Orlando City took an early lead on the road and then held on for a 1-1 draw against Atlanta United. It was a bit of a disjointed performance from the Lions as they were defensively solid but struggled to get much going on offense. Mauricio Pereyra scored his first goal in over a year and Pedro Gallese came up with big saves yet again to help Orlando get another result on the road.
Let’s dive into how each Lion individually performed against Atlanta.
GK, Pedro Gallese, 8 (MotM) — El Pulpo had three saves in this match and they were all stellar. The best of the bunch came in the 82nd minute, as he leapt to stop former Lion Dom Dwyer’s shot that seemed destined for the back of the net. He came up with a nice reaction save to tip a headed effort over the bar in the 38th minute and made a crucial save to deny Luiz Araujo during a dangerous 2-on-1 situation in the 82nd. The shot in stoppage time from Josef Martinez that hit the post may be looked at as a lucky break, but Gallese did well, making himself big to force Martinez to shoot from a tough angle. There wasn’t much he could do about Atlanta’s goal, as Juan Jose Purata had a free header right in front of the net. Gallese’s distribution could’ve been a bit better, completing 70% of his 20 passes while connecting on seven of his 13 long balls. Still, Gallese is our Man of the Match for his impressive saves on the road against a rival side that threw the kitchen sink at him
D, Kyle Smith, 5.5 — The versatile defender started at left back in place of Joao Moutinho and Atlanta found success attacking his side of the field. In the 42rd minute, Marcelino Moreno beat Smith near the end line and surged into the box. Smith did well to recover and apply pressure though, with Moreno going to ground in hopes of drawing a penalty that was ultimately not given. Regardless, it was a nervy moment in the match. On offense, Smith didn’t have any crosses but was successful on both of his long balls. Smith did fairly well when passing, completing 85.2% of his 27 passes, but he had an errant pass in the second half that ended a nice run of possession from Orlando in the attacking third. He played for 67 minutes before being substituted off, finishing the game with four clearances.
D, Robin Jansson, 6.5 — It was a decent performance from Jansson, who played every minute of the match and recorded a tackle, an interception, and a clearance. His best moment of the match came in the 79th minute when he made a fantastic sliding effort to block a cross from Moreno right in front of goal. Atlanta mostly attacked in ways he couldn’t make much of an impact, either by going through the wings or setting up shots from distance, and he didn’t participate in any aerial duels. Offensively, he completed six of his 11 long balls and was successful on both of his dribbles. Of his 33 passes, 75.8% were accurate and he conceded a corner by making a bad back pass that went right out of play. For what it’s worth, it was also Jansson’s fourth league match in a row without committing a foul or being booked.
D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 6.5 — Schlegel returned to the starting lineup and put in a solid defensive shift on the road. He led the Lions with seven clearances and two blocked shots to help stop Atlanta’s onslaught throughout the match. Of Schlegel’s 33 passes, 78.8% of them were successful and three of his six long balls found their mark as well. The Argentine defender chatted with Atlanta’s players all game long and did a good job backing it up with some nice plays on defense.
D, Ruan, 6 — Atlanta’s offense went after Ruan early and often in this match. As a result, he led the Lions with five tackles and did a great job to put out a dangerous fire in the box in the 17th minute before Moreno could get a shot off. That being said, there were times when his defending was frantic and desperate as he constantly conceded corners to the opposition. Along with his five tackles, he had two clearances, an interception, and blocked a shot. Ruan also led the Lions with 56 touches and completed 74.1% of his 27 passes. His speed was once again an asset on offense, especially late in the match when it looked as if Orlando would find a winner. However, he only completed one of his four crosses and had four unstable touches. Two of his four long balls were accurate and he was successful on one of his two attempted dribbles.
MF, Jake Mulraney, 5.5 — Mulraney started on the left wing and looked good early on when taking on defenders. While both of his two crosses were unsuccessful, they were decent balls served into the box towards the far post. The Irishman quickly cooled off though, not making much of an impact beyond drawing three fouls. Mulraney had three unstable touches and just seven passes at an 85.7% success rate. He did contribute defensively with three tackles and a clearance before being subbed off in the 55th minute for Benji Michel. More consistency from Mulraney would have been great as he didn’t have a cross after the fifth minute.
MF, Cesar Araujo, 7.5 — It was yet another strong game from Araujo. He saw plenty of the ball, with 53 touches and a team-high 41 passes at an excellent 95.1% success rate. The 21-year-old was great when defending throughout the match, but his best moment came in the 64th minute as he chased down Atlanta on a fast break to make a critical tackle. It was one of four tackles for Araujo in the match as he helped support the back line. Both of Araujo’s long balls were successful and his lone shot was blocked. Araujo played every minute of the match and it was the first time since May that he wasn’t fouled.
MF, Junior Urso, 6.5 — The Bear was all over the pitch in this match, applying pressure and chasing down loose balls. The 33-year-old showed some tired defending at times as the match wore on, but he delivered a beautiful pass in stoppage time to set up Ruan right in front of goal. All three of his attempted dribbles were successful and he was never dispossessed in the match as he tried to build Orlando’s possession. His three long balls were all accurate and he completed 85.7% of his 35 passes. Urso committed four fouls in this one and was booked for the second consecutive match. Defensively, he finished with two tackles and two clearances. It was the third straight match in which Urso played every minute, so we will see how his minutes are managed in the future.
MF, Facundo Torres, 5.5 — Torres had a difficult time dealing with Atlanta’s press, making five unstable touches and being dispossessed five times. Neither of his two crosses were accurate and both of his two long balls were unsuccessful as well. He had 25 passes at an 80% success rate and just wasn’t able to provide much of an offensive spark that was desperately needed to keep Atlanta on its toes. Torres’s biggest contribution was winning the foul that led to Pereyra’s goal from the ensuing free kick. He was subbed off in the 67th minute while Orlando still had a lead. All in all, it was far from the Designated Player’s best performance and he’ll have to shake it off as the team continues its hectic July schedule.
MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 6.5 — Pereyra found the back of the net for the first time in 2022, scoring off of a free kick just outside the box. Poor goalkeeping by Rocco Rios Novo left the goal wide open, but that shouldn’t take away from a superb strike from Pereyra that curled into the side netting. He fouled Caleb Wiley while chasing down a loose ball and the following set piece resulted in Atlanta’s goal. Pereyra completed 81.8% of his 22 passes and was accurate on just one of his five crosses. He helped out on the defensive side of things with four tackles and a clearance before being subbed off in the 85th minute.
F, Ercan Kara, 5.5 — The Austrian spent another match without much service, although the game’s flow definitely played a part as Atlanta dominated possession. In 54 minutes of action, Kara had 15 touches, seven passes at a 57.1% success rate, and didn’t take part in any aerial duels. The team certainly needed to find ways to get Kara more involved on offense, and some of that does fall on his shoulders. Kara did find ways to make an impact on defense though, coming up with four clearances and a tackle to limit Atlanta’s chances from set pieces. He didn’t have any shots in this match and that will have to change in the future.
F, Tesho Akindele (54’), 6 — Akindele came on for Kara and made some runs out wide to receive passes. One such run came in stoppage time as he won the ball down the wing, held up play, and then made a key pass to Pato for a shot that hit the post. The Canadian also did his part on defense to preserve Orlando’s point, making three tackles and two clearances. He completed 10 of his 12 passes for an 83.3% success rate, won one of his two aerial duels, and had 20 touches in a decent outing.
MF, Benji Michel (55’), 5 — The Homegrown Player replaced Mulraney, but wasn’t able to make much of an impact on the left wing either. He transitioned into more of a wingback role when Orlando brought on Antonio Carlos. He had just 12 touches and seven passes at an 85.7% success rate, finishing without any shots or crosses as Orlando had to spend most of the second half defending. Michel had one tackle and his speed allowed him to sprint ahead in transition while still being able to get back to defend when needed. He received a yellow card for a clumsy foul that gave Atlanta a free kick in a dangerous area, but Orlando cleared it.
D, Antonio Carlos (67’), 6.5 — Carlos came on to defend Orlando’s lead, but Atlanta scored just a few minutes later. During a free kick, Andres Perea kept Juan Jose Purata onside and Carlos appeared to expect Perea to stay with him. As a result, Carlos didn’t pick him up and he was unable to make a play on the ball. Carlos also had a bad pass that turned the ball over and required some heroic defending from Jansson to stop the threat. The Brazilian center back wasn’t able to wrestle Martinez off the ball in stoppage time, but he did help force the forward to shoot from a tougher angle with the match on the line. Carlos finished the game with four clearances, a tackle, an interception, and a blocked shot. Six of his seven passes found their target for an 85.7% success rate and he won his lone aerial duel.
MF, Andres Perea (67’), 5 — Perea kept Purata onside on his goal and wasn’t able to prevent the defender from having a free header. He had eight passes at a 62.5% success rate and neither of his two long balls connected. The 21-year-old did play a part in Orlando’s late surge for a winner in stoppage time. His three tackles definitely helped Orlando out on defense, but it was a fairly quiet game from Perea during a match where Orlando could have used some stability in the midfield.
MF, Alexandre Pato (85’), N/A — Pato wasn’t on the field very long, but he almost gave Orlando a winner with a nice shot outside the box that beat the goalkeeper but struck the post. He had 11 touches, eight passes at a 62.5% completion rate, and completed one of his two long balls. It wasn’t a fantastic game from him, but it was nice to see Pato look threatening after a rough start to this month.
That’s how I saw Orlando City’s individual performances in the team’s 1-1 draw with Atlanta United on the road. Let us know how you saw the game in the comments and don’t forget to vote for your Man of the Match below.
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Orlando City Signs First-Round Draft Pick Jeorgio Kocevski
Orlando City signs its first-round draft pick Jeorgio Kocevski to a one-year deal with three option years.
Orlando City SC announced the signing of first-round 2024 MLS SuperDraft pick Jeorgio Kocevski today. The deal is through the upcoming 2024 season with club options for 2025, 2026, and 2027. The Lions selected the Syracuse midfielder with the 21st overall pick in the draft in December.
“Jeorgio has had a really strong preseason camp with us, demonstrating everything we saw in him when we were scouting him and analyzing his game in college,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “He’s done well working his way into the group, even starting in our friendly against Flamengo and holding his own against some of the best in Brazil, and we’re excited to have him with us this season.”
The box-to-box midfielder made three appearances this preseason, starting against Brazilian club Flamengo and the following scrimmage against USL Championship side Rhode Island FC. He came on at halftime against the Colorado Rapids last weekend, scoring the winning goal in the 90th minute.
Prior to being selected by the Lions, the Liverpool, NY, native made 71 appearances with 65 starts and logged 5,599 minutes for Syracuse in four years. He scored seven goals and recorded 18 assists, putting 33 of his 93 shots on frame. Additionally, he was part of Syracuse’s 2022 NCAA national championship team, playing 90 minutes in the 2-2 draw, but missing in the team’s victorious shootout over Indiana.
Kocevski had a breakout junior year, being named to the United Soccer Coaches’ All-South Region third team, All-ACC third team, NCAA All-Tournament team, and ACC All-Tournament team. During his senior year, he wore the armband for the Orange and was named All-ACC first team and ACC Co-Midfielder of the Year.
What It Means for Orlando City
Kocevski was the most likely pick from this most recent draft to be signed by Orlando City. The departure of club captain Mauricio Pereyra left a spot in the midfield and Head Coach Oscar Pareja seemed to feel the rookie could fill it from early on. His start against Flamengo was in the place of regular starter Cesar Araujo, who was on international duty with the Uruguay U-23 national team. He played against Flamengo’s best lineup and did quite well in almost an hour on the field in his first minutes of play at the professional level.
While a spot was open for the signing of Kocevski, he likely won’t see much of the field for the first team this season. In addition to being behind starters Araujo and Wilder Cartagena, the defensive midfielder will be behind Felipe on the depth chart. In all likelihood, the rookie will slot in with Orlando City B in MLS NEXT Pro to get some minutes, but there is room for him to start regularly with that team.
Kocevski is currently the only player signed by the club from the Lions’ 2024 draft class. West Virginia midfielder Yutaro Tsukada, Pittsburgh midfielder Filip Mirkovic, and Charlotte midfielder Riyon Tori remained unsigned, with the latter opting to return to school for his senior season.
Lion Links: 2/20/24
The Wall sells out, Robin Jansson earns recognition, Concacaf W Gold cup preview, and more.
Happy Tuesday, everyone! We’re now just one day away from the first competitive Orlando City game of the year, and it can’t get here fast enough. As usual, we have plenty to cover this morning, so let’s jump straight into it.
The Wall Sells Out for Orlando City’s Season Opener
The Wall, the supporters section of Orlando City’s stadium, has sold out of single-match tickets ahead of Saturday’s home opener against CF Montreal. Limited tickets for the match are still available for the rest of the stadium, and hopefully it will fully sell out for the first match of the season. This Saturday will be the 10th consecutive time in which the Lions start their MLS season at home. It should be a great match and a chance for Orlando to get its season off to a good start between Concacaf Champions Cup matches against Cavalry FC.
Robin Jansson Praised as a Top Defender in MLS
Orlando City center back Robin Jansson was recognized as one of the best center backs in MLS by MLSsoccer.com‘s Joseph Lowery. The 32-year-old has been an integral part of Orlando’s defense since joining the league in 2019 and should continue anchoring the team’s back line this season. Not only is he excellent in terms of defense, but the Beefy Swede can also make an impact on offense with his passing and surprising runs up the field. Jansson is one of the most consistent defenders in the league and agreed to a new contract with the club earlier this month.
MLS Transfer News Roundup
The 2024 Major League Soccer season might kick off tomorrow, but transfers are still flying thick and fast, which means we have things to catch up on. We start with one of the teams opening the season tomorrow, Inter Miami, which has officially transferred midfielder Gregore to Botafogo in the Brazilian top flight. We move on to NYCFC, which has completed the signing of striker Jovan Mijatović from Red Star Belgrade. The 18-year-old Serbian youth international has inked a deal that runs through the 2028 season, with an option year for 2029. We finish up with the Houston Dynamo, which have signed Coco Carasquilla to a contract extension. The Panamanian midfielder’s deal now runs through the 2025 season and has option years for 2026 and 2027.
Concacaf W Gold Cup Preview
The inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup kicks off later today, so make sure you get up to speed on everything you need to know about the competition. The United States Women’s National Team has been grouped with Argentina, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico, and will be looking for a strong showing following a disappointing campaign at last summer’s World Cup. The tournament will feature a total of 12 teams, with eight Concacaf representatives and four from CONMEBOL. The top two finishers in each of the three groups advance to the knockout round, along with the top two third-place finishers. The USWNT begin play tonight against the Dominican Republican at 10:15 p.m. from Dignity Health Sports Park.
Americans in Midweek Action
With a number of American players taking part in games during the working week, get everything marked down on your calendar so you don’t miss anything. Things get started this afternoon with a huge game, as Malik Tillman, Ricardo Pepi, Sergino Dest, and PSV Eindhoven take on Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League. European competition continues on Thursday as well, with Christian Pulisc, Yunus Musah, and AC Milan facing Rennes in the Europa League play. Things finish out on Friday as the red-hot Brandon Vazquez and Monterrey face Juarez in Liga MX competition.
Minnesota United Close to Coaching Hire
A coaching search that will surely go down as one of the most thorough in MLS history is nearing its conclusion, as Minnesota United is reportedly close to naming Manchester United assistant Eric Ramsay as the team’s new skipper. While nothing is official yet, Ramsay is said to be the leading candidate, and The Athletic‘s Tom Bogert says that the team is closing in on the hire. If he joins, Ramsay will become the youngest coach in league history at the tender age of 32, and he will also become Minnesota’s second coach following Adrian Heath’s departure in October of last year.
- Orlando City forward Luis Muriel thanked Atalanta fans who made a banner to bid him farewell this past weekend.
- The folks over at MLSsoccer.com have predicted Orlando City will finish third in the Eastern Conference this year.
- The U.S. Open Cup has reportedly gotten the green light to take place this year, although it will have a format different than in past years.
- Thorgan Hazard dedicated a goal celebration to his family’s parakeet that passed away.
- Crystal Palace has hired Oliver Glasner as the team’s new coach after Roy Hodgson stepped down from the role.
- Napoli announced the firing of Walter Mazzari just two days before the team’s Champions League tie against Barcelona, making him the second coaching casualty of the Italian Champions’ campaign.
- Continuing the coaching carousel trend, Marseille has fired Gennaro Gattuso after just five months into the job.
That’s all I have for this morning. Vamos Orlando!
Orlando City’s 10th Anniversary is the Time to Remember the Club’s Originals
Orlando City’s 10th year in MLS should be used to honor the players who built the club.
The 2024 season is Orlando City’s 10th in Major League Soccer. The club has scheduled several events throughout the year to celebrate having been in the country’s top division for a decade, but the season should also be a time for fans to reflect on the people who made it happen without getting to experience the result.
Orlando City arrived in Orlando in 2010 with the goal of reaching MLS. However, it was the first professional soccer team in the city since the 1990s and resides in a football hotbed, leaving many to wonder if the team would be successful. The most famous doubt came at the team’s inaugural media day, when longtime WESH 2 sportscaster Pat Clake told club founder Phil Rawlins and inaugural Head Coach Adrian Heath that, while he wished them luck, a professional soccer team in Orlando would never work.
The Orlando project got off to a much better start than the Austin Aztex, Rawlins’ former project. During the team’s first season in 2011, Orlando City substantially outdrew its predecessor, proving there was an appetite for soccer. But there was another factor to the team’s popularity. The Lions won…a lot.
The success of a team at home has a significant impact on the enjoyment of attending games. In four USL Pro seasons, Orlando City was 40-3-9 (W-L-D) at the Citrus Bowl (now Camping World Stadium) and Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports, winning three regular season titles and two USL Pro championships. Seeing the local team win and score frequently is much more likely to result in people returning for more games. That’s exactly what the Lions did, and it helped to create a following.
When MLS considered Orlando City for expansion, the league looked at average attendance, season ticket numbers, and community involvement. All of these factors were directly related to the team’s success on the field. For this reason, the key players on those teams are responsible for Orlando City being in MLS in the first place.
In addition to their work on the field, the players from the USL Pro era worked in the community to build a following. They spoke with local groups and were active throughout Central Florida, convincing people to attend games. It was all about the effort of getting the team into MLS. Unfortunately, many of those players didn’t get to experience the results of their labor.
The core of Orlando City’s team from 2011 to 2013 remained the same, with Miguel Gallardo in goal, Luke Boden at left back, Rob Valentino at center back, Kevin Molino and Jamie Watson in the midfield, and Dennis Chin up top. The success they had resulted in the club being announced as the newest expansion side on Nov. 19, 2013. However, of those six stalwarts, only Boden and Molino continued with the team into MLS.
Over the past 10 years, Orlando City has had several star and fan favorite players come and go. As the club’s USL Pro era gets further in the rearview mirror, the players who built the organization are forgotten or unknown by a large portion of the fanbase that didn’t experience the early seasons.
To the club’s credit, Orlando City worked to keep the memory of the team’s foundation alive in recent years. This preseason, Chin, Lewis Neal (a 2011 original who returned to the team in MLS), and Dom Dwyer (who was on loan with the team in 2013 and returned in 2017) were involved in the popular away jersey unveiling. Additionally, Chin signed autographs and took part in a Q&A session during the Society XXI preseason game against the New England Revolution. They’ve had other events, like the 2022 U.S. Open Cup games against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, when former players have been invited back.
Additionally, the club raised banners last year for the 2011 and 2013 USL Pro championships and announced this year that it will display the trophies in a new permanent exhibit called “The Vault.” The club also released an updated version of the three-lion USL Pro logo from those first four seasons.
When people consider the factors that resulted in Orlando City joining MLS in 2015, the fan support during the USL Pro years is the first thing that comes to mind. But without the success of those teams and the work the players put into building the following, the club likely never would’ve made it to the top division. This 10th anniversary season is a good time to remember those club legends.
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