For the third consecutive game, Orlando City scored in second-half injury time to claim all three points, in a 3-2 win over the Seattle Sounders. However, this time the Lions came back from a two-goal deficit and it wasn’t Tesho Akindele scoring the winner. It’s the Lions’ fourth straight win, keeping them in fifth in the Eastern Conference.
Let’s take a look at the individual performances in this big win.
GK, Pedro Gallese, 5.5 — Gallese didn’t have a lot to do in this game, only facing three shots on target. He conceded two goals in the game, but came up with a huge one-handed save late in the second half that would’ve given the Sounders the lead. Gallese couldn’t do much about Albert Rusnak’s free kick, which went through the wall and was perfectly placed in the top corner, but he could have done better on Raul Ruidiaz’s near-post effort.
D, Joao Moutinho, 6.5 — Moutinho was the better of the two starting fullbacks in this game. The left back had two tackles and one clearance defensively, but his biggest impact was going forward. He completed 84.2% of his 38 passes, including four key passes, and an assist on Facundo Torres’ goal. Moutinho completed three of his seven crosses and one of his two long balls. Additionally, he took one shot on the rebound of Mauricio Pereyra’s poor penalty but what was a likely goal was blocked at the last second by Seattle’s Jackson Ragen.
D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 5.5 — Schlegel was good for most of the game. He ended the game with one tackle, two interceptions, and one clearance, but Jordan Morris blew by him on the second Seattle goal. Going forward, Schlegel completed 81.4% of his 43 passes, completed one of his two long balls, and took one off-target shot. His grade would be higher but his poor defending on Morris on the second goal was his biggest contribution.
D, Antonio Carlos, 6 — As expected, Carlos was the better of the two center backs for most of the game. The Brazilian had two tackles and three clearances defensively. He completed 88.9% of his 36 shots and five of his seven long balls. He also took one shot, which was on target. However, Carlos had a role in both Seattle goals. He committed the foul that led to the first goal and was at the near post on the second, although Ruan was the man covering Ruidiaz. Carlos also took an unnecessary yellow card arguing a foul call that went against him.
D, Ruan, 5 — Ruan was at fault for one of the Seattle goals but unlike Carlos, didn’t put up a strong display to overcome that mistake. He didn’t have any defensive statistics in this game. He completed 83.3% of his 24 passes and had two key passes, but he only had one cross attempt and it was incomplete. Ruan was at the near post on Seattle’s second goal but was unable to clear it. It’s fair to say that in a transition situation with three defenders back against two attackers, it’s probably not the best idea to leave the other team’s Designated Player striker 1-v-1 with the Brazilian right back. The inability to clear the ball allowed Rusnak to score the game’s opening goal.
MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 6 — Pereyra had a strong game on both sides. Offensively, he completed 94.6% of his 37 passes, including one key pass. He completed two of his four crosses and five of his six long balls. He took two shots and one of those was on target. Defensively, Pereyra had one tackle, one interceptions, and one blocked shot. Pereyra would’ve had a higher score, but he took a very poor penalty in the first half that was at the perfect position and height for Stefan Frei. Had the Lions not scored at the end, it could’ve cost the team two points.
MF, Cesar Araujo, 7 — Araujo has been one of Orlando City’s most consistent players and had another great performance in this game. Defensively, the central midfielder had four tackles and was instrumental when Oscar Pareja brought on Benji Michel for Ruan, going with three defenders. When in possession, he completed 90.2% of his 51 passes, had a key pass, and completed all five of his long balls. He also had one off-target shot but was fantastic in his role.
MF, Niko Gioacchini, 5 — This was Gioacchini’s first start for the senior team and a little rust was showing. Gioacchini’s had an early unlucky touch as he seemed about to break free for a scoring chance but lost the handle on the ball. He completed just 70.6% of his 17 passes, had one key pass, and one off-target shot. His biggest contributions of the game were drawing the penalty that Pereyra sent at the goalkeeper and nearly assisting a goal for Ivan Angulo had Frei not made a terrific save.
MF, Junior Urso, 5.5 — After arguably his best performance of the season, Urso saw a bit of a drop-off in this one. He completed 82.4% of his 34 passes and completed four of his six long balls. He didn’t get any shots off but did play Gioacchini into the box that resulted in the first penalty. Defensively, Urso had one tackle and two interceptions. It wasn’t one of Urso’s more impactful games, but it wasn’t a bad performance either.
MF, Ivan Angulo, 6 — Angulo was in the starting lineup for the first time in this game and had another strong performance. He completed 88.2% of his 17 passes, had one incomplete cross, and completed his only long ball. He took two shots in the game, both of which were on target and chipped in two tackles on defense. While he wasn’t as good as the game against New York City FC Sunday night, he’s been better than Jake Mulraney and Gioacchini and has probably cemented his spot in the starting lineup for the upcoming games.
F, Tesho Akindele, 5.5 — After scoring game-winning goals in the two most recent games, Akindele earned himself a spot in the starting lineup against Seattle. In 63 minutes, the forward completed 53.3% of his 15 passes, completed one long ball, won four aerials, and took two off-target shots, one of which was blocked by a defender from point-blank range in his last action before being subbed off.
MF, Facundo Torres (46’), 7 (MotM) — After starting 14 of the last 15 games, Torres was given a rest for the first half against Seattle. However, Pareja said after the game that he wanted the star midfielder’s left-footed option in the second half, and he came on at halftime for Gioacchini. He made an immediate impact, scoring Orlando City’s first goal in the 53rd minute and assisting the winning goal in injury time. He completed 90% of his 20 passes with two key passes, one of his two crosses, and his one long ball. He had two shots in the game, with one going in.
F, Ercan Kara (64’), 6 — Similar to Torres, Kara came on in the second half and made an immediate impact. The striker replaced Akindele with Orlando City down a goal. In the 68th minute, he stepped up for the team’s second penalty of the night after a handball in the box. Unlike the first, Kara put his attempt into the corner, evening the game at 2-2. In addition to the goal, Kara completed one of his three passes and took two other shots, but both were officially recorded as off target — although one was a header that Frei made an excellent save to keep out, so there’s no telling what the official scorer saw on that play. The actual off-target shot was a header that missed by about a foot or less on a good corner kick cross from Torres. He was brought on to bring the Lions back even and did his job.
MF, Benji Michel (64’), 5.5 — Pareja made an aggressive move by bringing Michel on for Ruan in the 64th minute. He played in the midfield in this game, spending most of his time out wide in a bit of a wingback role to start before moving to the attacking midfield when Kyle Smith came on. He completed eight of his 10 passes, had one incomplete cross, and one incomplete long ball. He took one shot, which was on target, but didn’t make a big impact on the game.
D, Kyle Smith (76’), 7 — Smith came on for Pereyra in the 76th minute as the Lions went back to a traditional back four. It looked as though he wouldn’t have a big impact, but he did late. In the 89th minute, he nearly assisted the winner on a fantastic ball that landed on the head of Andres Perea, but Frei made a great save. A minute into injury time, Smith scored the game-winning goal. It took a deflection off Ragen’s body, but Smith was awarded the goal due to the original effort being judged on target, lifting the Lions to a 3-2 win. In the end, Smith completed all five of his passes, his lone cross, both of his long balls, and scored on his only shot. Can’t do much better than that.
MF, Andres Perea (76’), 6 — Perea came on in the 76th minute with Smith, replacing Angulo. He completed four of his five passes and nearly scored the winner in the 89th minute. Perea attacked the ball, beating the defenders to the ball on Smith’s cross but hit his shot right at Frei.
That’s how I saw the individual performances in this game. Let us know how you saw it and vote on the Man of the Match below.
|Other (let us know in the comments)
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.
Lion Links: 2/19/24
Orlando City wins preseason finale, post-match concert artists named, U.S. Open Cup in jeopardy, and more.
Merry Monday morning, Mane Landers. We’re about to get to see Orlando City play matches in both the MLS regular season and the Concacaf Champions Cup. Cavalry FC is up first on Wednesday and CF Montreal on Saturday. That’s a whole lot of Canada to start things off, eh? Before we get to the links, please join us in wishing a happy birthday to Orlando Pride star Marta, who turns 38 today.
Orlando City Defeats the Rapids in Preseason Finale
The Lions won their final preseason match against the Colorado Rapids 3-2 at Inter&Co Stadium on Saturday. Kyle Smith got the scoring going mere seconds into the match and Facundo Torres doubled the lead on a penalty kick before the end of the first half. The Rapids tied it up in the second half, but Orlando City rookie Jeorgio Kocevski scored a late winner in stoppage time to keep the Lions unbeaten in the preseason. Orlando ended the preseason schedule with a record of 4-0-1.
Orlando Postgame Concert Announced
As I get older, I see each decade get its time in the nostalgic spotlight. Evidently, it is the 1990s’ turn. Orlando City announced a concert that will follow the Austin FC match at Inter&Co Stadium on March 23. You didn’t ask for it — and neither did anyone else — but Vanilla Ice, Rob Base, and Montell Jordan are headlining an “I Love the 90s” post-match concert. I’m not entirely certain if everyone will be required to stop, collaborate, and listen, but it’s certainly a possibility.
PRO Referee Strike Looms
Normally, if I told you that Orlando City didn’t have to worry about the Professional Referees Organization (PRO), I’m willing to bet you’d be pretty happy. Now it’s a real possibility that the Lions’ first match will likely have stand-in referees. The Professional Soccer Referees Association rejected a new collective bargaining agreement with PRO, meaning that there will be a lockout. PRO has identified “qualified replacements” ready to make sure that matches will be able to be played.
Open Cup in Jeopardy
The start of the 2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is only a month away, although that isn’t a certainty. U.S. Soccer and MLS are still not seeing eye to eye regarding how many of the senior squads will participate. On the other side of the equation, the USL is pushing back against the demands from MLS.
Ultimately, this is a power struggle between the upper levels of organized soccer in this country. If a compromise solution can’t be found, it could mean that the Open Cup won’t take place this year. If that happens, it won’t help any of the involved parties and it will be devastating to the supporters of all the clubs at every level.
- Thanks to Zakaria Taifi’s mother, Alyssa Taifi, we know that Orlando City B defeated Philadelphia Union II by a score of 4-0 in a preseason scrimmage, and that there was some chippiness in the match.
- Inter Miami is under pressure to get roster compliant. As such, Federico Redondo will not be joining the Herons due to Miami’s inability to bring him in because of MLS regulations regarding payment methodology.
- Inter Miami midfielder Victor Ulloa announced he is retiring, which will also help Miami’s roster cap problems.
- Someone needs to tell Lionel Messi that there are financial roster rules in MLS. I know he probably doesn’t know, given how many rules were bent to bring him to MLS. Now he wants Neymar too. It’s getting ridiculous.
- Bundesliga fans don’t want a proposed private equity investment in the league and they let everyone know it at Bayern Munich’s 3-2 loss to Bochum. The protest delayed the match by 13 minutes and involved tennis balls.
- Luton Town defender Tom Lockyer has not ruled out a return to Luton Town after he suffered a cardiac event in a match against Bournemouth last December.
That will do it for today. Check back for our coverage of Orlando City’s two matches this week. Vamos Orlando!
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