Orlando City went on the road to take on Austin FC for the first time and ultimately walked away with a point after a 2-2 draw. Goals from Ercan Kara and Ruan gave the Lions a lead in the first half, but they were reduced to nine men and had to hold on for a result.
Despite poor officiating and missed chances, Orlando showed plenty of resilience on the road in a packed Q2 Stadium. Let’s dive into how each Lion individually performed in the draw.
GK, Pedro Gallese, 6.5 — El Pulpo was able to get a tentacle to Sebastian Driussi’s penalty kick, but not enough to keep it from going in goal as he still hunts for his first penalty save of the season. His first save of the match came in the 25th minute as he snatched a header from Driussi out of the air. His other two saves in the match came from diving efforts as he denied Nick Lima from a tight angle and then made a huge stop by shifting direction to slap away a low effort from Alex Ring. There wasn’t much he could’ve done about the late equalizer as Moussa Djitte scored from the far post on a short corner kick that shouldn’t have been given. His distribution could have been a bit better as he was accurate on just 45% of his 22 passes and six of his 18 long balls, but the team wasn’t exactly trying to build out of the back while down two players and trying to hold on for a win. The Peruvian goalkeeper also did a great job managing the clock over the last 30 minutes of the match to help ensure Orlando didn’t leave Austin empty-handed.
D, Joao Moutinho, 6.5 — The left back ended up leading the Lions with six clearances as he shifted to a central position once Orlando was reduced to nine men. With Rodrigo Schlegel out of the game due to a second yellow card, Moutinho did well to fortify the defense and clear the danger. He likely would have come up with the clearance on Austin’s equalizer if not for the unfortunate deflection the ball took off of Kyle Smith’s head. Moutinho also had a tackle, an interception, and a blocked shot in the match. He could’ve been a bit more accurate as he completed a subpar 63% of his 30 passes and only two of his eight long balls found their mark. He did have a key pass though and was accurate on one of his two crosses during a night in which he wasn’t often able to surge forward and provide service.
D, Robin Jansson, 6 — It’s never easy trying to defend a lead while down two players, but Jansson was a leader for Orlando’s defense. The Beefy Swede had five clearances and blocked two shots in a solid defensive effort to help Orlando get a result. He understandably didn’t have much of an impact on offense, but four of his nine long balls were accurate and he completed 69% of his 29 passes. He picked up his seventh yellow card of the season, tied for the most in MLS, for Diego Fagundez walking into him and falling over. Another strong defensive effort like last night will be needed from him next Saturday against FC Dallas.
D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 5.5 — His night will be overshadowed by receiving two yellow cards for handballs in the span of a couple of minutes. Schlegel was booked for a handball just outside the penalty kick and then again on the ensuing free kick as part of Orlando’s wall. Referee Joe Dickerson sent him off in the 61st minute without going over to the monitor and the center back finished with four clearances and an interception. He was accurate on 89% of just 18 passes and his lone long ball found its target. Schlegel will miss Saturday’s game, giving him plenty of rest to come back stronger in league play in June.
D, Ruan, 6.5 — The right back scored his second goal of the season by pouncing on a loose ball in the box after a save from Brad Stuver. It was a nice first-time shot from the Brazilian to double Orlando’s lead in the first half. He had a chance to increase Orlando’s lead even further later in the first half on a breakaway but was offside due to a mistimed run and missed the shot regardless. It was a missed opportunity that will be looked at a little harsher considering how the game played out in the second half. Still, Ruan is showing plenty of life offensively in recent games and his speed works well with Facundo Torres to provide options during counter attacks. He didn’t have any crosses but was successful on one of his two long balls and completed 88% of his 16 passes. Defensively, he had a tackle and a clearance and was subbed out in stoppage time to kill off some of the clock and get fresher legs out there.
MF, Cesar Araujo, 4.5 — It was Araujo’s roughest performance of the season. Although he had 16 passes at a great 94% success rate, he had three unstable touches in the match and made costly mistakes. The biggest was his red card in the 69th minute as he needlessly kicked out at Ring, who milked the minimal contact as much as he could. It was a frustrating mistake from a player who’s been levelheaded in recent weeks. That wasn’t his only mistake in the match, as he whiffed on an attempt to send the ball up the field, giving Austin a counter-attacking opportunity in the first half. It wasn’t all terrible, as Araujo led the Lions with three tackles while also chipping in defensively with two interceptions and two clearances. However, his ejection while Orlando was already down a player may have been the difference between a draw and a win and he’ll miss Saturday’s game against Dallas.
MF, Andres Perea, 6 — Playing in the center of the field, Perea quietly led the Lions with four interceptions as he capitalized on the pressure created by teammates to then pick off passes. He wasn’t necessarily dynamic in the match, sending his only shot of the match off target despite a good look, but he was solid and played his part in the team’s efforts to hold on for a result. Along with those interceptions, Perea had three clearances, a tackle, and also blocked a shot. His passing could have been better, as he completed 70% of 23 passes, but that’s not horrific, and he was accurate on one of his two long balls. It was the 21-year-old’s third straight start as he continues to earn minutes in Orlando’s crowded midfield.
MF, Facundo Torres, 5.5 — Torres did well on Orlando’s second goal, sprinting down the left side of the pitch to whip in a cross that wasn’t cleared cleanly and fell to Mauricio Pereyra and then Ruan. The 22-year-old had other opportunities in the match to score, but instead laid the ball off for teammates to take the chance. It was unselfish of Torres, but he could have afforded to be a bit more ruthless, as he finished with no shots or key passes. The unsuccessful cross that led to a goal was his only one of the game and his lone long ball didn’t find its target. He completed 74% of his 19 passes and helped out defensively with two tackles and plenty of pressure before being subbed out in the 71st minute. Torres’ speed makes him an asset for Orlando’s offense, but he lacked a killer instinct that could have helped put the game away before the second half.
MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 6.5 — The captain’s only shot of the game was a strong effort that forced a tough save from Stuver, with Ruan putting away the ensuing rebound. The captain had a few miscues, including a great opportunity to send Kara in on goal in the first half, but was adept at delivering quick balls forward to find Lions in open space as he was accurate on five of his six long balls. Both of his crosses were unsuccessful though, and he completed 83% of his 23 passes. His night ended in the 71st minute as he exited the game along with Orlando’s other offensive players once the Lions were reduced to nine men. It will be a sore trip back to Orlando for Pereyra, who was fouled four times in the match as Austin broke up plays without being booked for it.
MF, Junior Urso, 6.5 — The Bear played out wide in this match and intercepted a bad pass from Stuver to then find Kara in front of goal for an easy assist. Urso led the Lions with five shots, putting three of them on target. He had a great chance to score in the final moments of the first half, putting a header on frame and then beating his defender to the ensuing rebound after Stuver’s save. But the shot missed the open net and soared into the Austin sky. He didn’t have any crosses and his only attempted long ball was inaccurate while he also completed 70% of his 23 passes. Urso supplied great defensive pressure throughout the match, made two tackles, and stopped Jon Gallagher in the box after Schlegel was beaten. Like Pereyra, he was fouled four times in the match and all were in Orlando’s own half.
F, Ercan Kara, 7 (MotM) — The Austrian was in the right place at the right time in front of goal after Stuver’s mistake allowed him to score in the second minute of the match. The goal was one of two shots he put on target, the other coming in the 43rd minute when he fired from distance and was stopped by a diving save from Stuver. Kara led the Lions with three key passes, creating great opportunities for Urso and Perea. He was physical throughout the match, winning two of his four aerial duels and battling to take the ball from Austin players in dangerous areas. He had 24 touches and completed all but one of his 10 passes for a 90% success rate. Kara is our Man of the Match for scoring and creating plenty of chances in a productive outing despite few crosses from the wings and being substituted in the 71st minute.
MF, Jake Mulraney (71’), 5.5 — The Irishman was brought on to give the Lions some fresh legs while down two players. He had a chance to shift the momentum back in Orlando’s favor as he dribbled his way through Austin’s defense, but his shot was a tough one to pull off and sent wide of goal. He didn’t see much of the ball after that, finishing with only three touches and no passes. Mulraney did have a clearance though, doing his part on the defensive end as Orlando desperately tried to hang on.
F, Tesho Akindele, (71’), 5.5 — Akindele’s role after coming on was to contest the team’s long balls and clearances heaved up the field in an effort to win the ball or at least stall Austin from pushing forward. The Canadian won two of his three aerial duels and had 11 touches while completing two of his four passes. While he did a decent job holding up play, he had an opportunity to find Ruan making an uncontested run down the field but either didn’t see him or just didn’t have a way to get him the ball as Austin players descended on him. All in all, it was a decent shift from Akindele.
D, Kyle Smith (71’), 6 — The defender came on to solidify Orlando’s defense, playing in the center of defense as Orlando gave up the wings to focus on filling open spaces in the box. The plan worked for the most part as Smith had four clearances. However, Austin’s goal came from a corner kick that should’ve been ruled a goal kick and Smith’s attempted clearance flicked the ball back to Djitte at the far post. It was unfortunate in many ways for Smith, who scored Orlando’s winner last weekend. The 30-year-old ended the game with no passes and six touches.
MF, Sebas Mendez (91’), N/A — The defensive midfielder didn’t play long enough to earn a grade as his substitution mostly helped remove some of the time left in the match. He did complete his one pass though and had just the one touch. The Ecuadorian has not started since May 7 but that may change with Cesar Araujo suspended.
D, Michael Halliday (93’), N/A — Like Mendez, Halliday was brought on late in stoppage time. The 19-year-old didn’t have much of an opportunity to make an impact with just one touch in his first appearance of the 2022 MLS season.
That’s how I saw the individual performances in Orlando City’s controversial 2-2 draw against Austin FC. What do you think? Be sure to let us know in the comments and vote in the poll below for your Orlando City Man of the Match.
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Orlando City Signs First-Round Draft Pick Jeorgio Kocevski
Orlando City signs its first-round draft pick Jeorgio Kocevski to a one-year deal with three option years.
Orlando City SC announced the signing of first-round 2024 MLS SuperDraft pick Jeorgio Kocevski today. The deal is through the upcoming 2024 season with club options for 2025, 2026, and 2027. The Lions selected the Syracuse midfielder with the 21st overall pick in the draft in December.
“Jeorgio has had a really strong preseason camp with us, demonstrating everything we saw in him when we were scouting him and analyzing his game in college,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “He’s done well working his way into the group, even starting in our friendly against Flamengo and holding his own against some of the best in Brazil, and we’re excited to have him with us this season.”
The box-to-box midfielder made three appearances this preseason, starting against Brazilian club Flamengo and the following scrimmage against USL Championship side Rhode Island FC. He came on at halftime against the Colorado Rapids last weekend, scoring the winning goal in the 90th minute.
Prior to being selected by the Lions, the Liverpool, NY, native made 71 appearances with 65 starts and logged 5,599 minutes for Syracuse in four years. He scored seven goals and recorded 18 assists, putting 33 of his 93 shots on frame. Additionally, he was part of Syracuse’s 2022 NCAA national championship team, playing 90 minutes in the 2-2 draw, but missing in the team’s victorious shootout over Indiana.
Kocevski had a breakout junior year, being named to the United Soccer Coaches’ All-South Region third team, All-ACC third team, NCAA All-Tournament team, and ACC All-Tournament team. During his senior year, he wore the armband for the Orange and was named All-ACC first team and ACC Co-Midfielder of the Year.
What It Means for Orlando City
Kocevski was the most likely pick from this most recent draft to be signed by Orlando City. The departure of club captain Mauricio Pereyra left a spot in the midfield and Head Coach Oscar Pareja seemed to feel the rookie could fill it from early on. His start against Flamengo was in the place of regular starter Cesar Araujo, who was on international duty with the Uruguay U-23 national team. He played against Flamengo’s best lineup and did quite well in almost an hour on the field in his first minutes of play at the professional level.
While a spot was open for the signing of Kocevski, he likely won’t see much of the field for the first team this season. In addition to being behind starters Araujo and Wilder Cartagena, the defensive midfielder will be behind Felipe on the depth chart. In all likelihood, the rookie will slot in with Orlando City B in MLS NEXT Pro to get some minutes, but there is room for him to start regularly with that team.
Kocevski is currently the only player signed by the club from the Lions’ 2024 draft class. West Virginia midfielder Yutaro Tsukada, Pittsburgh midfielder Filip Mirkovic, and Charlotte midfielder Riyon Tori remained unsigned, with the latter opting to return to school for his senior season.
Lion Links: 2/20/24
The Wall sells out, Robin Jansson earns recognition, Concacaf W Gold cup preview, and more.
Happy Tuesday, everyone! We’re now just one day away from the first competitive Orlando City game of the year, and it can’t get here fast enough. As usual, we have plenty to cover this morning, so let’s jump straight into it.
The Wall Sells Out for Orlando City’s Season Opener
The Wall, the supporters section of Orlando City’s stadium, has sold out of single-match tickets ahead of Saturday’s home opener against CF Montreal. Limited tickets for the match are still available for the rest of the stadium, and hopefully it will fully sell out for the first match of the season. This Saturday will be the 10th consecutive time in which the Lions start their MLS season at home. It should be a great match and a chance for Orlando to get its season off to a good start between Concacaf Champions Cup matches against Cavalry FC.
Robin Jansson Praised as a Top Defender in MLS
Orlando City center back Robin Jansson was recognized as one of the best center backs in MLS by MLSsoccer.com‘s Joseph Lowery. The 32-year-old has been an integral part of Orlando’s defense since joining the league in 2019 and should continue anchoring the team’s back line this season. Not only is he excellent in terms of defense, but the Beefy Swede can also make an impact on offense with his passing and surprising runs up the field. Jansson is one of the most consistent defenders in the league and agreed to a new contract with the club earlier this month.
MLS Transfer News Roundup
The 2024 Major League Soccer season might kick off tomorrow, but transfers are still flying thick and fast, which means we have things to catch up on. We start with one of the teams opening the season tomorrow, Inter Miami, which has officially transferred midfielder Gregore to Botafogo in the Brazilian top flight. We move on to NYCFC, which has completed the signing of striker Jovan Mijatović from Red Star Belgrade. The 18-year-old Serbian youth international has inked a deal that runs through the 2028 season, with an option year for 2029. We finish up with the Houston Dynamo, which have signed Coco Carasquilla to a contract extension. The Panamanian midfielder’s deal now runs through the 2025 season and has option years for 2026 and 2027.
Concacaf W Gold Cup Preview
The inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup kicks off later today, so make sure you get up to speed on everything you need to know about the competition. The United States Women’s National Team has been grouped with Argentina, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico, and will be looking for a strong showing following a disappointing campaign at last summer’s World Cup. The tournament will feature a total of 12 teams, with eight Concacaf representatives and four from CONMEBOL. The top two finishers in each of the three groups advance to the knockout round, along with the top two third-place finishers. The USWNT begin play tonight against the Dominican Republican at 10:15 p.m. from Dignity Health Sports Park.
Americans in Midweek Action
With a number of American players taking part in games during the working week, get everything marked down on your calendar so you don’t miss anything. Things get started this afternoon with a huge game, as Malik Tillman, Ricardo Pepi, Sergino Dest, and PSV Eindhoven take on Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League. European competition continues on Thursday as well, with Christian Pulisc, Yunus Musah, and AC Milan facing Rennes in the Europa League play. Things finish out on Friday as the red-hot Brandon Vazquez and Monterrey face Juarez in Liga MX competition.
Minnesota United Close to Coaching Hire
A coaching search that will surely go down as one of the most thorough in MLS history is nearing its conclusion, as Minnesota United is reportedly close to naming Manchester United assistant Eric Ramsay as the team’s new skipper. While nothing is official yet, Ramsay is said to be the leading candidate, and The Athletic‘s Tom Bogert says that the team is closing in on the hire. If he joins, Ramsay will become the youngest coach in league history at the tender age of 32, and he will also become Minnesota’s second coach following Adrian Heath’s departure in October of last year.
- Orlando City forward Luis Muriel thanked Atalanta fans who made a banner to bid him farewell this past weekend.
- The folks over at MLSsoccer.com have predicted Orlando City will finish third in the Eastern Conference this year.
- The U.S. Open Cup has reportedly gotten the green light to take place this year, although it will have a format different than in past years.
- Thorgan Hazard dedicated a goal celebration to his family’s parakeet that passed away.
- Crystal Palace has hired Oliver Glasner as the team’s new coach after Roy Hodgson stepped down from the role.
- Napoli announced the firing of Walter Mazzari just two days before the team’s Champions League tie against Barcelona, making him the second coaching casualty of the Italian Champions’ campaign.
- Continuing the coaching carousel trend, Marseille has fired Gennaro Gattuso after just five months into the job.
That’s all I have for this morning. Vamos Orlando!
Orlando City’s 10th Anniversary is the Time to Remember the Club’s Originals
Orlando City’s 10th year in MLS should be used to honor the players who built the club.
The 2024 season is Orlando City’s 10th in Major League Soccer. The club has scheduled several events throughout the year to celebrate having been in the country’s top division for a decade, but the season should also be a time for fans to reflect on the people who made it happen without getting to experience the result.
Orlando City arrived in Orlando in 2010 with the goal of reaching MLS. However, it was the first professional soccer team in the city since the 1990s and resides in a football hotbed, leaving many to wonder if the team would be successful. The most famous doubt came at the team’s inaugural media day, when longtime WESH 2 sportscaster Pat Clake told club founder Phil Rawlins and inaugural Head Coach Adrian Heath that, while he wished them luck, a professional soccer team in Orlando would never work.
The Orlando project got off to a much better start than the Austin Aztex, Rawlins’ former project. During the team’s first season in 2011, Orlando City substantially outdrew its predecessor, proving there was an appetite for soccer. But there was another factor to the team’s popularity. The Lions won…a lot.
The success of a team at home has a significant impact on the enjoyment of attending games. In four USL Pro seasons, Orlando City was 40-3-9 (W-L-D) at the Citrus Bowl (now Camping World Stadium) and Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports, winning three regular season titles and two USL Pro championships. Seeing the local team win and score frequently is much more likely to result in people returning for more games. That’s exactly what the Lions did, and it helped to create a following.
When MLS considered Orlando City for expansion, the league looked at average attendance, season ticket numbers, and community involvement. All of these factors were directly related to the team’s success on the field. For this reason, the key players on those teams are responsible for Orlando City being in MLS in the first place.
In addition to their work on the field, the players from the USL Pro era worked in the community to build a following. They spoke with local groups and were active throughout Central Florida, convincing people to attend games. It was all about the effort of getting the team into MLS. Unfortunately, many of those players didn’t get to experience the results of their labor.
The core of Orlando City’s team from 2011 to 2013 remained the same, with Miguel Gallardo in goal, Luke Boden at left back, Rob Valentino at center back, Kevin Molino and Jamie Watson in the midfield, and Dennis Chin up top. The success they had resulted in the club being announced as the newest expansion side on Nov. 19, 2013. However, of those six stalwarts, only Boden and Molino continued with the team into MLS.
Over the past 10 years, Orlando City has had several star and fan favorite players come and go. As the club’s USL Pro era gets further in the rearview mirror, the players who built the organization are forgotten or unknown by a large portion of the fanbase that didn’t experience the early seasons.
To the club’s credit, Orlando City worked to keep the memory of the team’s foundation alive in recent years. This preseason, Chin, Lewis Neal (a 2011 original who returned to the team in MLS), and Dom Dwyer (who was on loan with the team in 2013 and returned in 2017) were involved in the popular away jersey unveiling. Additionally, Chin signed autographs and took part in a Q&A session during the Society XXI preseason game against the New England Revolution. They’ve had other events, like the 2022 U.S. Open Cup games against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, when former players have been invited back.
Additionally, the club raised banners last year for the 2011 and 2013 USL Pro championships and announced this year that it will display the trophies in a new permanent exhibit called “The Vault.” The club also released an updated version of the three-lion USL Pro logo from those first four seasons.
When people consider the factors that resulted in Orlando City joining MLS in 2015, the fan support during the USL Pro years is the first thing that comes to mind. But without the success of those teams and the work the players put into building the following, the club likely never would’ve made it to the top division. This 10th anniversary season is a good time to remember those club legends.
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