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.
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.
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.
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2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Favian Loyola
The Homegrown midfielder spent most of the year with OCB but made his MLS debut in July.
Orlando City signed midfielder Favian Loyola to a Homegrown Player deal through 2025 on Dec. 2, 2022, with club options for 2026 and 2027. The OCSC Academy product became the club’s 13th all-time Homegrown signing and it was no surprise after his fantastic 2022 season. The Camp Lejeune, NC, was coming off a breakout year in the club’s youth system, which culminated with his selection to the 2022 MLS NEXT All-Star Game, in which he was named MVP. After starting the 2022 season on an academy contract, Loyola earned an MLS NEXT Pro deal, signing it last August. When he signed his Homegrown deal in December he became the first player to climb the club’s developmental ladder from the academy, to the current OCB setup in MLS NEXT Pro, to the first team.
Let’s take a look back at Loyola’s 2023 campaign, which was abbreviated due to surgery on his arm to remove a blood clot on Aug. 27.
Loyola played in just one MLS match with the Lions, making his first-team debut July 1 in a 3-1 home win over the Chicago Fire. The 18-year-old came on as a substitute in the third minute of stoppage time for Facundo Torres and is officially credited with one minute played, although that match went to nine minutes of stoppage. In that short amount of time he managed six touches and attempted six passes, completing all of them — one of them being a key pass. Loyola did not attempt a shot or record any defensive stats, but he did commit one foul, but he was not booked for it.
The bulk of Loyola’s 2023 season was spent with Orlando City B in MLS NEXT Pro, where he was a key player off the bench for Martin Perelman’s side. He appeared in 20 of the team’s 28 matches, starting seven, and logging 732 minutes. He scored two goals and added three assists, putting 10 of his 21 shots on target during the year. Loyola completed 80.3% of his passes with OCB, served up seven key passes and six successful long balls, and completed three crosses. He recorded four tackles and three interceptions, committed 11 fouls while drawing 10, and was booked three times.
With just the one MLS match to his credit, Loyola’s MLS debut against Chicago was his best game of the 2023 Major League Soccer Season. It was a memorable match, as he subbed on for Torres, who set the tone for the Lions with a brace that night, and it was also the game in which Mauricio Pereyra made his 100th appearance with Orlando City. Loyola made the most of his short amount of time on the pitch, despite committing a foul during his first minute of MLS play. He settled in and completed all six of his passes and created a scoring chance just seconds after his foul, when he sent a ball to Ramiro Enrique, although the Argentine had his shot attempt blocked from a tight angle.
2023 Final Grade
As Loyola came up short of the minimum total of 450 minutes played to receive a rating on our 1-10 scale, The Mane Land has no choice but to mark his grade as incomplete for the 2023 season. If his meteoric growth continues, Loyola will likely have much more than one appearance next season as his skills at passing and finding pockets of space translate well to the next level. He wasn’t able to return to the pitch after the surgery for his blood clot, but he should be ready to go for 2024.
With Loyola being just 18 years old and the club having him under contract, I would expect his role to be the same in 2024. He’ll be learning the ropes with OCB, playing most of the season with the club’s reserve side in MLS NEXT Pro, where he will continue to be a key player. However, if he continues to develop his game, he could push for more late substitute appearances with the first team or even get a start if the Lions draw a lower-league team in the U.S. Open Cup. One thing Loyola will need to work on is controlling the ball, as he turned the ball over 15 times with OCB in 2023.
Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)
Orlando City to Play Friendly vs. Brazilian Side Flamengo
The Lions will face the Brazilian giants for the first time since November 2015.
Orlando City announced its first preseason match of the 2024 season this morning. The Lions will square off against Brazilian Serie A side CR Flamengo in a friendly on the afternoon of Saturday, Jan. 27, 2024 to kick off the team’s preparations for the 2024 MLS season. The match, which will take place at the club’s former home grounds at Camping World Stadium, will be OCSC’s second meeting with Flamengo and is part of the 2024 FC Series (formerly known as Florida Cup). Kickoff time will be officially announced later this month.
“This is both an exciting way to open the new year for our supporters and a great test for our team, as we look toward a 2024 that also includes Concacaf Champions Cup early on,” Orlando City SC Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “We’re excited to have the eyes of the Nação on Orlando during this time and are hopeful that this match will be the springboard for a very successful 2024 for our team and fans.”
“We are thrilled to return to our traditional January preseason window focused on top South American clubs,” FC Series / Florida Cup CEO Ricardo Villar said in the press release. “We look forward to delivering a first-class experience to Flamengo while in town and welcoming the Orlando City fans back to Camping World Stadium, where the club’s MLS campaign began back in 2015.”
The two sides met after the MLS season in 2015, when the Lions traveled to Rio de Janeiro on Nov. 15 of Orlando City’s inaugural season in Major League Soccer. Flamengo claimed a 1-0 win at the Maracana that day on a goal by Luis Antonio on a free kick that deflected off of Orlando City midfielder Darwin Ceren and left trialist goalkeeper Thierry Graca unable to recover. That match could have gone differently had Lions striker Bryan Rochez converted a first-half penalty, but he had a weak effort saved.
The match should serve as a good early test for the Lions, who are coming off their most successful season in Major League Soccer play and reached extra time all square with MLS Cup finalist Columbus despite being down a man in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Flamengo is one of Brazil’s most storied clubs, having won eight Serie A championships, three Copa Libertadores titles, four Copa do Brasil crowns, and one Intercontinental Cup.
“This preseason in the United States, including games with MLS (conference) semifinalists, is a great opportunity to grow the Flamengo brand inside the very important American market, where we will play in the 2025 FIFA Club World Cup,” Flamengo Vice President for Communications and Marketing Gustavo Oliveira said in the press release. “With the 2026 FIFA World Cup and the investments that are being made by the country, world football has in the United Stated, a new, enormous point of attention. Flamengo, as major European clubs, are alert to this and will, more and more, reinforce their presence in the country, may that be with work on social media focused on the American public, may it be by way of in-person events of the Flamengo brand, as this pre-season will be.”
Ticket information for groups and individuals can be found at FCSeries.com. Public tickets go on sale Tuesday, Dec. 12. Orlando City Season Ticket Members will have a match ticket presale and will be contacted directly by their ticket representative at a later date.
Lion Links: 12/7/23
Mauricio Pereyra and Orlando City part ways, Belgian club reportedly interested in Duncan McGuire, Marta scores in Brazil’s win, and more.
How’s it going, Mane Landers? It’s been another hectic week for me and I’m hoping things start to slow down as December rolls on. It’s hard to believe we’re already a week into the month. I’ve enjoyed this colder weather over the past few days though. Let’s dive right into today’s links from around the soccer world.
Mauricio Pereyra and Orlando City Part Ways
Orlando City captain Mauricio Pereyra will not be returning to the team for the 2024 season after he and the club mutually agreed to terminate his contract. The Uruguayan midfielder joined the Lions in the summer of 2019, going on to make 136 appearances across all competitions as a Lion. His 47 career assists were the most in club history and he led the Lions with 12 assists this past MLS season. Pereyra was a key part of Orlando’s turnaround over the past few years, and I’ll miss watching him break opposing back lines with his passing. That being said, his departure opens up some interesting possibilities in Orlando’s midfield. This could open the door for Martin Ojeda to fit in a bit more easily in the lineup, but the team also has an open Designated Player spot that could be used to bring in an attacking midfielder who can take the offense to another level. The club released a video thanking Pereyra for his time in Orlando, including some of his highlights and appreciation from teammates and staff.
Belgian Club Reportedly Interested in Duncan McGuire
Orlando City forward Duncan McGuire was one of the best young players in MLS this past year, so it’s not a surprise that European clubs are taking notice. Dutch and Belgian clubs reportedly had scouts at Orlando’s final game of 2023, and American Soccer Now‘s Brian Sciaretta stated that RWD Molenbeek is interested in McGuire.
The club has an American owner and is currently 11th in Belgium’s top flight after earning promotion last season. McGuire scored 13 goals in his rookie season and was a finalist for 2023 MLS Young Player of the Year. Hopefully the 22-year-old stays in Orlando for a while longer before making the jump to Europe.
Marta Scores in Brazil’s Win Over Nicaragua
The Orlando Pride’s Marta started and scored as Brazil’s captain in the team’s 4-0 friendly win over Nicaragua. She doubled Brazil’s lead in the 40th minute and came off in the second half for Pride teammate Adriana. Brazil then found two more goals and the defense secured the shutout in its final game of the year.
It was a nice way for Brazil to end the year after losing 2-0 Japan this past Sunday. Brazil has already qualified for next year’s Olympics after winning the 2022 Copa America and will shift its focus to doing well in the tournament after an early exit in this year’s World Cup.
Luis Rubiales Was Accused of Inappropriate Conduct With English Players
FIFA’s report of the Disciplinary Committee’s decision regarding former Spain federation president Luis Rubiales became public and England FA Chair England Debbie Hewitt’s testimony detailed inappropriate misconduct towards English players as well. According to Hewitt’s testimony, Rubiales seemingly forcefully kissed Lucy Bronze and stroked Laura Coombs face at the 2023 World Cup’s medal ceremony. FIFA stated that more severe sanctions than the three-year ban Rubiales was handed were considered.
- As a result of pyrotechnics being used by LAFC supporters group 3252, the club was fined $100,000 and 3252 will have all supporter privileges suspended pending a review by the club and LAFC.
- MLS unveiled the ball that will be used next season and I like the design well enough to want to kick it.
- UEFA announced that it is creating a health panel to gain insight on why ACL injuries occur so frequently in women’s soccer.
- In the DFB Pokal, third-division side Saarbruecken beat Eintracht Frankfurt to reach the quarterfinals.
- Newcastle United goalkeeper Nick Pope is estimated to miss the next four months after dislocating his left shoulder and requiring surgery.
- Kevin de Bruyne was named to Manchester City’s roster for the Club World Cup later this month, meaning he may make his return from a hamstring injury before the year’s end.
- Liverpool center back Joel Matip may miss the rest of the season after an ACL injury in his team’s win this past weekend.
That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week.
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