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Orlando City

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

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Orlando City went on the road to take on FC Cincinnati and left empty-handed after a 1-0 defeat. Pedro Gallese provided stellar goalkeeping, but the Lions just couldn’t create enough chances on offense. Mauricio Pereyra, Joao Moutinho, and Robin Jansson were all absent from the starting lineup for various reasons, which definitely impacted how Orlando attacked in this match. Let’s dive into how each individual Lion performed in this road loss.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 8 (MotM) — If not for Gallese, the Lions would have been heading into halftime with a massive deficit to overcome. El Pulpo came up with spectacular saves time and time again, denying Nick Haggland from close range twice in the first half and Alvaro Barreal from the top of the area. Another save stopped Luciano Acosta’s deflected attempt, but Gallese couldn’t intercept the ensuing cross after the rebound and his clean sheet was spoiled. His eight saves were the most he’s had in a match this season and the loss doesn’t fall anywhere on his shoulders. His distribution was also solid, connecting on five of his eight long balls and completing 85% of his 20 passes.

D, Thomas Williams, 6 — The 17-year-old started as the team’s left back in place of Joao Moutinho. He had his work cut out for him at times against Brandon Vazquez and Brenner, but held his own with some defensive support from teammates. The Homegrown Player had three clearances and a tackle in 45 minutes of action. It was just his second start of the season and it showed on occasion as he completed just 83.3% of his 24 passes. Williams didn’t have any crosses and was accurate on one of his three long balls. He was subbed off at halftime for Antonio Carlos, ending his appearance on the road.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 6.5 — The Argentine center back returned from suspension and led his team with six clearances. He also blocked a shot from Luciano Acosta at the top of the box and had three interceptions and a tackle as well. Schlegel could’ve reacted a bit faster on Cincy’s goal, unable to locate Brenner in time after the initial shot. He had a whopping 16 long balls, connecting on six of them. Only 79.7% of his passes were successful, but he attempted a team-high 69 of them as he tried building out of the back and rotating the ball around the field. Schlegel also won three of his four aerial duels to give the Lions some supremacy in the sky. Schlegel’s performance showed that he can hold things down while Carlos continues to ease back into things.

D, Kyle Smith, 6.5 — Smith started at center back in the first half and then shifted to left back for the second half, showcasing some of the versatility that makes him so valuable for Orlando. Leading the team with five tackles, Smith had another strong game and also contributed five clearances and an interception. Regarding Cincy’s goal, Smith did a good job putting himself in a position to make one of his trademark goal-line saves, but ultimately wasn’t able to get a piece of Brenner’s shot. He also led the Lions with 85 touches and three key passes, including a nice through ball to Ercan Kara. His only cross didn’t find its man, but it did earn the Lions a corner kick late in the match. Smith was accurate on two his five long balls and 82.5% of 57 passes were successful.

D, Ruan, 5.5 — The right back needed to react quicker on Cincinnati’s goal. Acosta shot from outside the box, then raced past Ruan to get his own rebound and assist on the goal. In terms of defensive statistics, Ruan only had one clearance and needed to offer a bit more bite on that side of the ball considering the depleted back line. Although he completed 87.8% of his 41 passes and was accurate on two of his four attempted long balls, neither of his two crosses were successful as he continues to struggle in that area of his game. Ruan also had three unstable touches in a performance he will have to shrug off and move forward from.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 6.5 — Araujo had an efficient night, completing 91.2% of his 57 passes to help build possession for Orlando. He did struggle a bit when defending against Acosta, who used some fancy footwork to get two shots off while Araujo was on him. The second of those shots led to Cincy’s goal as Araujo chased down Acosta only for the Argentine midfielder to cut back and find room to shoot. It’s hard to fault Araujo for much of that though and he had two interceptions, two clearances, and a tackle. Offensively, his single shot was blocked but he did a decent job putting the ball into dangerous areas. Four of his six attempted long balls were accurate and one of his two crosses found their mark. This was also his fifth consecutive match without a yellow card, meaning one of his accumulated yellow cards this season is removed due to good behavior.

MF, Junior Urso, 5 — Like most of Orlando’s midfielders, Urso had a rough night. His poor touch trying to wrangle in a pass from Araujo caused the turnover that led to Cincy’s goal. The Bear didn’t have any shots during a match in which Orlando certainly could’ve used them. His only cross of the game was a key pass that gave Jake Mulraney a chance in the box, although far enough from goal that the resulting header needed better power and placement to go in. Urso had two crosses and defensively he contributed an interception and a clearance in 69 minutes on the field. He completed 23 of his 28 passes for an 82.1% completion rate and didn’t attempt any long balls. Urso was dispossessed four times in this one and may be feeling the fatigue of three starts within 10 days.

MF, Andres Perea, 5 — Perea had a tough time trying to fill Mauricio Pereyra’s role on offense. The 21-year-old completed 50 of his 62 passes for an 80.7% success rate that could’ve been a better as he turned the ball over and ended Orlando’s momentum. He had just one key pass and his only cross didn’t connect, although his lone long ball did. Perea was hesitant at times with the ball at his feet, particularly when Cincy closed down on him or when he needed to quickly find an open Lion. He had a good opportunity in the 33rd minute on a counter, but a bad touch while sprinting down the field allowed Cincy defender John Nelson to stop him. It wasn’t all bad though. Perea was defensively sound with two tackles, two clearances, and two interceptions, while also winning six of his seven aerial duels. It’s important to remember just how young Perea is and he had big shoes to fill. But, this match showed that he lacks the skillset to truly pull the strings of Orlando’s offense at this time.

MF, Jake Mulraney, 5 — The Irishman’s only shot came late in the first half from a good opportunity at the top of the box, but his headed attempt was easily handled by Celentano. Mulraney had a rough night in terms of distribution. His lone cross was blocked and he completed just 76.5% of his 17 passes and struggled to beat Ray Gaddis on the left. He did do a solid job dropping back to support Williams on defense though, recording three tackles, an interception, and a clearance. Mulraney was subbed off at halftime for Benji Michel, continuing their competition at the position.

MF, Facundo Torres, 5.5 — With Pereyra out, the stage was set for Torres to take the reins of the offense and drive it forward. While he led the Lions with five crosses, connecting on two of them, Torres wasn’t able to get much going on offense. His only shot was a low effort from distance that went wide of goal and neither of his long balls found their target. The Uruguayan had 55 passes at a solid 87.3% success rate, but just one key pass. His two tackles undersell a decent defensive performance, as he hustled all over the pitch to pressure Cincy from start to finish. Although he had 72 touches, Torres was often quickly swarmed by Cincy’s players when he had possession and was fouled a team-high four times. Torres showed plenty of fight in this match, but wasn’t able to make much of an impact on offense as the Lions were shut out.

F, Ercan Kara, 5.5 — The Austrian forward only had one shot in 62 minutes of action and that was a poor attempt that harmlessly trickled to Celentano for him to collect it. Kara only had 14 touches and eight passes at a 37.5% success rate, which is a testament to the lack of service and support he received throughout the match. He wasn’t able to really take advantage of set pieces either as Orlando didn’t have a corner kick until he was off the field. Three unstable touch didn’t help things for Kara, as his holdup play wasn’t what we’re used to seeing, although he won three of his four aerial duels. Kara spent his time on the field stranded on an island until he was subbed off for Alexandre Pato right before Cincy took the lead.

Substitutes

D, Antonio Carlos (45’), 7 — The Brazilian center back made his return after his injury in April. While he didn’t have any defensive stats, Carlos helped stabilize things for Orlando and completed all but one of his 31 passes for a strong 96.8% success rate. He also connected on all five of his long balls to pick out players downfield. His only shot was a headed effort sent just wide of goal after a cross from Alexandre Pato in the box. It’s nice to see Carlos back out there, even if his return wasn’t enough to galvanize Orlando towards a result.

MF, Benji Michel (45’), 4 — Michel came on for Mulraney, but made less of an impact with just 14 touches and 10 passes at an 80% success rate despite playing an entire half. Michel had no shots, crosses, or key passes, although he did contribute a tackle on defense. His speed is an asset, but he just wasn’t a factor in this match.

F, Alexandre Pato (62’), 4 — The 32-year-old was sloppy to say the least. Only one of his five crosses was accurate and some of his misses were bad enough that there was no chance of recycling them. None of his three long balls were successful either and he finished with eight passes at a 375% success rate. His only shot went over the bar and a bad touch squandered a golden opportunity in the box on a counter attack. Hopefully this performance was just an anomaly and his quality service returns in future games.

F, Tesho Akindele (69’), 5 — The Canadian forward is still on the hunt for his first goal contribution of the season. Akindele only had three touches and three passes in this match, which isn’t great from a forward you’re hoping adds a spark off the bench. The Lions had a slew of set pieces late in the match while trailing, but poor service prevented Akindele from really capitalizing on them.


That’s how I saw things in Orlando’s defeat at the hands of FC Cincinnati. Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments, and don’t forget to vote for the Man of the Match as well.

Polling Closed

PlayerVotes
Pedro Gallese43
Kyle Smith1
Antonio Carlos1
Cesar Araujo0
Other (Let us know who in the comments)0

Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. New York City FC

Get all the information you need on NYCFC, courtesy of someone who knows them best.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Another Orlando City match is right around the corner, and the Lions will try to keep the good vibes going during what has been a productive July. It won’t be easy though, as they welcome New York City FC to the familiar confines of the purple palace.

A date with the Pigeons means I caught up with Matthew Mangam, of the excellent Hudson River Blue. As always, he was very helpful in bringing us up to speed on New York City.

When last we talked, you said that this team needed to find its offensive spark again. It certainly managed to do that when it put four past Orlando City. Has that trend continued in the games since then?

Matthew Mangam: It definitely did not happen in the two matches after the win against Orlando. NYCFC did score first against Austin but ultimately lost, and couldn’t even manage two shots on goal against Chicago, drawing 0-0. Last game, NYCFC came back from 2-0 down to tie 2-2 with Atlanta United. The goals came from unusual scorers, Mounsef Bakrar and Talles Magno. So, the offense hasn’t been great recently but with the return of Magno, it can only get better. Players like Hannes Wolf and Santi Rodríguez have slowed down as of recently, resulting in guys like Alonso Martínez to see less of the ball and get fewer scoring chances.

With 29 goals conceded, NYCFC has one of the stingiest defenses in the league, what has made that unit so good?

MM:  NYCFC’s defense is solid, but it wouldn’t be complete without Matt Freese. The All-Star snub has made tons of amazing saves this season to earn NYCFC results and he seems to get better and better as time goes on. Also, the back line of Birk Risa and Thiago Martins has been consistent throughout the season, allowing for the two to get comfortable playing together. Although the right back spot has changed every so often, Kevin O’Toole has stayed as the starting left back. James Sands as the defensive midfielder does a great job in winning the ball back and protecting Martins and Risa. The defensive unit is the same from last season, so it’s only getting stronger with every game played.

It’s always fun to check in on former Lions, so tell me a bit about Andres Perea. How has he performed this season?

MM: Andrés Perea has been good this season, but not as good as he was last season during his loan spell. Perea does have two goals this season and one assist, but he’s given the ball away more than last season. He’s also not been as accurate passing-wise but I am still a huge advocate for him. He just suffered an injury against Chicago and may be out for some time, but I have no doubt that when he returns he’ll be back to his usual self. We’ve seen Nick Cushing use Perea in a three-man midfield with Keaton Parks and Sands as well. He doesn’t seem to be a certain starter, but he’s one of the few midfield depth pieces NYCFC has.

Will anyone be absent due to injuries, suspensions, call-ups, etc.? What is your projected starting XI and score prediction?

MM: NYCFC had five players out against Atlanta. The only set returner is Sands, who is back from yellow card suspension. I’m not sure if Cushing will want to rush back players such as Tayvon Gray, O’Toole, and Perea with such a quick turnaround. Malachi Jones had surgery after the injury he suffered against Orlando and will be out for several months. So, to guess a starting XI that I don’t think will be right, this is definitely the hardest one to predict yet this season.

4-2-3-1: Matt Freese, Christian McFarlane or Kevin O’Toole, Birk Risa, Thiago Martins, Ilenič or Tayvon Gray, James Sands, Keaton Parks, Agustin Ojeda, Santi Rodríguez, Hannes Wolf, Alonso Martínez.

I think the final score will be 2-2, it’ll be an entertaining game.


Thank you to Matthew for the information on NYCFC. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 7/19/24

Dagur Dan Thorhallsson signs new contract, Orlando Pride sign National Team Replacement Players, MLS roster rules change, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! I’ll be spending a majority of the day traveling, as I have a flight to Boston this morning and then a drive up to Maine. It should be a nice weekend with friends, and I’m planning on consuming as much lobster as possible while I’m up there. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Dagur Dan Signs New Contract

Orlando City has signed Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to a new contract that will keep him in the City Beautiful through 2026, with an option for 2027 as well. The versatile player joined Orlando before the 2023 season and has flourished at right back since moving there. He’s locked down the position, so it makes all the sense in the world that Orlando would want to keep him around. Thorhallsson has two goals and three assists to his name so far this season and is a key part of the team’s game plan when attacking.

Ramiro Enrique Makes Team of the Matchday Bench

Forward Ramiro Enrique earned a spot on the bench of the latest Team of the Matchday for his efforts in Orlando’s 3-0 win over Nashville SC on Wednesday. Enrique’s rocketed strike capped off a solid performance, as he was also a force in the air and looked dangerous at the top of Orlando’s offense. The 23-year-old forward was also selected as Man of the Match in our Nic Josey’s player grades for the game. Enrique now has three goals in his past three games, so it’s nice to see him get some deserved recognition.

Orlando Pride Sign National Team Replacement Players

Midfielder Claire Winter and goalkeeper Kenna Caldwell were signed by the Pride as National Team Replacement Players for this international break. The Pride are without seven players due to the Olympics and Winter and Caldwell are available for selection for the upcoming  NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup. Caldwell was a non-roster invitee to the Pride’s preseason and has been training with the team since. Winter has played in Denmark, Spain, Ireland, and Puerto Rico over the course of her career, and she was also a National Team Replacement Player for NJ/NY Gotham FC back in 2021.

MLS Makes Changes to Roster Rules

MLS clubs will have a bit more flexibility in terms of roster construction after the league announced changes that go into effect now that the secondary transfer window is open. Teams can now use all three Designated Player slots and all three U22 Initiative slots, eliminating the limitations that hamstrung some of those slots in the past. There’s also now an option for teams to build their roster with two DP slots, four U22 Initiative slots, and $2 million more in General Allocation Money. Speaking of GAM, up to $3 million of total transfer revenues can be converted into it, which is more than double the amount that it was before.

Only time will tell if these changes are enough to make the league more competitive with others, both on the field and in the transfer market. I feel like the increased flexibility is a positive, and I suspect savvy general managers will find ways to optimize their rosters fairly quickly. Let’s hope Luiz Muzzi can work some magic this transfer window.

USMNT Falls in Latest FIFA Rankings

After a disappointing Copa America that included a group stage exit, the United States fell five spots to 16th in the latest men’s FIFA rankings. While the U.S. underperformed, I do think it’s worth noting that strong tournaments from Uruguay, Germany, and Switzerland also played a part in them rising above the U.S. in the rankings. Mexico dropped two spots to 17th, while Panama and Canada both jumped up eight spots to 35th and 40th, respectively.

Spain moved up five places to third in the rankings following its dominant Euro 2024 run, while Argentina remained at the top after winning Copa America. Colombia jumped up three spots to claim ninth place, while Croatia fell out of the top 10 and is now in 12th.

Free Kicks

  • Former Lion Benji Michel will reportedly sign with Real Salt Lake. The Homegrown Player left Orlando on a free transfer to join FC Arouca in Portugal in January of 2023. It’s definitely going to be weird seeing him play for another MLS team if this comes to pass.
  • The Houston Dynamo made a splash by signing German winger Lawrence Ennali as a U22 Initiative Player. The 22-year-old joins from Polish club Gornik Zabrze for a reported transfer fee of $3 million and should give the Dynamo some needed firepower to compete in the Western Conference.
  • The Philadelphia Union traded away $150,000 in 2024 GAM to St. Louis City in exchange for Samuel Adeniran. The 25-year-old forward scored eight goals for St. Louis last season and the club can receive another $300,000 in GAM if conditions are met as well.
  • Toronto FC added American defender Henry Wingo as a free agent. although it gave $75,000 in 2025 GAM to D.C. United for his discovery rights. The 28-year-old has spent the past four years with Ferencvárosi and has MLS experience due to his time as a Homegrown Player with the Seattle Sounders.
  • The three divisions of the English Football League can be watched through CBS Sports this upcoming season. It’s notable news for those who want to watch Wrexham AFC or Americans like former Lion Daryl Dike.
  • Manchester United has officially signed 18-year-old defender Leny Yoro from Lille. Yoro started in 30 games for Lille last season and United reportedly paid a $67.6 million transfer fee for his services.
  • Patrick Vieira and Strasbourg have parted ways, leaving the French club without a manager just a month before the Ligue 1 season starts. Strasbourg finished 13th in the standings in Vieira’s first year with the club last season.
  • Borussia Dortmund has signed Serhou Guirassy, who scored a whopping 28 Bundesliga goals for Stuttgart last season.

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 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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