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Orlando City vs. New York Red Bulls: Player Grades and Man of the Match

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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.

Starters

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. 

Substitutes

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.

Polling Closed

PlayerVotes
Antonio Carlos5
Facundo Torres38
Robin Jansson9
Joao Moutinho6
Other (Let us know who in the comments)1

Opinion

Wide Players Made the Difference in Victory Over Cavalry FC

Orlando’s fullbacks and wingers had great games against Cavalry, and it helped propel the Lions to victory.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City began its 2024 season with a resounding and confident 3-0 win over Cavalry FC on the road up in Canada. The Lions grabbed control of the game with an early goal and never let up, and now go into next week’s home leg in excellent position to advance to the next round. Everyone who played out wide for OCSC can and should take a well-earned bow for their performances, as it was their excellent games that pushed the Lions to a big advantage after the first leg.

The first goal looked easy enough, but it was a product of good vision and better execution. After collecting the ball near midfield, Wilder Cartagena turned into space and played a quick ball out to Ivan Angulo on the left wing. Martin Ojeda began his run in a fairly central position, but recognized that there was space behind fullback Shamit Shome, and immediately went to it. He was rewarded when Angulo took one touch to collect the ball, another to settle it, and used his third to play Ojeda into the space behind Shome, with defensive midfielder Jesse Daley coming back to cover. However, the pass from Angulo was perfectly weighted and Ojeda was able to use his first touch to play a cross into the box, preventing Daley from getting in the way of his delivery. Ojeda laid the ball on a plate, and Duncan McGuire made no mistake from close range.

The second goal also came as a result of play out wide, although it was more a goal of individual brilliance than team skill. Dagur Dan Thorhallsson drove at the heart of the retreating Cavalry defense, and pulled three players to him before releasing the ball at precisely the correct time to Facundo Torres on the right wing. Once there, the man defending Torres, William Akio, made the cardinal sin of allowing Facu to cut in on his left foot, and Orlando’s new no. 10 made the opposition pay with a shot to the near post that skipped off the turf and beat Marco Carducci, who admittedly maybe should have done better with it than he did.

The dagger came as a result of more excellent play down the left-hand side. Nicolas Lodeiro, Angulo, and Ramiro Enrique used some slick one-touch passing that resulted in Enrique sending Angulo in behind on the left. Enrique’s ball to free his fellow Colombian was perfectly weighted, and Angulo was able to use his first touch to play a perfect lofted cross to the back post, where Torres dispatched it with a beautiful diving header for his second of the match.

Numbers don’t lie, and they back up the assertion that the wide players had good games. Thorhallsson promptly picked up where he left off at right back, finishing with 81% passing accuracy, one key pass, one assist, one clearance, and one interception. If he keeps this up, then Mikey Halliday is going to have a fight on his hands when it comes to the starting job. Kyle Smith quietly had a good game on the opposite side of the defense, completing one dribble, winning a tackle, and recording four clearances, although his 72% passing accuracy could have been better.

Ivan Angulo was an absolute terror, and looked even more dangerous on the slick turf than he normally does on grass fields. He gave the Cavalry defense fits, and completed four dribbles, recording two key passes, a cross, two long balls, an interception, a tackle, and an assist while completing 84% of his passes. As in seasons past, the big question for him this year surrounds his decision-making in the final third and his finishing. If both of those attributes continue to improve, then he’ll be an almighty handful for opposing defenses.

Torres was, well, Torres. He’s been the straw that stirs Orlando City’s drink for two years now, and Wednesday night was no different. Facu took three shots and scored with the two he put on target, completed 86% of his passes, logging one key pass. He also completed a dribble and chipped in with a clearance and an interception on defense. Time will tell if he’s managed to add the use of his right foot to his game yet, but he was a pleasure to watch, as usual.

I also want to take a moment to shout-out Ojeda. While he was deployed through the middle in the no. 10 role, rather than out wide, where we’re used to seeing him, he was excellent. The Argentine repeatedly drifted into the half-spaces between center back and fullback and had a field day pulling the strings, as he finished with a whopping five key passes. If he can translate that sort of performance to MLS, then a lot of pressure will be taken off the aging legs of Nico Lodeiro.


In short, the Lions made their living on Wednesday by stretching the field, getting the ball to their dangerous players out wide, and then making and executing the correct decisions once it was there. There were a lot of things to like offensively about the performance, and it provided plenty to build on when OCSC opens MLS play against CF Montreal tomorrow. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links: 2/23/24

Orlando Pride’s Megan Montefusco placed on season-ending injury list, Orlando City’s chances to win it all, USWNT plays Argentina tonight, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! It’s the final Friday before we spend pretty much every weekend screaming our hearts out for Orlando’s soccer teams. Although I won’t be in Orlando for tomorrow’s game, I’ll be cheering along from Tampa and am looking forward to a strong start to the season from the Lions. Before we get into today’s links, let’s all wish a happy birthday to our favorite octopus, Pedro Gallese!

Megan Montefusco Placed On Season-Ending Injury List

The Orlando Pride suffered a blow to their defense as center back Megan Montefusco was placed on the season-ending injury list after undergoing surgery on her right foot. Montefusco joined the Pride through a trade before the 2022 season and did well coming off the bench last season to keep Orlando’s defense strong as the year wore on. The Pride have options to fill the void, as Carrie Lawrence is back in the fray after missing last season due to injury and Tori Hansen will be back once her time on loan in Australia is up. Orlando could also go out and bring in a veteran to replace Montefusco or sign Cori Dyke, who was drafted by the Pride in the second round. Regardless, losing Montefusco is rough, considering Rafaella will likely be with Brazil for the Olympics this summer.

Orlando City’s Championship Credentials

Joseph Lowery of MLSsoccer.com detailed the strengths and weaknesses of each MLS team in terms of having what it takes to win it all this year. Orlando City followed up a pretty stellar off-season with a nearly perfect preseason. Head Coach Oscar Pareja, winger Ivan Angulo, and midfielder Wilder Cartagena are all sticking around, while Robin Jansson, Facundo Torres, and the front office brain trust of Luiz Muzzi and Ricardo Moreira were locked down as well. Additions of David Brekalo, Luis Muriel, and Nico Lodeiro also ensured this team has few holes. There’s concern that there are too many mouths to feed though, and that no single player can take the reins of the offense. I disagree on that being much of an issue though, as the attack is fluid enough to beat different teams in different ways. The Lions may go without All-Star representation as a result, but they should rack up plenty of points spreading the wealth on offense.

USWNT Takes on Argentina Tonight

The United States Women’s National Team will face Argentina tonight at 10:15 p.m. in its second game of the inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup. The U.S. did well in its 5-0 win over the Dominican Republic, but there were opportunities to score even more. Since there will be reseeding for the knockout stages, scoring plenty of goals will benefit the USWNT. Midge Purce was excellent in the opener and the USWNT will need to be sharper at putting away good service from the wings. Argentina held Mexico to a scoreless draw in its opener and will likely be hungry to score its first goal of the tournament.

Keeping Up With the Europa League

The first round of the Europa League’s knockout stage came to a close after a drama-filled day of soccer. Only one game went to penalty kicks, as AS Roma beat Feyenoord after a 1-1 draw thanks to two saves from Mile Svilar in the shootout. There was a thriller in Azerbaijan as well. A red card reduced Qarabag FK to 10 men and Braga took full advantage, scoring twice to send the game into extra time. They then traded goals until 19-year-old winger Nariman Akhundzade gave Qarabag the winner in stoppage time. In Germany, SC Freiburg came back from a two-goal deficit to beat Lens in extra time as well.

Elsewhere, a red card doomed Galatasaray as Sparta Prague rallied late to win, and AC Milan survived a hat trick from Rennes midfielder Benjamin Bourigeaud to advance on aggregate. Sporting CP, Marseille, and Benfica all booked their spot in the round of 16 as well, with the draw set for today.

Free Kicks

  • New food vendors will be available for fans at Orlando City and Orlando Pride home games this year, with Flippers Pizzeria Company now a permanent addition. New options for the rotating carts include Pardon My Cheesesteak and Omusubee Japanese Rice Balls.
  • Congratulations to Pride defender Emily Madril on getting married!

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 vs. CF Montreal: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to secure all three points in the home opener against CF Montreal?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City will host CF Montreal in the club’s first match of the 2024 MLS regular season this Saturday night. The Lions are coming off the Concacaf Champions Cup match against Cavalry FC Wednesday night. Orlando City will want to get things started the right way as expectations and aspirations are higher than ever for the club.

What does Orlando City need to do to secure a victory in the home opener against their Canadian opponents?

Roster Management

Orlando City has four matches in 11 days — the previously mentioned Wednesday match against Cavalry in Canada, the match against Montreal on Saturday, the return match against Cavalry in Orlando next Tuesday, and then a trip to Ft. Lauderdale to take on Inter Miami. That is quite a start to competitive play in 2024.

Because of the schedule congestion, Oscar Pareja will need to rotate players. That means we’re not likely to have the preferred starting 11 as much as any of us will like. Kyle Smith, Michael Halliday, Jeorgio Kocevski, and others will likely see playing time. How well Pareja manages when to use which players, and for how long, will determine not just the result of this match against Montreal, but for each of the other matches as well.

Defensive Communication

Rodrigo Schlegel is serving a suspension in this first league match and will not be available. That means Orlando City’s newest center back, David Brekalo, will probably get the start alongside Robin “The Beefy Swede” Jansson. Having a good center back pairing is absolutely essential to the success of any defense. We know that because once Jansson and former Lion Antonio Carlos worked together for a while, they became an absolute fortress on the back line.

Now, Jansson will need to build the same chemistry with Brekalo if the Lions want to maintain their position as one of the best defenses in the league. With Schlegel unavailable, there is no question that Jansson and Brekalo will have the opportunity to start building that relationship. Hopefully, it will be good enough to keep Montreal — especially Josef Martinez — out of the goal.

Keep Torres Scoring

Facundo Torres had a great preseason. Orlando City’s new owner of the No. 10 shirt needs to keep doing the same. He’ll need to score goals, provide assists, and create problems for Montreal’s defense. Traditionally, Montreal has put out a three-man back line. While that means it’ll be a five-man back line when Orlando City has the ball, during changes of possession there should be space for Torres to get free and get scoring opportunities.

If Montreal smartly tried to contain Torres, then it will have to deal with Duncan McGuire, Nico Lodeiro, and Ivan Angulo. Orlando City’s offense has the potential to score quite a few more goals this season, and it all starts Saturday night against Montreal. Get two on the board and I think it will mean three points in the standings.


That is what I will be looking for Saturday night. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!

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