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Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. FC Cincinnati

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This week is a little different, as Orlando City has a rare Friday night game to shake things up a bit. The Lions head north to Ohio to try to exact some revenge against FC Cincinnati, the team that dealt OCSC its first loss of the season.

Ahead of this one I spoke to Geoff Tebbetts, one of the contributors over at Cincinnati Soccer Talk. Geoff was kind enough to help get us up to speed on FCC ahead of tonight’s rematch.

Brandon Vazquez continues to make scoring look fairly easy and now has eight tallies to go along with three assists. Are his scoring numbers something that you saw coming or has this been a pleasant surprise for the Cincy faithful?

Geoff Tebbetts: Sometimes it takes a coaching change to unlock the full potential of a player. Two years ago, under Jaap Stam, Vazquez started a handful of games up front with Jurgen Locadia, but FCC didn’t really have a playmaker behind him to thread the needle. Last year, Luciano Acosta was brought in to be that playmaker, but the formation favored a single striker and complimentary wingers, leaving Vazquez on the outside again as a substitute.

Considering the focus has been on Brenner and Acosta, the proof of Vazquez’s ability had been invisible, but when he was used more as a second striker at the end of the 2021 season, it bore fruit. Vazquez started scoring, but the lack of defensive depth meant that his goals didn’t lead to positive results.

Now that the goals are leading to positive results with the team behind him providing more of a defensive presence, yeah, it feels like a pleasant surprise, but it was there. It also helps that assistant coach Dom Kinnear is working more with Vazquez to achieve an attack that maneuvers better in the final third. Vazquez is finding cracks in the box, and crosses that were once missed are now meeting their targets.

The 26 goals FC Cincinnati has conceded is the third worst number in the East, and a goal differential one worse than Charlotte is the only thing keeping FCC out of a playoff spot at the moment. What does this team need to do to tighten things up at the back?

GT: What they need to do is tell everyone to forget about that first awful week against Austin!

The 5-0 away loss to Austin had many pieces missing from the start. Brenner and Alvaro Barreal were both out as they worked back into playing form after an extended off-season. Dom Badji and Alvas Powell both came on after the game had been long decided. The match was basically a disposable mulligan.

Since then, the 4-3-1-2 formation has been used much less and exchanged for a 3-5-2 formation or a 4-3-3 defensive formation. For both, Junior Moreno and newly acquired Obinna Nwobodo have played a solid defending midfield, while John Nelson has been a dependable plug-in at the left back after the team lost Ronald Matarrita for the season. Even rookie goalkeeper Roman Celentano has displayed smarts and technique from the back while Alec Kann has been out.

However, the team is still trying to figure out the composition of its back line. Geoff Cameron and Tyler Blackett are both underachieving this season, and Ian Murphy is still a bit green, even though he’s playing his comfortable center back spot. Nick Hagglund has been surprisingly the most consistent on the back line, but you need more than just one CB having an above-standard season. Chris Albright and Pat Noonan will need to search for another back when the transfer window opens.

After 15 games played Cincy has already matched the number of points it accumulated during the entirety of last year. What do you think the ceiling for this team is this year?

GT: As FC Cincinnati fans, we’ve been down this path before. FCC has had 11, 13, and 14 points at this point over the past three seasons. Eclipsing that point total before the halfway point of the season feels both glorious and harrowing. The floor has to fall under us at some point, right?

However, there is evidence that the team has turned misfortune into short-term success. The -4 goal differential isn’t terrific, but it is still miles better than the -16 differential at this point last year. Players are being mentioned as (dare we say it?) MVP candidates and possible USMNT call-ups. Most importantly, the team is winning at home!

The numbers are not lying. FCC had 10 instances in 2021 where they held a lead but lost points in the end (four draws, six losses), resulting in 26 lost points. The team lost games from goals given up in the 75th minute or later six times. In 2022, FCC has blown leads only twice, resulting in six lost points, and while they have lost twice in the final 15 minutes, they have also won twice in the final 15 minutes. That’s a positive turnaround, no matter how you slice it.

If this team can maintain its point trend compared to other teams, it’ll barely miss the playoffs, and that’s a positive for a city that wants the glory days of the USL to return. But if this team stays healthy, gets two above-average signings in the transfer window, and finds a way to turn on a second or third source of offense, why couldn’t a home playoff game be a possibility? That might be a big ask for a team that struggled last year, but if Vancouver and RSL could ride that wave in 2021, why can’t we?

Are there any injuries, suspensions or other absences that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?

GT: No suspensions expected here! While FCC does absorb yellow cards, only Nwobodo and Blackett are in danger of getting suspended from their next yellow card.

Moreno and Badji are the only real injury concerns. As of Thursday, Moreno has been doing side work with the squad, while Badji has been ruled out with a leg injury. Matarrita is still the only major injury (ankle) with no certain timetable for return.

Goalkeeper Alec Kann might be back after missing his last eight matches due to a lower body injury. Forward Calvin Harris has been out while awaiting a green card, so he might be out if he’s not back to full training. Acosta and Yuya Kubo had been in COVID protocol recently, but they should be healthy for the game.

Like the last match against Orlando, I’m guessing Noonan plays a 3-5-2 lineup.

Roman Celentano; Nick Hagglund, Geoff Cameron, Ian Murphy; Alvas Powell, Obinna Nwobodo, Luicano Acosta, Yuya Kubo, John Nelson; Brandon Vazquez, Brenner.

As far as predictions are concerned, I do see Orlando getting some measure of revenge. They’re much like FC Cincinnati in the sense that they have performed well on the road, but fallen on hard times at home. If Moreno and Badji were both expected to play, I would call for an FCC win, but I’ll pick a 2-2 draw.


Many thanks to Geoff for the excellent insight into FC Cincinnati. Vamos Orlando!

Orlando City

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

How did your favorite Lions perform in a 2-0 loss at home against Columbus?

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Rafael Santos Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

The Lions returned home riding a three-game unbeaten streak but a bizarre video review call moments before halftime set the tone for a physical match against the Columbus Crew. Ultimately, Orlando fell to the Crew 2-0. Here’s how I saw each individual Lion’s performance in Orlando’s fourth loss at home on the season.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 6 — The Peruvian No. 1 saw a relatively quiet first half come to a close in a fury as he was forced into action to face a penalty kick before halftime. Gallese guessed correctly, but Diego Rossi’s placement was just above Gallese’s outstretched trailing hand. The Crew put three of their eight shot attempts on target and Gallese was credited with one save on the night. He completed 94.1% of his 17 passing attempts, including two accurate long balls out of three attempts.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 7 (MotM) — Schlegel continued to fill in for injured starter Robin Jansson and has now strung a few solid performances together on the back line. Defensively, he put out multiple fires for Orlando City. He tied Wilder Cartagena for the team lead with five clearances. Schlegel also added three tackles and one blocked shot. He committed one foul while he suffered three throughout the match. He completed 93.1% of his 58 passing attempts, including two key passes. He also completed one of his three long-ball attempts on the night. For his total effort throughout the game he is our Man of the Match.

D, Wilder Cartagena, 6.5 — The Peruvian international continued to function as a center back in the squad’s 3-5-2 lineup. Defensively, he tied for the team lead with five clearances and added three tackles and a blocked shot. He won two aerial duels and was whistled for two fouls on the night. He completed 91.7% of his 48 passes, including two successful long balls out of four attempts. Offensively, Cartagena put one of his two shot attempts on target and completed one successful dribble.

D, David Brekalo, 6 — Brekalo continued to perform well in the back as he has become more comfortable in his role, leading the team with four total tackles and chipping in one clearance. He completed 91.3% of his 46 passes and was successful on both long balls that he sent up the field. He committed one foul in the match. Offensively, he did not contribute any statistics.

WB, Facundo Torres, 5.5 — Torres again slotted in at wingback, which limits the number of looks he gets at goal, but it’s nice to see a Designated Player willing to change positions for the good of the team. The Uruguayan logged one tackle, one clearance, and one interception on defense. He committed one foul and earned a foul as well. He completed 91.5% of his 47 passes, which included two key passes. He completed three of his eight crossing attempts on the night and was successful on one of two long balls. Offensively, he logged one shot, which was off target, and completed one successful dribble.

MF, Nico Lodeiro, 6.5 — Lodeiro played solidly throughout the match and was asked to do a little bit of everything during the game. Defensively, he contributed three tackles and one interception. He led the team with 77 total touches and completed 84.8% of his team-high 59 passing attempts, including one key pass. He successfully completed one of his five crosses and both of his long-ball attempts. Offensively, he put one of his two shot attempts on target. He was whistled for being offside once. Lodeiro saw his night come to an end in the 66th minute when he was replaced by Martin Ojeda.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 6 — Returning from suspension for yellow card accumulation, Araujo functioned as the only true defensive midfielder. Araujo’s effort on the night will ultimately be remembered for the jersey tug and subsequent yellow card recieved for the “foul” on Aidan Morris, which resulted in a penalty kick attempt for the Crew (instead of Orlando City) after a confusing and frustrating video review. Araujo finished the night quietly from a statistical standpoint with one interception as his only defensive stat. He committed four fouls total, including the aforementioned “foul.” He completed 96.3% of his 27 passes, including two successful long balls on two attempts. Offensively, Araujo was credited with one successful dribble. He was subbed out of the match in the 58th minute as Orlando chased the game.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 6.5 — Angulo slotted into the midfield for the second straight game. Defensively, he contributed one tackle. He completed 86.5% of his 52 passes, including a team-high three key passes. He also completed his lone through ball attempt. Offensively, he did not log a shot attempt, but he did complete two dribbles and was fouled once. Angulo was able to use his speed to get into dangerous positions throughout the match but continued to lack precision when it came to the final pass or dribble.

WB, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6 — Thorhallsson joined Torres as the wingback on the opposite side in the 3-5-2 system and seemed to be an afterthought throughout much of the match as the team played down the left side of the field for the majority of the game. Defensively, he contributed three total tackles and one clearance while also winning one aerial on the night and did well to deny the speedy Yaw Yeboah multiple chances to get inside him on give-and-go plays. He completed 83.3% of his 24 total passing attempts. He was unsuccessful on both crossing attempts but completed one of his two long balls. Offensively, as a byproduct of much of the action happening opposite his side of the field, he failed to record an offensive statistic. He was subbed out of the match in the 58th minute.

F, Luis Muriel, 6.5 — Muriel put in a good effort on a night when the scoreboard unfortunately would not reflect it. His effort to get in on goal — and subsequently be taken down from behind — earned what everyone thought at the time to be a penalty attempt for the Lions, although it was taken away by the referee after the review. Defensively, Muriel was credited with one interception. He completed 88% of his 25 passes and was successful on his lone crossing attempt. He won one aerial and offensively put one of his three shot attempts on target while completing three successful dribbles and suffering one foul.

F, Jack Lynn, 5.5 — With the injury to Duncan McGuire, the hero of the Lions’ last match, Lynn made Orlando’s starting lineup. Defensively, Lynn contributed one clearance. He completed 81.8% of his 11 passes. Lynn was unsuccessful on his lone crossing attempt. Offensively, Lynn failed to record a shot attempt but was credited with one successful dribble while being whistled for offside twice. He was subbed off in the 58th minute for Ramiro Enrique.

Substitutes

MF, Felipe, (59′), 5.5 — Brought on for Araujo just before the hour mark, Felipe looked to help control the midfield. Defensively he logged one tackle and one clearance while committing one foul, which landed him a yellow card. He completed 89.5% of his 19 passes, including one key pass and two successful long balls on two attempts. Offensively he did not record a shot attempt.

WB, Rafael Santos, (59′), 6 — Santos came on for Thorhallsson but went over to fill the left wingback role, sending Torres forward and Angulo to right wingback. He recorded one interception on the defensive end. Santos completed 84.2% of his 19 passes, which included one successful long ball on his one attempt. He was fouled once and was whistled for offside once.

F, Ramiro Enrique, (60′), 6 — Making his return from an extended absence due to injury, Enrique came on for the final half hour in the hopes of providing an offensive spark. He got into good areas but struggled to finish on some of Orlando’s best scoring chances of the night. Enrique completed 66.7% of his six passes and was unsuccessful on his lone cross. In a little over 30 minutes of game time, Enrique managed to tie Muriel for the most shot attempts, with three, and put two of them on target, albeit right at the goalkeeper. Despite the poor overall outcome of the match, it was good to see Enrique return to the pitch.

MF, Martin Ojeda, (67′), 5.5 — Designated Player Ojeda came off the bench to replace Lodeiro as Orlando faced a two-goal deficit. Defensively, Ojeda logged one interception. He completed all eight of his pass attempts, with two key passes, and three of his five crosses. Ojeda attempted one shot, which was off target.


How did you see the individual performances in this game? Make your voice heard down in the comments, and be sure to vote in our Man of the Match poll. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/27/24

Orlando City loses to the Crew, Pride and OCB win, Southampton seals return to Premier League, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

Happy Memorial Day, Mane Landers! I hope you all had a good holiday weekend. I worked at Under Armour all weekend while wrapping up my high school sports coverage for the spring season. It was a mixed weekend for our teams. Orlando City lost, but both the Pride and OCB won their matches. We’ve got plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links. 

Lions Lose at Home to Columbus Crew

Orlando City lost 2-0 to the Columbus Crew on Saturday at Inter&Co Stadium and saw its three-match unbeaten streak end. The match’s first goal was controversial as the referee, Jair Marrufo, initially awarded the Lions a penalty late in the first half but went to the monitor and reviewed a play at the other end of the pitch. He instead awarded Columbus a penalty kick. Diego Rossi scored from the spot to put the Crew ahead 1-0 before halftime. Columbus extended its winning streak to three matches. Orlando has struggled at home, going just 1-3-4 so far this season. The Lions have not scored a goal at home since April 27. Despite the loss, the Lions still remain in 10th in the Eastern Conference with 16 points. Next up for Orlando is a pair of road matches this week, starting Wednesday at the Chicago Fire, followed by a Saturday night matchup against the New York Red Bulls. 

Pride Win at Home Over Portland Thorns

The Orlando Pride won their record-setting eighth straight match with a 2-1 victory at Inter&Co Stadium against the Portland Thorns Friday. Barbra Banda scored two goals in the first half to give the Pride a 2-0 lead going into halftime. Portland pulled one back, but the Pride held on for the victory and claimed three points. Orlando remains undefeated in league play after 11 matches, and the Pride stay atop the NWSL table with 27 points. The Pride are off this week but will return to action on the road next Friday, June 7, against the San Diego Wave.

OCB Win at Home against Huntsville City FC

On Sunday, Orlando City B bounced back with a season-high five goals in a 5-0 win over Hunstville City FC at Osceola County Stadium. Jhon Solis, Yutaro Tsukada, and Shak Mohammed put OCB ahead 3-0, while Yeiler Valencia scored his first two OCB goals to seal the win for the Young Lions. OCB is now in sixth in the Eastern Conference with 16 points. Meanwhile, Huntsville City FC remains winless through 10 matches and stays at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. OCB’s next match will be on the road Sunday at Inter Miami CF II. 

Southampton Clinches Promotion to Premier League

Southampton booked its return to the Premier League with a 1-0 over Leeds United in the EFL Championship playoff final at Wembley Sunday. Adam Armstrong scored the lone goal in this match as the Saints returned to the top flight after being relegated the previous season. Southampton joins Leicester City and Ipswich Town, securing promotion to the Premier League. Despite finishing third in the table, Leeds’ playoff woes continue as this is the sixth time it missed out on securing promotion and finished its season with only one win out of its last six matches. 

Free Kicks


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

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from Orlando City’s frustrating home loss to the Columbus Crew?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City hosted the Columbus Crew in an Eastern Conference showdown Saturday as the Lions looked to extend a three-match unbeaten streak. Unfortunately, questionable calls and a continued lack of quality in front of the goal doomed Orlando City to yet another home loss. What follows are my immediate takeaways from an deeply disappointing and frustrating defeat in Saturday’s 2-0 loss.

A Controversial Penalty

In the 41st minute, Cesar Araujo slightly tugged on Aidan Morris’ shirt from behind, but Morris fell forward in the box. Referee Jair Marrufo did not call a foul. This is important. Orlando City eventually cleared and took the ball back all the way up at midfield. The Lions worked the ball into the box, where Steven Moreira knocked down Luis Muriel from behind for an obvious foul. Marrufo called the penalty, but the video assistant referee got in his ear, and he went to look at the monitor. This was all over a minute since the not called “foul” on the other end. After looking at it, he reversed his call on the field and awarded the penalty to Columbus for the soft Araujo foul, which Diego Rossi buried to give Columbus the lead. This included the willingness to overlook a foul on Rossi in the phase of attack prior to Araujo’s infraction.

We have said many times on The Mane Land PawedCast that when given the opportunity, PRO referees will go to look at the video review when it goes against Orlando City, but not when it is a call that benefits Orlando City. This is just another example of that paradigm.

The Problem with the 3-5-2 Formation

With Robin Jansson sidelined due to injury, Oscar Pareja has employed a 3-5-2 formation with David Brekalo, Wilder Cartagena, and Rodrigo Schlegel on the back line. It has been mostly effective, and Cartagena in particular has done better than one could hope for in this new role.

Though Orlando City has had success with this formation, it does present some challenges. In this match, it moved Facundo Torres into the left winger position, and Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to the left wingback position. Thorhallsson has not been as effective going forward into the attack as he is when playing fullback, and Torres doesn’t look as free flowing as he usually is. It also means that Orlando City is unable to have the double pivot of Araujo and Cartagena in the defensive midfield. That pairing has been extremely effective for the Lions over the last few seasons.

Finishing Quality Still Lacking

Is someone messing with magnets? Is Professor Quirrel in the stands using his wand to redirect the ball? I’m just wondering, because Orlando City can’t seem to put the ball in the net for any amount of money at home. Orlando City generated 12 shots with five on target against Columbus and scored exactly zero goals. Several players, including Luis Muriel, Torres, Jack Lynn, and Nico Lodeiro all shot just wide of the target. Orlando City doesn’t have any trouble getting the ball into dangerous areas and creating chances, but the Lions have had trouble finishing those chances, and it’s getting to be ridiculous. Someone contact Professor Dumbledore.

Missing Players are Missed

It’s never ideal when starters are missing. Jansson returned to the 18 on Saturday but did not see any playing time against Columbus. Not having the captain on the pitch is not great, but when you combine that with not having Jansson’s quality on the back line, it makes things even tougher.

Meanwhile, Duncan McGuire’s scoring prowess is deeply missed. McGuire is Orlando City’s leading scorer with five goals. Orlando City doesn’t have another striker like him. Muriel generally plays lower than McGuire, often generating his own chances, but isn’t the target striker that McGuire can be. Jack Lynn is a target striker, but simply does not have the same level of quality as McGuire. Ramiro Enrique returned from injury in this match, but his size does not allow him to do what McGuire can do, and his rust was evident when presented a couple of golden opportunities in front of goal. Basically, the Lions really miss McGuire.

Designated Players Must Step Up

There are exceptions, but typically MLS Designated Players are attackers and are supposed to be contributing goals. Two of Orlando City’s DPs have scored. Muriel has two goals, and Torres has one. Martin Ojeda has yet to score. That means McGuire has more goals than all three DPs combined. Let’s be generous and look at goal contributions. Both Muriel and Torres have an assist on the season, and Ojeda has three assists. McGuire also has an assist. That means McGuire has six goal contributions, and all three DPs have combined for eight goal contributions. That isn’t good enough. Ojeda has mostly played a substitute role for Orlando City. That isn’t something a DP should be doing. Obviously, none of the three contributed to a goal in this match either. Something needs to change.


Those are the things I observed in the 2-0 loss to the Crew, let us know in the comments below what stood out to you. As always, vamos Orlando!

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