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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Philadelphia Union: Player Grades and Man of the Match

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Orlando City will return to Exploria Stadium empty handed after a 5-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union on the road. Some bad luck and a good performance from one of the league’s best teams was enough to end the Lions’ hopes at a result in this match. An own goal — originally credited to Olivier Mbaizo but changed after the match — opened the floodgates and goals by Mikael Uhre, Daniel Gazdag, Alejandro Bedoya, and Jack Elliott sunk the Lions. Andres Perea was able to spoil Philadelphia’s clean sheet at least.

Let’s take a look at how each Lion performed individually in the loss.

Starters

GK, Mason Stajduhar, 5 — He didn’t have much of a chance on the Union’s first goal as a cross by Olivier Mbaizo was deflected by Moutinho. The ball went over Stajduhar’s attempted swat and into the back of the net. Stajduhar was able to get a leg to Uhre’s shot from point blank range on the Union’s second goal, but there was too much power behind it. He conceded a penalty in the second half for barely making contact with Uhre, but he spilled a fairly routine-looking cross to allow Uhre the chance to pounce on it. The 24-year-old wasn’t able to stop Gazdag’s strike from the spot and had no chance on Bedoya’s diving header a few minutes later. Elliott scored on a free header and Stajduhar ended up conceding five goals. Still, he came up with seven saves, including three good ones in a row in the second half to stop Philly from scoring off of a free kick. Stajduhar only had 14 passes, completing 71.4% of them, and was accurate on three of his seven long balls. He’s not the first goalkeeper to be brutalized by the Union’s offense this year and likely won’t be the last. Some unlucky moments will make his performance look worse than it was, but there were still good moments for the backup goalkeeper, along with some on which he could’ve done better.

D, Joao Moutinho, 5.5 — The left back had a long and busy night as he led the Lions with a whopping 103 touches. His 72 passes were also the most by an Orlando player, although he completed them at just a 65.3% rate. Just one of his five crosses were accurate, including a great one that Junior Urso couldn’t put on frame, and he delivered some decent balls late in the match. Five of his 12 long balls were accurate, and he had two key passes to set up opportunities. His lone shot was from range and went wide. Defensively, Moutinho had three clearances, a tackle, and an interception. Moutinho was dispossessed and an unlucky deflection after he got a piece of Mbaizo’s cross ended up as an own goal. He (understandably) appeared to have nothing left in the tank late in this game, tracking back far too slowly on Cory Burke late to allow a shot that resulted in a corner kick, and he also wasn’t able to stick with Elliott on the ensuing goal from that corner. However, his long throw helped create Orlando’s only goal of the game.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 5 — Schlegel did a poor job marking Bedoya on the Union’s fourth goal. The center back finished the game with five tackles, four clearances, two blocks, and an interception. He had 28 passes at a good 85.7% success rate, but none of his four long balls were accurate. Schlegel also picked up a yellow card to stop Philly on a counter for his first booking since July.

D, Antonio Carlos, 6 — Carlos led the Lions with five clearances and three interceptions, but it wasn’t enough to stop the Union’s red-hot offense. The center back was beaten by a good through ball by Gazdag, as Uhre beat him to the ball and buried his shot on the Union’s second goal. Carlos was beaten multiple times by Uhre’s pace, but that’s more a credit to the Philadelphia striker than anything to do with Orlando’s center back. He nearly got his head to Kai Wagner’s cross on Philly’s fourth goal, but it fell for Bedoya. It was a strong night in terms of passing for Carlos though. The 29-year-old was accurate on nine of his 10 long balls and completed 90.2% of his 32 passes. Carlos also won all three of his aerial duels. It was always going to be a tough assignment against the Union and Carlos will have to shake off this result as the team prepares for Wednesday.

D, Ruan, 4.5 — It’s no secret that the right back’s crossing needs some work, but Ruan just wasn’t able to provide enough from the wing during this match. Both of his crosses were inaccurate and his second one had a real chance to give Orlando a lead if he didn’t send it right into the lone defender’s feet. Two of his four long balls were successful and he had 36 passes at a 77.8% success rate. Ruan had two tackles and two interceptions, but the Union really made the most of the space left when he went on the attack. Sometimes the Brazilian was able to track back in time to apply pressure, but other times Carlos and the defense were left to pick up the slack. Ruan didn’t provide the offensive bite to make his trips up the field worth it in the end.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 5.5 — The Peruvian defensive midfielder led the team with six tackles and also contributed three clearances and an interception. His work on defense helped limit Philadelphia’s attack through the middle of the field. Cartagena completed 78.1% of his 41 passes, but his service when attacking needed to be better and only one of his four long balls was accurate. More time playing with his teammates may correct that over time, but a bad pass from Cartagena led to Philadelphia’s second goal. It was a decent outing from the 27-year-old, although it showed some fixable areas to improve moving forward. He could have had the game’s biggest contribution when he aggravated Jose Martinez into headbutting him but it wasn’t called and the video assistant referee apparently deemed there wasn’t enough evidence to award a red card.

MF, Andres Perea, 6.5 — It was a mixed bag from Perea. The 21-year-old gave the ball away after trying a harder pass than needed and the Union capitalized off of the mistake. It wasn’t his worst match offensively though, as he scored a goal, made two key passes, and had three successful dribbles. His first goal of the season was a nice one as he set it up at the top of the box and smashed it past Andre Blake, which is no easy feat. He completed 83.3% of his 42 passes but neither of his long balls. Perea also chipped in defensively with two interceptions.

MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 6.5 (MotM) — In his 65 minutes on the field, Pereyra pulled the strings to help Orlando build possession or surge forward on counter attacks. Although he was positioned deep in the midfield, Pereyra showed plenty of hustle to help out on both sides of the ball. The Uruguayan’s lone shot was an attempt from distance that was blocked before it could test Blake. Pereyra had 48 passes at a solid 85.4% success rate and also had a key pass by slipping a ball through the Union’s defense for Benji Michel to get a shot off and earn a corner. Although his single cross didn’t find its target, he was successful on two of his three long balls. His effort on defense shouldn’t be overlooked as he had three tackles and two interceptions to break up some of the Union’s attacks.

MF, Jake Mulraney, 4 — It was a pretty pedestrian performance by Mulraney, who was too often out of position to help the team during transition moments. It was hard to see how he fit into Orlando’s game plan as he lacked the speed to rush forward on counters and didn’t create many chances. He only had 11 passes, completing them at a 90.9% success rate, and his only cross was unsuccessful. Mulraney was subbed off at halftime and it was a night to forget for the Irishman.

MF, Niko Gioacchini, 4.5 — The American had six unstable touches and was dispossessed four times in this one as he was unable to get much going on the offensive end. He didn’t have any crosses, although that is partially because he tended to drift into the center of the field while Ruan worked the right wing when attacking. His passing needed to be a bit better as he only completed 68.4% of his 19 passes, and he didn’t have a shot. Gioacchini was a step behind opposing players at times and didn’t contribute any defensive stats in a rough game on the road.

F, Benji Michel, 5.5 — Although he won four of his five aerial duels, Michel had a tough time dealing with the strong center back pairing of Elliott and Jack Glesnes. His only shot was from a tough angle near the end line and the Homegrown Player did well to force a save from Blake and win a corner. In the second half, he had a key pass as he headed the ball towards Facundo Torres in the box. In terms of his hold-up play, Michel was successful on 84.2% of his 19 passes and had four unstable touches. His speed was certainly an asset, particularly in the first half, but he ultimately had a difficult time against the league’s best defense.

Substitutes

MF, Facundo Torres (45’), 5.5 — Torres came on with the Lions trailing by two at halftime, but the Union made sure to swarm him and force Orlando’s other players to beat them. Still, he found ways to get involved and had 32 touches and 23 passes at a strong 91.3% success rate. Torres had two shots, sending one wide and having the other blocked. His one cross and two long balls didn’t find their targets. All in all, Torres wasn’t able to make much of an impact on this game but only played one half and should be ready to roll for the upcoming matches.

MF, Ivan Angulo (45’), 5 — Like Torres, Angulo wasn’t able to create a spark to revive Orlando after coming on at halftime. Unlike Torres though, he didn’t see much of the ball and had 17 touches and 11 passes at an 81.8% success rate. Angulo’s only shot came early after coming on, but it missed the target. It was an otherwise quiet night for the Colombian and we didn’t see much of the speed and skill on the ball he’s displayed in previous matches.

MF, Junior Urso (65’), 6 — The Bear notched his seventh assist of the season with a nice headed pass to find Perea open at the top of the box following a long throw-in from Moutinho. Urso gave the Lions some needed energy on offense and was accurate on both of his long balls. He had 27 touches and 17 passes at an 82.4% success rate. The 33-year-old received some needed rest after playing nearly every minute of Orlando’s past five matches.

D, Kyle Smith (65’), 5 — Smith had 25 touches, two tackles, and two interceptions after coming on to replace Ruan. The damage had mostly been done by that point and he wasn’t able to create much on the offensive end as his only long ball was inaccurate and just one of his three crosses was successful. Smith had 14 passes at a 71.4% success rate and wasn’t part of any aerial duels.

MF, Cesar Araujo (84’), N/A — Coming on for Cartagena late in the match, Araujo had three touches and completed both of his passes. Philadelphia added its fifth goal shortly after he came on and there wasn’t enough time on the pitch for him to be graded.


The roster featured plenty of rotation following the club’s U.S. Open Cup win this past Wednesday. The Lions will have to shrug off this result as they get ready for critical matches against Atlanta United and Toronto FC this upcoming week. Let us know your thoughts in the comments and be sure to vote for your Man of the Match below.

Polling Closed

PlayerVotes
Mauricio Pereyra6
Andres Perea4
Junior Urso1
Someone else (Tell us who in the comments below)0

Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew

Find out what you should expect from the Columbus Crew on Saturday, courtesy of someone who knows them best.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

After returning from a successful trip to the West Coast, Orlando City will be staying in town for Memorial Day weekend. Next up on the schedule for the Lions is a visit from the reigning MLS Cup Champions, the Columbus Crew.

A date with Columbus means I spoke with Collin Johnson of the always excellent Massive Report, and he was kind enough to help bring us up to speed on what to expect from the Crew this year. I also answered some of Massive Report’s questions about Orlando City, which you can find over at their place.

Talk me through the Crew’s off-season transfer business. Who were some of the big departures, and who has been brought in to replace them?

Collin Johnson: It was a pretty quiet off-season from the Crew. They focused on extending current contracts (and getting rid of bad contracts) rather than bringing in a big name acquisition. The bigger news were the contracts they were able to get rid of. Kevin Molino’s $700k+ salary was bought out before the season started, while Julian Gressel ($900k+) opted to take a deal with Inter Miami after losing his place in the starting lineup during the 2023 MLS Cup playoffs.

Rudy Camacho, Steven Moreira, Darlington Nagbe, Mohamed Farsi, and Sean Zawadzki all signed new deals. Academy and Crew 2 midfielders Cole Mrowka and Taha Habroune signed full first-team deals, though both are expected to jump back and forth between the second team and the first team. Derrick Jones was signed as a free agent. Many thought the very tall defensive midfielder would slot in as a center back in the Wilfried Nancy system, but all of his time has been spent as a DM (and it has gone relatively well aside from a shocking red card against Charlotte).

The only transfer fee paid this off-season was, ironically, to Pachuca for Marino Hinestroza. Hinestroza is an MLS U22 Initiative player who plays a similar style to Alex Matan but is faster and a bit better at finishing. With Hinestroza on the field, Columbus looks to stretch defenses in a different way than the typical wingback defensive stretching.

Columbus has been excellent defensively, with the 13 goals conceded on the season tied for second-fewest in the league. What’s been working so well at the back?

CJ: The defensive recovery extends back to the 2023 season and probably has two factors. First is the team getting comfortable in the Wilfried Nancy system. The expectation is that players will hold onto the ball until the last second before playing a pass to get out of trouble. At times last year that resulted in turnovers and goals by opponents. You can really see this in the play of Yeven Cheberko. Cheberko struggled in his half season with the Black & Gold in 2023 but this season has played like a new signing, splitting time as the starting left center back. Cheberko has the ability to break multiple lines with his passing, and now that he has improved in his Nancy system confidence, he has begun to live up with the potential he had as a new signing.

The other factor is Rudy Camacho. Camacho joined in the summer transfer window from Montreal, so he was already familiar with the Nancy system. Immediately he slotted into the center spot of the back three and conducted the rest of the defense. As soon as he joined the team, the defense took a huge step forward.

The Crew have done about as good a job balancing Concacaf Champions Cup play and the MLS schedule as possible, and currently sit above the playoff line. How have they been able to find a good balance, when most teams struggle mightily in one competition or the other?

CJ: Realistically it has been a bit of a struggle. Columbus is getting results now but most of the matches during the meat of the Concacaf Champions Cup run were draws. When the Crew beat Montreal on May 16, that was their first league win since March 16. Still, grabbing some draws during that run and staying alive in the playoff hunt are absolutely accomplishments for this team. Part of the reason for this success is the team’s depth. Hinestroza adds another attacking option up top while Derrick Jones is able to spell Aidan Morris/Darlington Nagbe in the midfield. Zawadzki has been a Swiss Army knife for the Black & Gold, slotting in at nearly every position on the field aside from goalkeeper. Nancy has also been willing to use his substitutes after a 2023 season when his sub pattern was frustratingly limited.

The Black & Gold also have the good fortune to get a bye through the group stage of this summer’s Leagues Cup, so they can push a bit harder during a congested few months with the expectation of multiple weeks off in July.

Are there any players who will be unavailable due to injury, suspensions, etc.? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?

CJ: Cucho Hernandez is officially out for Saturday’s match. He has had a nagging back injury and it is expected that he is being held out as a precaution and to be healthy for the Concacaf Champions Cup final in June. Without Cucho these last two weeks, the Crew have grabbed back-to-back road wins for the first time in what seems like forever. Without Cucho, the attack is a bit more multi-faceted. Diego Rossi has picked up the slack and started to look like the former Golden Boot winner that he is.

Rossi will start with a target striker, assuming this is Christian Ramirez, and likely Alex Matan. Depending on the game state, Nancy will slot Jacen Russell-Rowe into Matan’s spot to attack with two target strikers up top. The midfield duo of Nagbe and Morris is a mainstay, though the team has tried to manage Morris’ minutes as the season has gone on. Expect to see Zawadzki or Jones replace Morris/Nagbe around the 75th or 80th minute. In the back we’ll see Yaw Yeboah, Malte Admundsen or Cheberko, Camacho, Steven Moreira, and Mohamed Farsi.

I’m guessing the below is what they roll out:
Patrick Schulte; Malte Amundsen, Rudy Camacho, Steven Moreira, Yaw Yeboah, Mohamed Farsi; Aidan Morris, Darlington Nagbe; Alex Matan, Christian Ramirez, Diego Rossi.

I don’t see Columbus grabbing a third straight road win but they are playing well right now so I’m guessing we see a hard-fought draw. Columbus 2-2 Orlando. 


Thank you to Collin for providing the scoop on the Crew. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/24/24

Orlando City prepares for the Crew, Barbra Banda an NWSL MVP favorite, Orlando Pride announce sleeve sponsor, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! The gauntlet of Orlando soccer home games starts tonight when the Orlando Pride take on the Portland Thorns in a clash of win streaks. I’m working for most of the weekend, but am looking forward to watching some soccer and playing my way through the Ace Attorney games during my spare time. For now though, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

Orlando City Gets Ready to Host the Crew

Orlando City is on a three-game unbeaten run and will take on the Columbus Crew Saturday night in an Eastern Conference showdown. The last time these two sides met was in the 2023 Eastern Conference semifinals with the Crew winning in extra time to eliminate the Lions. It’s the third consecutive road game for the Crew after winning 3-1 against both CF Montreal and the Chicago Fire. Saturday’s match is also the Crew’s last match before the Concacaf Champions Cup final on June 1. Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja spoke on how the Lions will be up to the task regardless of which players take the field for Columbus. Pareja also spoke about how Duncan McGuire is working his way back from the injury he suffered last week.

Barbra Banda Named MVP Frontrunner

ESPN updated its rankings of players in contention to be named NWSL MVP this season and Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda tops the list. The Zambian forward hasn’t been with the Pride for long, but she has scored six goals in six games to help the Pride win seven straight games. Opposing defenses haven’t figured out a way to stop her, and it’s fair to think of her as an MVP favorite alongside fellow attackers in the league like Sophia Smith and Temwa Chawinga. Pride defender Emily Sams also earned herself a spot on the list, ranking 11th. It’s nice to see her get some deserved recognition for her role in the Pride’s stellar defense this year.

Orlando Pride Announce Sleeve Sponsor

A partnership was announced between the Orlando Pride and Heart of Florida United Way, a charity that’s supported families in Central Florida for the past 85 years. As part of the partnership, Heart of Florida United Way will become the first sleeve sponsor for the Pride and its logo will be on the right sleeve of both of the Pride’s jerseys this year. A new ticket program is also being created for 50 tickets to be donated to a local charity for each Pride home game.

Orlando City Unveils Watch Party Schedule

The schedule for this Orlando City season’s watch parties is out, along with the lineup of this year’s included pubs. Each pub will have MLS Season Pass access for fans to watch Orlando’s games this year and there will be chances to win tickets and autographed items at the watch parties as well. There are three new pubs added to the lineup this year, including The Castle Irish Pub at College Park, Paddywagon Irish Pub in Dr. Phillips, and Winter Garden’s Hagan O’Reilly’s. The first watch party will be at The Hammered Lamb in Ivanhoe Village on June 1 when the Lions face off against the New York Red Bulls.

Free Kicks

  • Pride midfielder Evelina Duljan was called up to join Sweden’s U-23 team for the upcoming Four Nations Tournament.
  • NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman became the first woman to be named Sports Business Journal‘s Sports Executive of the Year.

That’s all I have for you this time around. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to earn all three points at home against the Crew?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Orlando City earned seven points during a three-match stretch over eight days. Now the Lions will look to keep things rolling against the Columbus Crew this Saturday night at Inter&Co Stadium. The Crew are currently sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference with 21 points compared to Orlando City in 10th with 16 points.

What do the Lions need to do to get a victory at home against the Crew?

Switch Focus

Orlando City has lucked out because Columbus striker Cucho Hernández will not play, as he is nursing a back injury. Hernández has often been a thorn in Orlando’s side when the clubs play, so his absence is definitely good news. However, that doesn’t mean that the defense can relax. The Crew still have a potent attack with players like Diego Rossi, Jacen Russell-Rowe, Aidan Morris, and others. Columbus has scored 19 goals so far this season, which is four more than Orlando’s 15. I think it is likely that Oscar Pareja will stick with the 3-5-2 formation, meaning the pressure will be on the back three of David Brekalo, Wilder Cartagena, and Rodrigo Schlegel.

Goals Needed

Orlando City left it late against San Jose before Jack Lynn scored in the 89th minute to give the Lions a victory. That’s not to say there weren’t wasted chances — because there were — but it was enough that night. It likely won’t be enough against Columbus. We don’t know the status of Duncan McGuire’s injury as of this writing, but I would be surprised to see him in the lineup, let alone getting the start. That means we will likely see Jack Lynn alongside Luis Muriel up top. Lynn is no McGuire, but he is able to get into good spaces in the box and has a nose for goal. Another goal from him or Muriel could make a big difference.

Scheduling Factors

I’m not saying that Wilfried Nancy will be looking ahead to the Concacaf Champions Cup final against Pachuca the following week, but a trophy is a trophy, and it could impact who he plays and for how long. He might be keeping Hernández out for precautionary reasons to allow him time to be ready for the final. It’s possible that he risks points against Orlando City in pursuit of hardware. Pareja doesn’t have it any easier with Orlando City playing a midweek match at the Chicago Fire next Wednesday before heading to New Jersey for a match against the New York Red Bulls on Saturday, June 1. May has been brutal for the Lions, and though the team has made the most of it so far, it doesn’t get any easier. How much will rotation affect Orlando’s ability to get all three points?


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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