Orlando City went on the road and won 1-0 against the New York Red Bulls Saturday night at Red Bull Arena. Facundo Torres scored the game’s only goal and Orlando’s defense held on for all three points. Each team only had one shot on target as neither goalkeeper saw much action.
Let’s take a look at how each Lion performed individually in the win on the road.
GK, Pedro Gallese, 6 — The Peruvian goalkeeper likely won’t complain about only having one save in this match as the Red Bulls only put one of their 15 shots on target. That one save was easy as well, catching a long-range effort from Frankie Amaya that was fired right at him. His distribution could have been a bit better in this one though, only completing 57.5% of his 40 passes and connecting on just nine of 26 long balls. He also sent the ball out of bounds a couple of times late in the match. That being said, he started the play that ended up with Orlando scoring as his long ball found Alexandre Pato. It was Gallese’s eighth clean sheet this season and a nice result after conceding three goals last week.
D, João Moutinho, 7 — Moutinho made crucial defensive plays in this one, including a fantastic sliding challenge to snuff out a counter in the 68th minute and clearing New York’s free kick from the goal line in the dying moments of the match. He played every minute and finished with four tackles, an interception, three clearances, and a blocked shot. The left back was unsuccessful on his two crosses and one of his two long balls found its mark. Moutinho’s 40 passes were the third most on the team and he completed them at a decent 72.5% rate. He received a yellow card for halting a counter attack in the first half and will miss Orlando’s game next Sunday against Charlotte FC.
D, Robin Jansson, 7 — It was another strong outing from the Beefy Swede as he had two tackles, two interceptions, and five clearances. Jansson also had to turn on the jets at times to chase down Patryk Klimala and did well when putting out those fires. He was successful on 71.4% of his 28 passes and connected on two of six long balls. Jansson was great when making sliding challenges and also won all three of his aerial duels.
D, Antônio Carlos, 7.5 (MotM) — The Brazilian center back led the Lions with a whopping 10 clearances, putting an end to many of New York’s attacks before they could pick up steam. Carlos also had three tackles, two interceptions, and a blocked shot as he bounced back from a rough game last week. When the Red Bulls sent balls past Kyle Smith into dangerous areas, Carlos was there with long strides to see out the danger. Like Jansson, Carlos was a force in the air and won all five of his aerial duels. He had 36 passes at a 75% success rate and two of his six long balls were accurate.
D, Kyle Smith, 6 — Playing at right back, Smith led the Lions with 75 touches and 49 passes, but needed to take much better care of the ball. Only 57.1% of his passes were accurate, neither of his two crosses were successful, and just two of his nine long balls connected. Smith had four tackles and four clearances, but gave the ball away in his own defensive third at times and conceded a pair of free kicks in dangerous areas.
MF, César Araújo, 7 — Araujo offered plenty of support to the back line in this match and had two tackles, an interception, and two clearances. The 21-year-old also used his body to stop a worrying cross late in the match and then earned a throw-in. His 45 passes were the second most by a Lion and 93.3% of them were successful. Four of his six long balls found their mark as well. It was a solid outing from the defensive midfielder and he won three fouls without committing any.
MF, Júnior Urso, 6 — The Bear did a great job on Orlando’s goal, holding up play to wait for runners and finding Torres in on goal to notch his fifth assist of the season. While he often found open spaces in the midfield, he was a bit sloppy with the ball and was dispossessed five times. Both of Urso’s long-ball attempts were accurate and he had 30 passes at a 76.7% success rate. He didn’t have any defensive stats and won four of his eight aerial duels in this win. He struggled physically at times with New York youngster John Tolkin, who got the best of him in 1-v-1 match-ups.
MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 6.5 — Pereyra played the first half fairly deep in the midfield but in the second half he had to fill the playmaking role left by Pato’s exit just before halftime. His passing helped Orlando work its way past New York’s press and he completed 79.5% of his 39 passes. Four of his six long balls were accurate, but only one of his seven crosses found their mark. While the statistics only show an interception and a blocked shot from the captain, his hustle on defense in this match deserves some recognition. Pereyra may not have led Orlando’s offense to a blowout win, but he did the little things to help secure all three points on the road.
MF, Alexandre Pato, 6 — Pato’s night was cut short late in the first half when Dru Yearwood collided into him while he was taking his first shot of the match. Pato couldn’t get much of anything behind the shot as a result and went to the ground in pain. It didn’t look good and he had to be taken off on a stretcher. His time on the field was a mixed bag of brilliant passing and frustrating turnovers. He didn’t record a key pass, but made great through balls into dangerous areas and did well to win the ball up field and find Urso in the buildup of Orlando’s goal. Although he dribbled into trouble and gave the ball away on occasion, Pato completed all but one of his 15 passes for a strong 93.3% success rate and was accurate on his single long ball as well. He didn’t have any defensive stats, but helped apply pressure.
MF, Facundo Torres, 7.5 — Torres’ goal was from a tough angle, but he put enough behind it that Carlos Coronel couldn’t cleanly handle it as the ball got past the goalkeeper and then bounced off the far post and into the net. He also had a key pass with a cutback cross that served the ball to Pato on a silver platter in the box. The Uruguayan’s quickness helped stretch New York’s defense, but it was his superb passing and control of the ball in tight areas that was crucial for Orlando to beat New York’s pressure. Torres was accurate on 84.2% of his 38 passes, although neither his one cross nor his one long ball were successful. He brought plenty of pressure on defense and had three tackles as well.
F, Benji Michel, 5.5 — His first touch has left plenty to be desired this season and that was an issue again in this game as he had three unstable touches. Michel made a good run to draw a defender to open space for Torres to score, but he didn’t have much more of an impact on offense than that. In 66 minutes of action, Michel only had 16 touches and seven passes at a 71.4% success rate. The Homegrown Player’s speed was certainly an asset at times for the Lions on offense, but a lack of control and strength made it hard for him to influence the match.
MF, Jake Mulraney (45’), 5.5 — .Mulraney came on for Pato right before halftime and played out wide. It took some time for him to find his footing, but he did well when Torres joined him on the left wing. The two did well maintaining possession with quick passing, but not much came from Mulraney on offense. Neither of his crosses were accurate, but one of his attempted crosses did earn the team a corner after a deflection. He had 15 touches and completed seven of his 10 passes. Although he didn’t record any defensive statistics, Mulraney helped break up a few plays late in the match.
F, Tesho Akindele (66’), 5 — Bringing Akindele on for Michel makes sense on paper in order to give the Lions a taller player to win possession and hold up play. But the Canadian lost his two aerial duels and had two unstable touches. He also committed a foul right outside of the box that nearly cost the Lions. Akindele had a tackle, completed five of his seven passes, and finished with 11 touches.
MF, Wilder Cartagena (90’), N/A — The Peruvian midfielder made his debut for Orlando in a brief cameo to help see out the match. He had five touches, most notably when chasing down the ball after Moutinho’s goal-line clearance to end the danger. None of his three passes nor his lone long ball were successful, but it was a very small sample size from which to garner much information.
MF, Andres Perea (90’), N/A — Perea had one touch and one unsuccessful pass in a short stint. He mostly just helped give the Lions some fresh legs late in the match.
That’s how I saw the individual performances in Orlando’s 1-0 win on the road. Let me know your thoughts in the comments and be sure to vote for your Man of the Match below.
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Lion Links: 12/1/23
Rodrigo Schlegel fined, MLS roster updates, USWNT faces China tomorrow, and more.
Welcome to December, Mane Landers! It always feels like a good sign when a month starts on a Friday. I don’t have many plans this weekend beyond helping a friend move and trying to make pad Thai for the first time. It should be a nice next few days to reset after a hectic week. But for now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.
MLS Issues Disciplinary Rulings After Playoff Games
Orlando City center back Rodrigo Schlegel was fined an undisclosed amount by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for not leaving the field in a timely manner after receiving a second yellow card in the team’s playoff match with the Columbus Crew. Schlegel did not crowd the referee or plead his case disruptively, but he did linger a bit before exiting the match. It was one of many fines handed out by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for violations during the playoffs, and Crew forward Cucho Hernandez was fined for embellishment for going to ground clutching his face after Schlegel shielded the ball from him.
The Vancouver Whitecaps players and staff received fines and suspensions for their actions during and after their playoff match with LAFC on Nov. 5. Head Coach Vanni Sartini was fined $20,000 and suspended for an additional five games for entering the field of play in a confrontational manner and his comments about the refereeing following his team’s elimination. Vancouver defender Mathias Laborda was also handed a one-match suspension for his actions during the match.
MLS Teams Update Rosters as Deadline Looms
The deadline for MLS teams to decline contract options is today and clubs around the league are getting their affairs in order. The Portland Timbers confirmed that Sebastian Blanco won’t be with the team next year, as he was out of contract after seven seasons with the club. Designated Player Jaroslaw Niezgoda and fellow forward Franck Boli had their options declined by Portland as well. FC Dallas triggered the options on the contracts of midfielder duo Asier Illarramendi and Liam Frasier, while declining the options for midfielder Facundo Quignon and defender Jose Martinez. The New York Red Bulls kept a key part of their defense by signing Dylan Nealis to a contract through the 2024 season. Nashville SC declined seven options, and veterans Dax McCarty and Fafa Picault are out of contract. Both players could be worth keeping an eye on as an Orlando supporter, depending on if Wilder Cartagena and Ivan Angulo will return. According to The Athletic‘s Tom Bogert, McCarty is not likely to return to Nashville.
Racing Louisville Names Beverly Yanez as Head Coach
Beverly Yanez was announced as Racing Louisville’s next head coach after serving as an assistant coach during the 2023 season. The 35-year-old retired as a player in 2020 and was an assistant coach with NJ/NY Gotham FC for two years before joining Louisville prior to this season. Louisville has yet to reach the playoffs since joining the NWSL in 2021 and Yanez is now the club’s third head coach. She’s earned plenty of praise from Louisville’s players and it will be interesting to see how her first season as a head coach goes in 2024.
Alejandro Bedoya Receives Impact Award
Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya won the MLS Impact Award, along with a $100,000 contribution by Audi to The Philadelphia Equity Alliance. Bedoya has worked with the nonprofit to promote inclusive economic growth and reduce poverty. He was also named 2022 MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year for his efforts to make a difference in the Philadelphia community. The Crew’s Darlington Nagbe and Nashville’s Taylor Washington were the other finalists for this year’s award.
Analyzing China Ahead of USWNT Friendlies
The United States Women’s National Team will close out its 2023 schedule with a pair of friendlies against China this month. The two nations will clash tomorrow at 3 p.m. in Fort Lauderdale before playing again in Frisco on Tuesday at 8 p.m. Although China lost all three of its group stage games in this past summer’s World Cup, it recently won the bronze medal in the Asian Games. China fell short in Olympic qualifying though, and 2022 AFC Women’s Coach of the Year Shui Qingxia’s contract was terminated, with Wang Jun taking over in an interim capacity for these friendlies. The USWNT should be able to find success on set pieces and crosses, although China has been working on strength training this year to compensate for that weakness. Tang Jiali, Zhang Linyan, and Shen Menglu are a few of the players in China’s versatile attack that could spell trouble for the Americans.
- Orlando Pride defender Rafaelle started as Brazil’s captain and Marta and Adriana came off the bench in a 4-3 win over Japan in a friendly. In her international debut, 19-year-old forward Priscila gave Brazil the late winner. The two teams will play again on Sunday.
- The Kansas City Current dedicated their press box to journalist and Kansas City native Grant Wahl.
- The New England Revolution have promoted Curt Onalfo to sporting director after four years as the club’s technical director. Onalfo served as the interim sporting director after Bruce Arena’s resignation in September and now gets the job fulltime.
- The MLS Players Association released a statement regarding Matt Miazga’s three-game suspension.
- Pierre Emerick-Aubamayeng scored a bicycle kick and a late winner as part of his hat trick in Marseille’s 4-3 win over Ajax in the Europa League.
- The 2023 Women’s College Cup semifinals kick off tonight, with Florida State facing Clemson and BYU playing Stanford. There are many talented players in action who are worth watching tonight before the NWSL Draft next month.
- Lyon, which is last in Ligue 1 with just seven points from 12 games, has sacked Fabio Grosso after less than three months as head coach.
That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!
Lion Links: 11/30/23
Orlando City faces big questions, Matt Miazga suspended, Emma Hayes meets USWNT for first time, and more.
November is finally coming to a close. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster of a month for me, with highs, lows, and many things in between. All in all, I’m pretty glad it’s nearly over, although I expect December to be similarly hectic. At least this weather is allowing me to break out some winter clothes and turn on the fireplace in this new apartment. I’m not sure why a fireplace was installed in a Floridian apartment, but I’m not complaining. Let’s dive into today’s links!
Big Decisions Await Orlando City
With Orlando City’s season over, attention now turns to a critical off-season for the club. Head Coach Oscar Pareja is out of contract after leading the Lions to the playoffs for the past four years. The club will also need to decide if it will exercise the 2024 options on the contracts of both Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi and Technical Director and Assistant General Manager Ricardo Moreira. All three have orchestrated Orlando’s transformation that’s included winning its first trophy, having its best season this year, and qualifying for both the Concacaf Champions League and Champions Cup. Potentially transferring Facundo Torres to Europe, filling the empty Designated Player slot, and deciding which players to bring back for 2024 are also on the agenda. However, figuring out who will lead the Lions into this exciting next chapter is paramount. Personally, I think the club should do everything in its power to keep the people who brought Orlando to this point.
Matt Miazga Suspended for Three Games
FC Cincinnati will be without MLS Defender of the Year Matt Miazga for Saturday’s Eastern Conference final, as he was suspended by MLS for three games due to his misconduct after the match with the New York Red Bulls on Nov. 4. Miazga was also fined an undisclosed amount and will undergo a behavioral assessment as part of the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. Following that aforementioned playoff match, reports surfaced that Miazga gained unauthorized access to an area reserved for the referees and acted aggressively. Any suspended games not served during Cincy’s playoff run will carry over into the 2024 season, although Miazga can petition for a reduction based on compliance with recommended treatment plans.
Emma Hayes Meets With USWNT Players and Staff
Emma Hayes, who was hired as the next United States Women’s National Team Head Coach earlier this month, made the trip to Florida to meet the team for the first time. Although she won’t be coaching the team for its upcoming pair of friendlies against China, she collaborated with interim head coach Twila Kilgore on the latest training camp roster and will continue to work with her until taking over in May. There won’t be much time between Hayes’ official start date and the 2024 Summer Olympics, making these moments of face time between player and future coach all the more important. USWNT captain Lindsey Horan spoke on the team’s goals after meeting Hayes for the first time.
“There’s so much talent in this team, and I don’t think the world has seen enough of it yet just because we need to go out and show it,” Horan said. “We need to be able to mesh together and show everything that we have, and what we’re all about, and how we can really collaborate and play together — be more of a team and be a powerhouse again.
“It’s going to be exciting for us to have her and see what she can do with this team and how she can help us moving forward.”
Ricardo Pepi Sends PSV Into Champions League Knockout Stage
PSV Eindhoven clinched its spot in the next round of the UEFA Champions League in dramatic fashion, with American forward Ricardo Pepi scoring the winner in a 3-2 comeback win over Sevilla in Spain. Trailing 2-0 in the second half, American left back Sergino Dest provided the assist on PSV’s first goal and Pepi found the winner in stoppage time, with fellow American Malik Tillman also coming off the bench. From his little flick to send a teammate forward to his run and clinical header, it was a great goal by the 20-year-old.
Elsewhere in the Champions League, Arsenal beat Lens 6-0 to advance, Real Madrid won 4-2 against Napoli to win its group, and Real Sociedad played to a scoreless draw with RB Salzburg. Manchester United remains in last place of its group after a 3-3 draw with Galatasaray, with goalkeeper Andre Onana unable to stop Hakim Ziyech from scoring off of two free kicks. All’s not lost for United though, as it can still qualify for the round of 16 by beating Bayern Munich at home so long as the other match ends in the group ends in a draw. It all makes for what should be an exciting final matchday in the group stage.
- The Kansas City Current announced that American midfielder Sam Mewis will not be returning to the club for the 2024 season. The 31-year-old has not played since 2021 as she continues to recover from a knee injury.
- The Utah Royals have signed free agent forward Imani Dorsey on a contract through the 2025 season. Dorsey has most recently played for NJ/NY Gotham FC, although she didn’t participate in this past season due to mental health reasons.
- Manchester United is reportedly ready to move on from Mason Mount just six months after he joined the team from Chelsea.
- Tomasz Kwiatkowski, the video assistant referee involved in a controversial handball that eventually led to Paris Saint-Germain’s equalizer in stoppage time against Newcastle, was removed from his next scheduled duty by UEFA.
- Amidst a four-game winless streak, French club Nantes has fired Pierre Aristouy as its manager, immediately replacing him with Jocelyn Gourvennec.
- We’ll end our links with this interesting article that dives into how Romelu Lukaku unexpectedly arrived at AS Roma and how he’s thriving at the Italian club.
That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week!
2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Alex Freeman
We start our Orlando City player reviews with a look at a Homegrown fullback who made his MLS debut this season.
Orlando City signed fullback Alex Freeman to a Homegrown Player contract on February 15, 2022. He became the Lions’ 12th Homegrown signing and his deal runs through the 2025 season with a club option for 2026, but the youngster did not see action in Major League Soccer last season. With the departure of Ruan, there was an opportunity for Freeman to win a job with the first team in camp but he wasn’t quite ready to make the jump, instead playing an important role with Orlando City B throughout the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season.
Let’s take a look back at Freeman’s 2023 campaign.
Freeman made his MLS debut on April 29 in a 2-0 home win over the LA Galaxy. It was not just his debut with the first team, but it was also his only appearance with the senior squad in 2023, although he did make the substitutes’ bench a few times after that. Officially, he logged only one minute, entering in the 93rd minute. He was only on the pitch a matter of seconds, so it’s unsurprising that he registered nothing on the stats sheet.
The son of former NFL receiver Antonio Freeman, Alex starred with OCB in 2023. In MLS NEXT Pro play, Freeman appeared in 24 of OCB’s 28 matches, starting 22, and logging 1,855 minutes. He finished tied for third on the squad in goals (4), adding three assists and passing at a 79.1% success rate. Freeman attempted 25 shots, putting 11 on target, and contributed 10 key passes. He committed 22 fouls, drew 27 on the opposition, and was booked four times. He also started OCB’s playoff match at Columbus, playing 89 minutes in the Young Lions’ 2-1 road loss. Freeman didn’t contribute a goal or assist or attempt a shot in the match, but he passed at an 88% rate, created one scoring chance, and committed one foul.
With only one MLS appearance to his credit, the default best game for Freeman came on April 29 in Orlando City’s 2-0 home win over the LA Galaxy. Freeman didn’t even officially touch the ball in the game, but it’s not every day a teenager gets to play in an MLS match, and I’m sure it was a special moment for him. It was certainly a milestone in his professional soccer career.
2023 Final Grade
As Freeman fell well short of the minimum 450 minutes played mark 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. There are areas of Freeman’s game that need a bit of refining, but at the same time, it’s easy to see why he landed a Homegrown contract, why Orlando City would find him an intriguing prospect, and why he’s been getting called up by the United States for U-20 international duty. His attacking presence was huge for OCB in 2023 and he was one of the key players that led the Young Lions to the postseason.
I would expect Freeman to get more seasoning at OCB in 2024, although he’ll be given opportunities in preseason camp to show whether he’s closed the gap on the likes of Michael Halliday and Kyle Smith (assuming both return). If the club moves on from both Halliday and Smith, it’s not hard to picture Freeman starting the season providing depth at right back for the first team. Having just turned 19 in August, Freeman has a lot of potential and he should start to unlock that within the next year or so.
This is the first of our 2023 Orlando City Season in Review articles. Every player who played minutes this past season and who finished the year on the club roster will be reviewed (exceptions may be made for players let go when the club officially announces its roster moves). Players who logged fewer than 450 minutes (combined regular season plus playoffs, Concacaf Champions League, U.S. Open Cup, and Leagues Cup) will receive a composite score between 1 and 10 as determined by a panel of The Mane Land writers, while those who did not reach that threshold will receive an incomplete grade.
Lion Links: 12/1/23
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