsylvania empty handed. Hopefully OCB can return to its winning ways when it faces off with Crown Legacy FC on April 19.

New York City FC Stadium Plans Finally Approved

Plans to build a soccer-specific stadium in Queens for new grounds for New York City FC were approved by New York City officials. It will be a $780 million stadium expected to open in 2027 and serves as the centerpiece of a redevelopment project in the neighborhood. The 25,000-seat stadium will be right next to Citi Field, which has been one of the many home venues for NYCFC over the years since joining as an expansion side alongside Orlando City in 2015. It’s a bit wild that this stadium is set to open 10 years after Orlando christened its own soccer-specific stadium back in 2017. At least the Lions won’t have to play road games at baseball stadiums for much longer.

Europa League Quarterfinals Kick Off

The Europa League quarterfinals are underway, with the remaining eight teams squaring off in the first legs of their matchups. In England, Atalanta leaned on a brace from Gianluca Scamacca and stellar defense to win 3-0 against Liverpool. Bayer Leverkusen’s unbeaten streak stretched to 42 games after it beat West Ham United 2-0, thanks to a pair of late goals. The first match between Italian clubs AC Milan and Roma went to the visitors, as Roma scored early on and held on for a 1-0 win at San Siro. The only quarterfinal that wasn’t a shutout took place in Portugal, with Benfica beating Marseille, 2-1. The second legs will all take place at the same time next week, which should make for an exciting Thursday afternoon of soccer.

Free Kicks


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 at D.C. United: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to earn its first away victory of the season?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Jeremy Reper

Orlando City is back in action this Saturday night against D.C. United at Audi Field. Despite coming off back-to-back results, the off-week was well timed for the Lions. A little extra rest for the squad, plus giving players time to recuperate from various knocks should mean a nearly full strength Orlando City.

What does Orlando City need to do to earn all three points on the road against its Eastern Conference rivals?

The Dynamic Duo Return

Cesar Araujo returned to the Orlando City lineup against the New York Red Bulls, meaning the Lions should finally have their top choice defensive midfield pairing back together. The timing couldn’t be more perfect given Orlando City will be dealing with D.C. United striker Christian Benteke. He has five goals in five matches, which is half of the 10 goals D.C. United has scored all season.

So far this regular season, every match in which the Lions give up more than one goal has resulted in a loss. Keeping Benteke and the rest of D.C. United off of the score sheet is critical to getting a result. Orlando City can concede one goal and still walk away with points on the road, but only if the Lions manage to accomplish the next key below.

Goals are the Goal

To say Orlando City has been wasteful in front of goal is a bit of an understatement. So far this regular season, the Lions have 93 shots, with 27 on target, but only five goals. Orlando City has created scoring opportunities, but failed to convert them in anything close to an efficient manner. Of the five goals scored, Duncan McGuire has two, Nico Lodeiro has one, and Jack Lynn has one. The other was credited as an own goal on Lynn’s backheel attempt.

The list of players who haven’t scored yet this season is too long to type, but I don’t need goals from the defenders — though I will take them. I just need Facundo Torres, Ivan Angulo, Luis Muriel, and Martin Ojeda to get something going. Ideally, all four of them score in this match, but I’ll take whatever goals we can get.

End the Trend

Orlando City hasn’t fared well against D.C. United recently. Nearly a year ago, the Lions lost at home 3-1 to the visitors. The last trip to Audi Field was a 1-1 draw in which Orlando City gave up a goal in the 80th minute to settle for a single point. In 2022, Orlando City lost both matches to D.C. United. It’s time to get things going in the right direction.

The Lions also need to stop losing on the road. Losses to Inter Miami and Atlanta both came on the road, with Orlando City yet to find any points away from home. Last season, the Lions were veritable road warriors. The team needs to find that form again as it was a major reason the club finished second in the Supporters’ Shield race.


That is what I will be looking for this weekend as Orlando City takes on D.C. United. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!

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