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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. New York City FC: Final Score 2-1 as Tesho Akindele Scores Another Late Winner



Tesho Akindele scored deep in stoppage time on a corner kick to snap a 1-1 tie and lift Orlando City to a 2-1 win over New York City FC at Exploria Stadium. The Lions (11-10-6, 39 points) deserved all three points with a lopsided advantage in attacking stats but were seconds away from an unsatisfying draw with NYCFC (13-8-6, 45 points) after Junior Urso and Maxi Moralez scored early in the first and second half, respectively.

Orlando notched its third consecutive win — each by one goal — and finally managed to put together a good performance at home that claimed maximum points.

“I thought it was a great victory — one that was deserved by the players,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I think the effort that they did during the whole game today showed this character that they’ve brought in the last three games.”

Pareja started Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Wilder Cartagena got his first MLS start in central midfield with Urso, behind an attacking line of Jake Mulraney, Facundo Torres, and Benji Michel, with Ercan Kara up top.

Orlando came out swinging at its 2015 MLS expansion rivals. Cartagena took the game’s first shot just two minutes in but missed the net from outside the area. But five minutes later, the Lions grabbed the lead.

Torres saw space and played an aerial ball for a well-timed run by Urso, who took it down nicely with his first touch and blasted it past Sean Johnson. The flag came up immediately but the play looked good with a defender keeping him on. Referee Chris Penso went to the monitor to look at it again and ruled the goal good, giving Orlando a 1-0 lead in the seventh minute.

“I was really free. And Facu, he’s so intelligent, so he gave me a nice ball,” Urso said. “The ball jumped a little bit and that was perfect (height) to shoot so, for me, it was incredible.”

Urso said the delay during the video review was nerve-wracking.

“I almost died on the field,” Urso said with a laugh. “I was like praying to God, please, I’m not off. So, it was OK.”

NYCFC got a long-distance free kick in the 12th minute but Gabriel Pereira sent the set piece kick right at Gallese for the easy catch.

A few minutes later, the skies opened up over Exploria Stadium, with rains so heavy and so prolonged that puddles began forming on the normally quick-draining pitch and creating issues. Passes stopped dead if they hit a watery patch and the game got sloppy for both sides. The Lions seemed to handle it better but couldn’t string together passes in the slop.

“In the first half it was a lot of courage (by the players) with this rain,” Pareja said. “Congratulations to the fans that suffered that rain too. It was difficult to play but I think we showed a lot of personality too and we came out winning the half.”

Urso sent a shot from outside the box wide in the 28th minute off a recycled corner kick. A minute later, the Bear came close to adding a second goal. Urso smashed a shot on target but Johnson made a spectacular diving save to keep his team’s deficit at one goal.

Cartagena fired another shot wide off the ensuing corner kick after the visitors cleared it out of the area.

The rain diminished late in the first half and the drainage was able to do a better job of keeping up with the extra moisture.

Late in the half, Torres put in a good cross for Kara but Maxime Chanot did well in defense to make the chance difficult and Kara could only hit his shot wide.

Talles Magno fired wide from distance late in first-half stoppage time and the Lions took their 1-0 lead into the break.

NYCFC held the advantage in possession (57%-43%) and passed more accurately (81.8%-74.6%), while Orlando fired more shots (7-1) and shots on target (3-1), and earned more corners (5-0).

Two minutes after the restart, it appeared the game was about to swing in the visitors’ favor. Carlos won a tackle just outside his area and dribbled up the field. As he was dribbling past New York City FC’s Nicolas Acevedo, the defender stepped on his opponent’s foot and Penso went straight to the red card. Again the referee went to the monitor but he quickly changed his mind upon seeing the replay and changed the card to yellow, much to the relief of Orlando City players and fans.

The game changed moments later anyway. Mulraney turned the ball over near midfield and New York City FC broke the other way in transition. The ball ended up with Thiago Andrade on the left and he did well to slip in a perfect pass for Moralez, who split the defense with his run and slotted a shot past Gallese to make it 1-1 in the 53rd minute.

The goal was NYCFC’s only shot on target in the match. Moralez got into a decent position to give his team the lead in the 56th minute but fired his shot into the outside netting from the right side.

Pareja chased the game by bringing on Ivan Angulo and Andres Perea for Cartagena, who put in a solid shift for Araujo, and Mulraney. Araujo came on in the second half but the plan was to rest him in this match after the young midfielder experienced tightness after playing on the turf last week at Charlotte.

Angulo, Araujo, and Perea were joined a little later by fellow second-half subs Akindele and Kyle Smith, and those players were crucial in changing the energy of the game over the final half hour. Schlegel and Torres both fired over the crossbar as the game entered its final 20 minutes, as the Lions continued to get into scoring positions.

The Lions nearly went ahead in the 80th minute when Angulo sent in a good cross to the back post for Smith, but the fullback couldn’t keep his volley shot under the crossbar with Johnson out of position to make a save.

Torres tried to send Akindele through on goal in the 88th but the two were on different pages on where the ball placement should be and the pass skipped harmlessly out for a goal kick.

But the Lions kept coming, winning set pieces. In the 91st minute, a corner kick cross was headed across the box but NYCFC cleared. A minute later, Angulo unleashed a hard shot on goal that Johnson fought off.

Angulo won the Lions a late corner when his cross was deflected out by Anton Tinnerholm and Orlando had one more chance as time wound down. Angulo took the set piece himself and sent in a good cross that found Akindele at the near post. The forward flicked his header toward the far post and it found its way through traffic and nestled in the back of the net.

It was the second late winner in consecutive games for Akindele, who scored the winner at Charlotte in the 89th minute a week ago.

“The call (on the set piece) was just get in the box,” Akindele said. “I was just thinking that I had seen (Angulo) hit some near post. I was like, ‘I’m just going to guess near post.’ That’s what you do a lot of times. You just guess. Our set piece coach won’t want to hear me saying that, but that’s what I do sometimes — just guess. So I just thought, ‘Maybe Ivan’s going to hit it near post,’ and he did, luckily. And then I hit it and then I didn’t even know if it went in but then I heard everybody screaming and I said, ‘Oh dang, it went in.’”

“The situation with Tesho is a good example for all,” Pareja said. “Generosity on our team is non-negotiable. We may lack of things sometimes but when you see a team that is giving what they have, then you can sleep — happy, sad, but you can sleep — thinking you’ve done your best.”

Orlando cut into NYCFC’s possession lead in the second half, but the visitors finished with a slight edge in that category (50.8%-49.2%). The Pigeons also passed more accurately on the night (83.6%-79.3%) but had a slimmer advantage at full time than at the break. Orlando City had far more shots (17-5), shots on target (5-1), and corners (7-0).

“The second half, New York came up with some other ideas that complicated us and I thought they took the middle of the field,” Pareja said. “And then, after their goal, our reaction — especially with the players that came in — it was phenomenal. I think they lifted us, they took the team on their shoulders and gave us that energy that we needed. More than the energy, just the ideas, and we ended up being the best team.”

“Honestly, I think our team played a great game. And I think we deserved the win,” Akindele said. “So it was good for us to get it. I’m glad I was the one to be able to provide it for us.”

The Lions have a quick turnaround as the Seattle Sounders visit Exploria Stadium on Wednesday night.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 12/2/23

The Pride sign a new keeper, the MLS playoffs continue, the USWNT is in action, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Salutations on this satisfactory Saturday, Mane Landers. We’re heading for the home stretch of 2023, and what a year it has been. Make sure that you are catching all of our Season in Review articles for both the Orlando City and Orlando Pride players. Things tend to happen personnel-wise in December, so be prepared. Until then, let’s check out today’s links. But first, let’s wish a happy 26th birthday to Orlando City goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar.

Pride Sign a New Keeper

The Orlando Pride signed Finnish goalkeeper Sofia Manner from FC Honka of Finland’s top flight, the Kansallinen Liiga. With the addition of Manner, the Pride have four keepers on the roster heading into 2024. Manner is expected to compete for the starting job, though the same could be said of both Anna Moorhouse and Carly Nelson. It is unlikely all four netminders will be on the Pride once the season starts. Manner has international experience and was the best keeper in the Kansallinen Liiga.

MLS Conference Finals Tonight

I wouldn’t blame you if you decided not to watch the remainder of the MLS playoffs after last weekend’s disappointing result. However, if you are going see how it all sorts out, you might want to study up on the matches. We’re all too aware that the Columbus Crew will be facing FC Cincinnati to see which club wins the Eastern Conference. Over on the other side, LAFC will take on the Houston Dynamo to determine the Western Conference champion.

MLS Player Moves

As the playoffs come to a close, the signings and transfers around the league are ramping up, but who will stay and who will go? New York Red Bulls midfielder Dru Yearwood is heading to Nashville SC as reported by The Athletic (paywalled) since Dax McCarthy is out of contract there and won’t be returning.

The Philadelphia Union have signed midfielder Jesus Bueno to a new three-year contract through 2026 with an option for 2027. Meanwhile, Gustavo Bou won’t be returning to the New England Revolution. So, um…maybe he’d like to come south and score goals for Orlando City rather than against the Lions? Before anyone gets too crazy, it should be on a non-DP deal.

USWNT Hosts China

The USWNT is back in friendly action against China this afternoon in Ft. Lauderdale at 3 p.m. and then on Tuesday, Dec. 5 at 8 p.m. in Frisco TX. Interim head coach Twila Kilgore will be in charge since newly-named Head Coach Emma Hayes doesn’t start until the 2023-2024 Women’s Super League season in England is over. Hayes is the current head coach of Chelsea FC Women’s. This is the first match between the two teams since 2018, and a lot has changed. The USWNT has been very solid on defense in 2023, allowing only two goals back in the SheBelieves Cup.

Free Kicks

  • If you haven’t heard of a “sin bin,” think of it like a penalty box in hockey. The idea has been getting a runout in lower league matches in English football by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) with some good results. It’s not yet confirmed, but MLS may institute the change in 2024. The idea is to reduce dissension by having a player sit for 10 minutes during a match. Tottenham manager Ange Postecoglou has spoken out against the idea. What do you think of the concept?
  • Real Salt Lake has promoted Kurt Schmid to sporting director and interim chief soccer officer.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo will have to deal with a $1 billion class-action lawsuit for his role in promoting NFTs for Binance. Maybe that’s why he signed for Al-Nassr in the Saudi Pro League?
  • Speaking of the Saudi Pro League, it looks like Mohamed Salah may not be leaving EPL side Liverpool anytime soon. The prolific striker is looking for a new contract to stay at Anfield.
  • I’ll take things Pedro Gallese would not do for $400, Alex.

That will do it for today. Please go forth and enjoy your weekend!

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Orlando City

2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Kyle Smith

Let’s look back at The Accountant’s fifth MLS season.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Fullback Kyle Smith was originally signed on Dec. 21, 2018 when James O’Connor was Orlando City’s head coach. He proved to be a valuable Swiss Army knife-type player and earned a new contract on March 29, 2021 through the 2022 season with a 2023 club option. Orlando City picked up his 2023 option at the end of the 2022 season but then signed Smith to a new one-year contract for 2023 just weeks later with an option for 2024.

Let’s have a look back at The Accountant’s fifth MLS season.

Statistical Breakdown

Smith appeared in 25 matches during the 2023 regular season, starting 17 times and logging 1,501 minutes. It was his third-most appearances but his second-most minutes since making the jump from Louisville City to MLS ahead of the 2019 season. He scored one goal and assisted on three others, setting a new career high in the latter category. Smith attempted seven shots, putting two on target. He passed at a 78.7% clip, including nine key passes, five successful crosses, and 36 successful long passes. Defensively, Smith recorded 35 tackles, 16 interceptions, 40 clearances, and two blocked shots. He drew eight fouls while committing 20 and was booked five times on the year.

The 31-year-old appeared in all three of Orlando City’s three playoff matches — both off the bench — and logged 65 minutes. He did not score a goal or assist on one, attempting one shot, which he put on frame. He passed at an 82.5% rate in the postseason. He posted two tackles and a clearance defensively. He did not commit a foul or draw one and he wasn’t booked.

In the 2023 Concacaf Champions League, Smith came off the bench in the first leg at Tigres, playing minutes, passing at just a 25% rate (small sample size), did not attempt a shot, did not draw or concede a foul, and was not booked.

During Leagues Cup play, Smith appeared in all three of Orlando’s matches (all starts), logging 150 minutes. He did not contribute to a goal or attempt a shot in the tournament, committing four fouls and earning two yellow cards. Smith did not play in Orlando City’s lone U.S. Open Cup match.

Best Game

Smith’s best match of 2023 came in Orlando City’s 1-1 home draw against Atlanta United on May 27, and not only because that’s when he scored his lone goal of the season, although that doesn’t hurt. El Soldado started and went the full 90 minutes. He fired two shots on the night, putting one on target (and in the net), and passed at an exceptional 90.3% rate on 31 attempts, which was his third-best passing night of the season. He completed two successful long balls on two attempts, chipping in four clearances (second only to Antonio Carlos), a tackle, and an interception on the night. His big moment came in the 30th minute, when a well-worked attack up the left kicked out to him on the right side. Smith was perfectly positioned and made no mistake in putting the Lions ahead 1-0.

Although the match was spoiled by a late equalizer, Smith turned in one of his best performances since joining Orlando City and if not for his goal, the outcome might have been a lot more somber than a 1-1 draw.

2023 Final Grade

Smith received a composite score of 6 out of 10 for his 2023 performance from The Mane Land staff. This is an improvement over the 5.5 he earned last year but slightly below the 6.5 he earned for the 2021 season. Previously, Smith was given a 5.5 in 2020 and he got the same score after the 2019 season. The staff awarded Smith for his effort, versatility, and willingness to do whatever it takes to win. He is the quintessential team player. But beyond all of the above, he simply played well most of his minutes on the pitch. At his age, he’s going to struggle to contain the league’s speediest wing players, particularly when playing on his weaker left side, but his ability to adapt is unquestioned. The perfect example of that was when he was tucking inside from his fullback spot earlier in the season to add an additional player to the midfield and freeing Facundo Torres up to have more space in which to operate on the right side.

2024 Outlook

Smith’s return may ultimately rest with whether or not Oscar Pareja stays on with the Lions, although a decision might need to be made earlier than that, as the club must make a decision on his option. Pareja has valued Smith’s versatility and work ethic over the last few years, and with more competitions and matches than ever before, it’s always good to have a depth player who can plug and play in multiple positions. He played his second-most MLS minutes in 2023, so he’s still seeing the field plenty.

If I had to guess, and this section is for exactly that, I’d say the club will either exercise his option or sign him to a new one-year deal with an option year for 2025. However, what complicates matters is that Smith is over age 24 and has played five MLS seasons, which means he’s eligible for free agency. If he’s back in 2024, I would expect him to again be a key backup at both fullback positions, getting some spot starts in U.S. Open Cup or when fixture congestion is heavy.

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Orlando City

2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Abdi Salim

We continue our Orlando City player retrospectives with a look at one of the Lions’ 2023 draft picks.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City used its third pick of the 2023 MLS SuperDraft to select Abdi Salim with the 17th overall pick. Salim played his college soccer at Syracuse and the Lions picked up the center back to help with depth at a position that didn’t really have a ton of established bodies behind Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson, and Rodrigo Schlegel. He was then signed to a one-year deal in February that contained three option years for the 2024, 2025, and 2026 seasons.

Let’s have a look at Salim’s first season as a professional.

Statistical Breakdown

Salim made his Major League Soccer debut at home against FC Cincinnati on March 4. It was Salim’s only start of the year and he went the full 90 minutes as the Lions drew 0-0 against the eventual Supporters’ Shield winners. He made two other appearances in away games against D.C. United and Charlotte FC, both of which ended as 1-1 draws as he finished with 148 MLS minutes on the year.

Defensively he recorded four tackles, four interceptions, three clearances, a block, and won two aerial duels. He did not record any offensive statistics, but was solid with his distribution as he averaged 87.3% passing accuracy and completed one cross and one long ball each.

Given that it was only his first season as a professional, he spent the bulk of his time in MLS NEXT Pro with Orlando City B. With the Young Lions he played in 16 matches, starting 14 of them and racking up 1,162 minutes. He finished with 11 interceptions and a tackle while committing seven fouls and drawing 11 and picking up one yellow card. Salim took nine shots, put two of them on target, and scored a goal on each one he got on frame. He passed very well, finishing with a 90.2% success rate, two key passes, and 18 long balls.

Best Game

The honor of his best game goes to his first ever professional appearance, when he started and played the whole game in the aforementioned 0-0 draw against FC Cincinnati. Salim finished with three tackles, three clearances, and an interception while passing with 87% accuracy, completing a long ball on his only attempt, and helping the Lions keep a clean sheet at home. He was a bit shaky at first, as he was deployed as the third center back in a three-man back line, but he settled down in the second half and finished with a grade of 5.5 out of 10 from Nic Josey.

2023 Final Grade

Given that Salim didn’t crack 200 minutes and we require a minimum of 450 to award a grade for the season, he receives an incomplete for the 2023 season. He did some good things when down with Orlando City B, and filled in well enough with the senior side when called upon, but we simply need to see more of him in order to figure out what he’s really able to do.

2024 Outlook

It’s likely that Salim will spend more time with Orlando City B next season, but with no one seemingly laying claim to the fourth center back position, he should have a chance to show what he’s capable of during preseason. He seemed to be in competition with Thomas Williams for the back up spot not occupied by Rodrigo Schlegel, but he may have moved past him in the pecking order as he made more appearances than the Homegrown signing, both with OCSC and OCB. Regardless, as an inexpensive young player with potential, there’s no reason to think he won’t be here next year.

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