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Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Houston Dynamo

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It’s Friday once again, and on this particular Friday it means the back end of a double match week for Orlando City is right around the corner. The Lions return to Exploria Stadium to take on the Houston Dynamo for the first time since 2019 on Saturday night.

With Houston coming to town, I had a chat with Dustyn Richardson, the managing editor over at SBNation’s Dynamo Theory. Dustyn was kind enough to help us get caught up on a team that OCSC hasn’t faced for quite some time.

Sebastian Ferreira and Teenage Hadebe were the two big acquisitions for Houston in the off-season. How have they been so far?

Dustyn Richardson: Ferreira was the big off-season addition, with the new ownership group making him the largest signing in club history. Ferreira got off to a slow start but has started to get comfortable in MLS. He has five goals and three assists on the season and won MLS Player of the Week in May after a 3-0 win on the road against LA Galaxy. Hadebe joined the Dynamo last summer, but he has really blossomed here in his first full season. Alongside Tim Parker and goalkeeper Steve Clark (who signed as a free agent this off-season), Hadebe has helped solidify a back line that has struggled for years. The Dynamo have four shutouts this season and a lot of success can be attributed to Hadebe and his consistent nose for the ball and snuffing out opposition attacks.

Pablo Nagamura is in his first season as head coach. How does he like his team to play?

DR: Coming from Sporting Kansas City and playing and coaching under Peter Vermes, Nagamura has a lot of the SKC tendencies. He likes to press and win the ball in dangerous areas. The Dynamo don’t have much of the ball in a lot of matches but they try to pounce on mistakes. Nagamura is really growing and adapting as a coach, even this early in his career. He has switched from a 4-3-3 at the beginning of the season to more of a 4-2-3-1, getting Darwin Quintero into a number 10 role and it has paid off. Quintero is having a very good year and Ferreira’s emergence can be credited to this and Nagamura’s tactics.

Houston already has more than half of the points it accumulated in 2021 and has some impressive wins on its resume. What’s been the difference in Houston’s improved form this year?

DR:  Like I said above, having a competent defense has been huge for the Dynamo. Steve Clark has given the team good goalkeeping play for the first time in a number of seasons. Ferreira is also the first true Number 9 the team has had since Mauro Manotas left for LigaMX. This team was in need of a total rebuild and it was never going to be easy. The front office and coaching staff has been overhauled and the team is beginning to get the same treatment. Getting a team that was finishing at the bottom of MLS for multiple years back to a competitive side is a tall task, but the signs are there that a plan is in place. At this point, that is all most Dynamo fans have wanted — a plan and a vision to be good again. 

Are there any players who will be unavailable due to injury, suspension, or other circumstances? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?

DR: A number of Dynamo players have just come back this week from international duty — mainly Ferreira, Hadebe, and midfielders Adalberto Carrasquilla and Darwin Ceren. Carrasquilla is suspended for yellow card accumulation, which will leave a big hole in the Dynamo midfield. Coco, as he is known by, has been huge this season and recently made his loan move permanent.

With Coco out, my best guess at the starting eleven is:

Steve Clark; Adam Lundkvist, Teenage Hadebe, Tim Parker, Zeca; Matias Vera, Darwin Ceren, Darwin Quintero; Tyler Pasher, Sebastian Ferreira, Corey Baird.

A point here would be a good result for the Dynamo in my opinion so I’ll say a 1-1 draw is my prediction, but a 2-1 or 2-0 loss would not surprise me.


Big thanks to Dustyn for the excellent information on the Dynamo. Vamos Orlando!

Orlando City

Orlando City Signs Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to New Contract

The Icelandic midfielder-turned-fullback extends his deal to stay in Orlando through at least 2026.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City announced this afternoon that the club has re-signed Icelandic midfielder/fullback Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to a new contract. The new deal will keep the 24-year-old in purple through the 2026 MLS season with a club option for 2027.

“Since Dagur has arrived at the club, he has proven himself to be someone who is adaptive and versatile in all situations, showing a willingness to do whatever the team requires of him in any scenario,” Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “His dedication to hard work and to his teammates is visible every day. He’s a consummate professional, both on and off the pitch, and we’re excited to have him representing our club for the foreseeable future.”

The Lions signed Thorhallsson on Jan. 31, 2023 to a two-year contract with a pair of option years. He joined OCSC from Breidablik in Iceland’s top flight and made his first appearance for the club less than a month later, coming off the bench in Orlando City’s 1-0 opening day win over the New York Red Bulls on Feb. 25, 2023, coming on in the 78th minute to replace Martin Ojeda. After spot duty to start his Orlando career, Thorhallsson converted to fullback and has developed his game and has become a regular starter.

In his career with Orlando City, Thorhallsson has made 54 appearances (34 starts), playing 2,998 minutes. He’s scored four goals and added six assists, passing at an 85.7% rate. He was a part of one of the league’s best defenses in 2023 and has been a key part of a recent improvement by the Lions in their own end. Counting all competitions, Thorhallsson has participated in 65 games (40 starts), adding an assist in non-MLS games to go along with the numbers above. After his first season with Orlando City, The Mane Land staff gave Thorhallsson a solid grade of 6.5 out of 10 for the 2023 season.

“I am so happy to have extended my contract with this amazing club,” Thorhallsson said in the club’s release. “Since I came to Orlando, it has felt like home, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity I have gotten to play for the best fans in the country. There’s nothing better than a warm, Orlando night at Inter&Co Stadium, so I can’t wait for many more to come. The fans deserve the best, and that is what I will continue to try to give while I am here in Orlando.”

Prior to joining Orlando City, the native of Hafnarfjörður, Iceland native scored 11 goals and added seven assists in 40 appearances with Breidablik, helping the club win the Icelandic championship in 2022. He has appeared in four matches with Iceland’s national team and represented Iceland previously at the U-16, U-17, U-18, U-19, and U-21 levels, scoring two goals at the youth international level.

Thorhallson spent his youth career with Icelandic clubs Fylkir and Haukar, as well as Belgian side Gent from 2013-2018. He began his senior career with six appearances at Haukar in 2016 in his mid-teens. He returned to Iceland from Belgium and appeared in 16 matches with Keflavik, scoring one goal during the 2018-2019 season and appeared in one league match and four cup matches on loan with Norwegian side Mjøndalen IF. He signed with that club in 2019 and made 12 appearances in league play over two seasons from 2019-2021. During that time, he also played 12 games on loan with Kvik Halden FK in 2019, scoring five goals, and played in 20 matches on loan with Fylkir, scoring once.

What It Means for Orlando City

Thorhallsson arrived as a potential midfield replacement for Junior Urso at the beginning of 2023, but with his versatility and willingness to play anywhere, he cemented himself into the right back position around the Leagues Cup break in 2023, helping the Lions go on a successful final run that lifted the club to second in the Supporters’ Shield standings. While he is still developing at the position, and is sometimes still prone to errors, he’s only 24 and has plenty of upside.

Able to tuck inside and help in the midfield, play on the wing, and serve as a wingback or a fullback, Thorhallsson can plug into a lot of spots across multiple formations. He provides Oscar Pareja with some tactical options on how to use him. Thorhallsson has already equaled his goal (2) and assist (3) totals from 2023 in fewer games (albeit more minutes). He has a good rapport with winger Facundo Torres on the right side of Orlando City’s attack and possesses good instincts about when to overlap and when to cut inside.

The signing extends a promising Orlando City career. He should be in the midst of his prime years over the next two seasons, and provides a solid and dependable player.

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Orlando City vs. Nashville SC: Player Grades and MotM

How did your favorite Lions perform in Orlando City’s 3-0 road victory at Nashville?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

The Lions were on the road for the second time in as many matches, this time in the Music City facing Nashville SC in a rematch of last season’s Major League Soccer playoff series. Orlando continued its strong form on the road, picking up a 3-0 victory, and by doing so, clawed its way back to 500 on the season is are now sporting a positive goal differential.

Two different Lions found the back of the net and an own goal from the face of Alex Muyl led to a fourth straight OCSC win. Let’s take a look at how Orlando City’s players rated individually in their Eastern Conference matchup.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 6.5 — For the second game in a row, the Peruvian No. 1 did not have a lot to do during the match as Nashville’s offensive woes continued and the Lions limited the hosts to just two shots on target. Gallese faced eight total shots on the night but only had to make two saves. A clean sheet is a clean sheet, though. He completed 87.5% of his 24 passes, including eight of his 11 long-ball attempts. Gallese was fouled twice in the match and required the trainers to evaluate his shoulder late in the second half but was able to continue and see out the game.

D, Rafael Santos, 6 — Santos rejoined the starting 11 after being on the bench the last several matches. It was clear during the first few minutes of game time that there was some rust that needed to be worked out, as Santos had two dangerous giveaways in the defensive third. The Brazilian also conceded two unnecessary corners in the first half. He completed 80.4% of his 46 passes, including six of 13 long balls. Defensively, Santos contributed a team-high six clearances (which bumped his grade up half a point) and one interception. On the offensive side of the pitch, Santos was mostly absent, with no cross attempts, no key passes, and no shots, and he had one unstable touch. He was substituted out of the match in the 65th minute for Kyle Smith.

D, Robin Jansson, 6.5 — The captain did a little bit of everything against Nashville and was a solid presence in helping to secure the clean sheet. He completed 88.9% of his 45 passes but was only successful on two of his six long-ball attempts. Defensively, he had more of a quiet night with only one clearance, a blocked shot, and a successful aerial duel while committing one foul. Offensively, he was credited with one shot, which was off target, and he suffered a foul as well. Ultimately, statistical nights like this speak to how well Orlando controlled the midfield and stymied the Nashville attack before it reached the back line.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 7 — Schlegel continues to start and Orlando continues to win, so for the time being there seems to be no need to change up the formula. Schlegel has expereienced somewhat of a midseason renaissance while fellow center back David Brekalo was away participating in the Euros. Against Nashville, he led the Lions in both touches (64) and passing attempts (55), completing 89.1% of his passes, including four of six long balls. Schlegel also won one aerial duel and contributed two tackles and two clearances, defensively. He committed two fouls without picking up a card and had two unstable touches.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6.5 — Thorhallsson had his hands full defensively dealing with the pace of Canadian international Jacob Shaffelburg all night long. The defensive assignment limited his effectivness in the attack. He completed 32 passes at an uncharactieristically low 75% completion rate, including two of five long balls, and was unsuccesful on his lone throughball attempt. Defensively, he contributed one tackle but did well to frustrate the previously mentioned Shaffelburg throughout the game. He was issued a yellow card in the 22nd minute of the match for a tackle that came through Shaffelburg’s body but instant replay sure appeared to show that he made clean contact with the ball before the player. Offensively, he was credited with two successful dribbles and was fouled once. Like Santos, he had no shot attempts, key passes, or cross attempts.

MF, César Araujo, 7.5 — The Uruguayan defensive midfielder opened up his 2024 MLS account with the first goal of the match in the 19th minute on a long set piece delivered by Martin Ojeda. The goal set the tone early for Orlando City on the road. Araujo completed 86.1% of his 36 pass attempts, including one of his two long balls, while failing to connect on his lone crossing attempt. Defensively, he showed great chemistry with Wilder Cartagena in putting out fires before they started and keeping former MLS MVP Hany Mukhtar in check. He contributed two tackles, one interception, a blocked shot, and a successful aerial duel while comitting two fouls. Offensively, he scored on his only shot attempt and was fouled twice while being dinged for an unstable touch.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 7  Once again the Peruvian defender was all over the field making plays and helping to control the midfield along with Araujo. So much of what Cartagena and Araujo do during the 90 minutes goes unrecognized because it does not show up on the stat sheet, but I thought Cartagena was instrumental in controlling the midfield against Nashville. Wilder completed 86.8% of his 32 passes and connected on all three of his long balls. Defensively, he had a team-high five tackles while adding two interceptions and a blocked shot. Impressively, Cartagena was able to have such an effective night defensively while only being whistled for two fouls. Offensively, he was credited with one shot that was way off target, and he was dispossessed three times with an unstable touch to boot.

MF, Iván Angulo, 7.5 — Angulo might as well just cameo as the Energizer Bunny at this point because the speedy Colombian just never stops moving. Against Nashville, Angulo continued to showcase his strong chemistry with his fellow attacking midfielders. Angulo completed a team-high 94.4% of his 36 passes, and tied Ojeda for most on the team with his four key passes. His speed drew a yellow card on Nashville center back Josh Bauer and set up a dangerous set piece opportunity in the 29th minute. Defensively, Angulo chipped in two tackles and one interception. Offensively, Angulo didn’t attempt a shot but was credited with an assist on the third goal of the match, finding Ramiro Enrique through traffic after picking up a loose rebound.

MF, Martín Ojeda, 8 — Ojeda appears to have cemented his role in the starting 11 for the home stretch of the season after another strong performance. He completed 88% of his 25 passing attempts including both of his long-ball attempts and four of his seven crosses. Like Angulo, he genereated four key passes on the night to lead the team. Ojeda got back to help in the defensive midfield, contributing three tackles. Offensively, Ojeda failed to record a shot, which is probably the most shocking statistic of the entire match, as he is not afraid to pull the trigger, but he was credited with an assist for delivering a perfect ball to Araujo on the Lions’ first goal. It was another dangerous delivery from Ojeda on a set piece that resulted in an own goal from Nashville and a 2-0 lead for Orlando City, and while he won’t officially get credited with an assist, the quality of his delivery from set pieces as of late has been top notch. He also made a sick play to get around Shaq Moore in the left corner to set up a scoring chance.

MF, Facundo Torres, 6.5 — The Summer of Facu cooled off only slightly against Nashville in a sense that the DP failed to find the back of the net, but Willis robbed him blind on a 1-v-1 opportunity in the second half. He did almost everything else in the match. Torres completed 82.8% of his 29 passes and was unsuccessful on his lone long ball and lone cross. Defensively, he contributed one interception and a clearance and was issued a yellow card for blocking a Nashville restart in the 64th minute. Offensively, he led Orlando City both in shot attemps (3) and shots on target (2), and was credited with a successful dribble while suffering one foul and being dispossessed once. Of note, Facu failed to leave the field in a timely manner when he was substituted for Luis Muriel in the 77th minute, resulting in Orlando City being forced to play a man down for a brief period due to the new MLS rule.

F, Ramiro Enrique, 8 (MotM) — With the insurance goal in the 81st minute, Enrique now has three goals in three matches, and that is a great sign that the offense is clicking. His goal against Nashville was an absolute rocket, which slammed off the underside of the crossbar. He completed 71.4% of his 21 passes, including one key pass. The striker got back defensively and added one interception and two clearances on the night while committing one foul. Enrique stood out on offense with six aerial duels won and his holdup play showed maturity and composure. His lone shot attempt was the scorcher that put Orlando up 3-0, and he logged one successful dribble while being fouled twice. My only knock on his effort against Nashville was that he had three unstable touches and was called offside on what would have been a good goal-scoring opportunity if he had held his run for a second longer and then picked out a wide open Torres instead of firing the ball directly at Willis.

Substitutes

D, Kyle Smith (65′), 5.5 — Smith was swapped out of the starting 11 against Nashville and replaced Santos in the late stages of the match. The human Swiss Army knife played well in a reserve role but could have done better controlling the ball, where the Accountant only completed 60% of his 15 passes. To his credit, Smith did connect on two of his three long-ball attempts. Defensively, it was a quite night statistically, as Smith did not record a defensive stat. His best moment of the match came on his pass down the line to Angulo, which sprung the Colombian into the attack prior to the third goal of the match.

MF, Nico Lodeiro (65′), 6 — Lodeiro is starting to embrace the super substitute role more, and for a player of his historical quality, I would much rather have 20-30 minutes of fresh legs than see the elder statesman slug his way through an hour plus of game time. Against Nashville, Nico completed 63.6% of his 11 passes, and he recorded a shot attempt which was saved after a nice run into the box. Defensively, he did not conrtibute a measureable statistic.

F, Luis Muriel (75′), 5.5 — The Colombian entered the match with Orlando up by two goals and worked to help see out the result. Unfortunately, Muriel could not capitalize on the momentum that he generated against New England off the bench the match before and largely was ineffective with the ball at his feet in this one. He completed both of his passes, which included a long ball, and was off target with his lone shot attempt, which was blocked in the buildup to Enrique’s goal, while being whistled for offside. Muriel had two unstable touches and was dispossessed once. Defensively, he did not contribute a statistic. It would be nice to see more from the Colombian on a consistent basis.

D, David Brekalo, (87’), N/A  The Slovenian international came on with the Lions up by three goals and helped to ensure a clean sheet. At this point, Brekalo is healthy and has been back from the Euros for a few matches, but I suspect that Head Coach Oscar Pareja’s reason for not starting him has much to do with not wanting to disturb the current chemistry between Jansson and Schlegel. In short reserve action, Brekalo completed all four of his passes, which included one long ball. It will be interesting to monitor the center back pairing moving forward during Leagues Cup and down the stretch of the regular season.

MF, Jeorgio Kocevski (87′), N/A — Jeorgio subbed in alongside Brekalo and was able to get a few minutes of cardio in, but was not on the field long enough to earn a grade. He completed both of his passes.


That’s how I saw the individual performances on Wednesday night. What did 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 vs. Nashville SC: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from the Lions’ 3-0 victory over Nashville SC?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City traveled to Tennessee to take on Eastern Conference foe Nashville SC. The Lions came into the match riding a three-match winning streak, while Nashville had lost four in a row. Fortunately, the streaks continued as Orlando City defeated Nashville 3-0 in the midweek match. What follows are my five takeaways from a definitive win in Music City.

Back-Post Beauty

It only took Orlando City 19 minutes to take the lead against Nashville. Ramiro Enrique was fouled by Alex Muyl, setting up a free kick opportunity just outside the box. Martin Ojeda delivered a perfect kick to the back post for Cesar Araujo to head into the back of the net. Of course, if Araujo hadn’t gotten it, Facundo Torres was there to back him up, as the two were completely unmarked. It was a major defensive lapse by Nashville that the Lions were able to take advantage of to take the lead.

Muyl Gets Faced

Amazingly, Ojeda was fouled very close to where Muyl fouled Enrique, setting up yet another free kick. Ojeda once again took the kick, sending it into the box where Nashville’s Jack Maher tried to head it out, but only managed to bounce it off Muyl’s face and in for an own goal in the 40th minute. Two free kicks, two goals, too much fun for an Orlando City squad that has scored at least two goals in seven straight matches.

Satisfying Set Pieces

Orlando City may have scored two goals from set pieces, but the team also needed to defend several Nashville set pieces, including six corners. Fortunately, the Lions were able to keep Nashville out of the net with solid defending on corners and free kicks. This used to be a challenge for Orlando City, but has now become a strength, as was demonstrated against Nashville.

Enrique’s Streak Continues

Enrique scored Orlando City’s third goal of the night, and his third goal in three matches in the 81st minute. Ivan Angulo passed the deflection from Luis Muriel’s blocked shot straight to Enrique on the right side of the box. Enrique took one touch and then smashed it past Joe Willis and off the bottom of the crossbar into the goal. This is the type of production the Lions need from Enrique while Duncan McGuire is with the USMNT Olympic squad.

A Confident Team

What we saw on the pitch at Nashville was a comfortable, confident Orlando City. This is a club that has now won five of its last six matches, scoring 19 goals while only giving up eight over that span. Once again, the players were finding spaces, completing passes, creating chances, and defending as a team. Whatever Oscar Pareja is telling these guys is working, because you can see the belief.


The Lions finished the match a player up because Nashville’s Tyler Boyd was stretchered off due to injury. We wish him a speedy recovery. Otherwise, that is what I saw in Orlando City’s 3-0 victory at Nashville SC. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below and as always, vamos Orlando!

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