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Orlando City vs. Atlanta United: Player Grades and Man of the Match

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After displaying a weakened team in Philadelphia over the weekend, Orlando City returned home to face Atlanta United Wednesday night. The team was looking to gain ground on the New York teams with a home result, but fell 1-0 to their Georgia rivals. Despite having more possession and doubling the opposition in shots, the Lions struggled to put shots on target, resulting in a devastating loss as they attempt to clinch a postseason spot, let alone claim a home playoff game.

Let’s look at how the Lions performed individually in the loss.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 6.5 — Gallese had an excellent game, despite conceding the game’s only goal. His saves in first-half injury time and in the 72nd minute kept the game scoreless. Those were two of his three saves on the night. The goal wasn’t his fault as lackluster defending allowed Thiago Almada to find himself free on goal.

D, Joao Moutinho, 6 — Overall, it was a pretty good night for Moutinho. Defensively, the left back had two interceptions and three clearances. On the attack, the defender completed 80.4% of his 46 passes, including one key pass. His 77 touches were second on the team, only behind Mauricio Pereyra. What hurts Moutinho is that he only completed one of his seven crosses, a problem for the Lions in this game.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 6.5 — This was a really good game for Schlegel, who was strong in the defensive and attacking end. Defensively, Schlegel had one tackle, one interception, three clearances, and two blocked shots. He completed 84.9% of his 53 passes and two of his four long balls. He was involved in the Atlanta goal, but it was a nice touch to free Almada and Schlegel was in the correct position to avoid his man getting a shot off.

D, Antonio Carlos, 5.5 — Carlos wasn’t as active in the attack as Schlegel, recording one interception and one clearance. But he completed 90.4% of his 52 passes and an impressive 13 of his 15 long balls. He missed the net badly on his lone headed shot attempt. Unfortunately, Carlos’ biggest contribution was an poorly-timed slide tackle attempt on the Atlanta goal, where he didn’t even touch the ball. The last defender, Carlos slid in, allowing Almada to tap the ball around him and have a free shot on target. That mistake is what knocks his grade down a little.

D, Kyle Smith, 6 — Smith had a solid game, with one tackle and one interception. He completed 86.7% of his 30 passes, including one key pass. Similar to Moutinho, Smith only completed one of his six crosses, which in part doomed the Lions to defeat. The key play from Smith in this game was a clearance off the line in the 37th minute that would’ve gone in. He was taken off for Ruan in the 58th minute, but it was due to Ruan’s attacking presence rather than Smith’s performance.

MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 7 (MotM) — Pereyra was the conductor of the team that Orlando City fans love to see. Everything the Lions did going forward went through the captain. He led the team in touches (89), passes (71), key passes (five), and tackles (three). Pereyra completed 85.9% of his 71 passes and two of his four crosses, also a team high. He took two off-target shots, though one missed by inches, resulting in yells from the crowd as they thought the ball went in.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 6.5 — With Cesar Araujo out with an illness, Cartagena was thrown into the starting lineup for this important game and he played very well. The defensive midfielder recorded one tackle and one interception on defense and was terrific going forward. He completed all of his 34 passes and four long balls, including one key pass. While he may not have had the impact of Araujo, it was a terrific performance by the Peruvian.

MF, Facundo Torres, 5.5 — Torres has been arguably Orlando City’s best player but this wasn’t his best game. The attacking midfielder completed 76.7% of his 43 passes but had two key passes. He completed one of his two long balls and took two off-target shots. Torres helped out defensively with two tackles and one clearance but he’ll be looking for a better performance on Saturday.

MF, Junior Urso, 6 — While Urso didn’t have a tremendous impact on the game, it was a solid performance. The midfielder completed 93.3% of his 30 passes, including one key pass. He had a chance to score in the 21st minute when he headed an Ercan Kara cross towards goal, but he didn’t get enough on it and hit it close to goalkeeper Raul Gudino, who got down to make the stop. Urso also completed three long balls in 74 minutes..

MF, Ivan Angulo, 5.5 — Angulo came off with Urso late in the game, replaced by Tesho Akindele in the 75th minute. While Angulo is an upgrade on Jake Mulraney, it wasn’t Angulo’s best performance. He completed 84.6% of his 26 passes but no key passes. He took three shots but all were off target — the first by just inches — and completed one of his two crosses.

F, Ercan Kara, 5 — Kara wasn’t very involved in this one, only recording 21 touches. He completed 44.9% of his nine passes but the Austrian’s main contribution is expected to be in the final third. Kara only had one shot in this game, getting his head to a good cross by Smith. However, he headed it just wide when he should’ve gotten it on target. Kara’s first-half cross to Urso was a good one but unfortunately didn’t lead to a goal. Opposing back lines will never need to mark Kara tightly if his teammates continue to ignore his calls for the ball when he’s in position to split the center backs, as he again was several times in this game.

Substitutes

D, Ruan (58’), 6 — Ruan came on for Smith in the 58th minute as the Lions looked for more in the attack. The usual starting right back did well, completing 70% of his 20 passes and recording two key passes. Additionally, he completed one of his three crosses. Ruan’s three tackles were tied for the team lead and he also recorded an inception.

F, Benji Michel (58’), 5 — At the same time as the Ruan substitution, Michel came on for Kara. Oscar Pareja was looking for some more energy up top but Michel didn’t provide much for his team. He only completed 66.7% of his nine passes and all three of his shots were off target.

MF, Andres Perea (65’), 5.5 — For the most part, Perea was pretty good in this game. He completed all of his 22 passes, including two long balls. However, his most impactful moment of the game was getting caught flat-footed as a quick one-two resulted in Atlanta’s goal. He fired a shot off the facing of the upper deck that he should have done better with and he had the game’s final shot when he headed a corner cross straight at the goalkeeper from a few yards out.

MF, Jake Mulraney (74’), 5.5 — Mulraney came on for Urso in the 74th minute. The midfielder completed 83.3% of his six passes, including two key passes and a long ball. Just after coming on, a lovely cross to Akindele nearly resulted in the equalizer, but Gudino made a good save. That was his only completed cross in seven attempts and took three off-target shots.

F, Tesho Akindele (75’), 5.5 — Akindele came on with Mulraney and the two almost tied the game in the 76th minute. A good ball by Mulraney found the head of Akindele, who forced Gudino into a good diving save. Akindele had one other off-target shot but that was his contribution to the game. Most importantly, he was unable to find the game-tying goal.


That’s how I saw the individual performances for Orlando City in this midweek clash. Let us know how you saw the game in the comments and don’t forget to vote on your Man of the Match.

Polling Closed

PlayerVotes
Pedro Gallese12
Mauricio Pereyra3
Wilder Cartagena0
Rodrigo Schlegel3
Other (Tell us in the comments below)2

Opinion

Examining Orlando City’s 3-5-2

Let’s talk about Orlando City’s three-center-back formations, and try to determine if they should be the new norm.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

In the last two Orlando City matches against the Philadelphia Union and Inter Miami, Oscar Pareja has deployed his team in 3-5-2, and 3-4-1-2 formations, respectively. While Papi typically prefers to set his team up in a 4-2-3-1, injuries to fullbacks Rafael Santos, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, and Mikey Halliday have necessitated some creative problem solving. The two uses of the 3-5-2 and its slightly tweaked variant have been met with success, as the Lions have taken four points from their last two games and, as a result, there’s been some calls online for the team to persist with the formation. With that being the case, let’s do some digging into how the formation has served OCSC, and try to determine if it’s a viable option going forward.

A big thing to note with Orlando’s use of a three-man back line is the presence of Wilder Cartagena as the middle center back. It isn’t his natural position, but Rodrigo Schlegel’s suspension for the Union game meant that Pareja needed to conjure another center back from somewhere, and he elected to shift Cartagena into the back line rather than use Kyle Smith or one of Abdi Salim or Thomas Williams.

Against Philly, a normal 3-5-2 was used, with Pedro Gallese in goal, David Brekalo, Cartagena, and Robin Jansson in the back line, Ivan Angulo and Facundo Torres as wingbacks, Nico Lodeiro, Cesar Araujo, and Martin Ojeda in the midfield, and Luis Muriel and Duncan McGuire up top. The only tweaks against Miami were Schlegel replacing the injured Jansson and Ojeda pushing up to sit behind the two strikers in a 3-4-1-2 formation.

In the Union game, Orlando did a great job at pushing numbers forward quickly when it won the ball, and all three of its goals came in situations where the attack was pressed quickly when the Lions won possession. The Lions took 13 shots, with eight of them from inside the box, and totaled 1.25 expected goals (xG). The team’s best chances of the night came with McGuire’s headed opener and Muriel’s second goal, as both came from inside the box and both were converted. Against Miami, the Lions took 14 shots, with seven from inside the box, and totaled .69 xG. OCSC’s best chance came from Martin Ojeda’s 32nd-minute shot from inside the box, which was well saved by Drake Callender.

In essence, Orlando created more chances against the Union, and was more clinical about finishing those chances. However, the difference in attacking output wasn’t drastic, and we might be able to put it down to Miami being a better team than Philly and the Lions playing the Herons on short rest.

Against Philly, OCSC had a rough outing defensively. While one of the Union goals came from a penalty kick, the home team took a whopping 29 shots during the game with all but eight from outside the box, for a total of 3.85 xG. Against Miami, the Herons took seven shots with six inside the box for a total of .60 xG. Aside from Gallese stonewalling Luis Suarez just minutes into the game in a 1-v-1 chance, the defense largely did a good job of limiting chances.

Even accounting for two penalty kick attempts inflating Philadelphia’s expected goals, the Lions did a far better job at limiting dangerous chances against Miami. That could be due to the team being more comfortable with the defensive setup after using it for a game or a more cautious approach by Oscar Pareja due to Miami’s considerable firepower, even without the injured Lionel Messi.

The numbers and the eye test say that there’s enough reason to consider continuing to use the formation going forward. The Lions have shown that they can create chances and score goals, and they’ve shown that they can have a solid defensive outing, although it would be nice to demonstrate both characteristics in the same game. That, my friends, is where things start to get tricky, because persisting with the 3-5-2 or a variation of it isn’t as simple as obeying what the numbers say.

Let’s talk about Orlando’s personnel. Thorhallsson and Santos both seem to be working their way back from injury, and once healthy they could theoretically slot in at the two wingback positions, which should help Orlando avoid the defensive mess we saw against the Union. That means we need to figure out what to do with Torres and Angulo. Despite his slow start to the season, Torres is a guy you have to have on the field, and in order to do that, I propose slotting him into Ojeda’s spot in the 3-4-1-2. The problem there is that he hasn’t looked super comfortable when operating as a central playmaker, but this could be resolved by instructing Muriel to drop off McGuire and play a little deeper, and giving Facu free reign to roam into the wide areas where he’s more comfortable.

Assuming Jansson will be missing for a few more games, I think you keep Cartagena at center back, considering how well he’s played there. Ojeda and Angulo come off the bench as impact subs, and you can rotate Ojeda into Lodeiro’s spot in the midfield as necessary to protect the Uruguayan’s legs. Once Jansson is back, he can slot in as the third center back, and Cartagena can move into the midfield, with Nico likely being the man sacrificed in games where Pareja wants more defensive stability, or Cartagena/Araujo dropping to the bench if Papi wants to go in guns blazing. I don’t particularly love that option though, as you generally want your best players on the field, and I have a hard time justifying breaking up the Araujo-Cartagena partnership that’s seen so much success.

The immediate problem with any three-center-back formation is Araujo’s yellow card suspension, which will mean he’s unavailable for Saturday’s game against San Jose. Theoretically, Cartagena could move up the field to take his place and Smith could slot in for the Peruvian, or Felipe could start in Araujo’s place, but if Santos and Thorhallsson are fit enough to start, I think we’ll see the return of a four-man back line. Otherwise, the same lineup would be starting its third game in eight days, and on a West Coast trip to boot. That seems like a recipe for disaster, so while I think there’s a way to trot out a 3-5-2/3-4-1-2, I don’t think we’ll see it on Saturday.


In short, the two formations have shown enough promise for them to merit some more looks, while bearing in mind that we’ve only seen a small sample size. The biggest challenge with continued use comes when Orlando has a clean bill of health and you try to figure out how to get as many of your best players on the field as you can. At that point it becomes a question of whether one of the new formations maximizes this team’s strengths, or if the best course of action is to revert to a 4-2-3-1 and keep the 3-5-2 in the back pocket for when its needed.

Either way, the strategy is going to be something interesting to keep an eye on going forward.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/17/24

MLSPA releases player salaries, Duncan McGuire discusses move to Blackburn, Orlando Pride prepare for the Seattle Reign, and more.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Happy Friday! The weekend is nearly here, with plenty of soccer both here in the domestic leagues and abroad. I have a pretty packed weekend but am looking forward to watching Orlando City and the Orlando Pride in action. It should be a nice next few days, so let’s get it started with today’s links!

MLSPA Releases Player Salaries

The Major League Soccer Players Association unveiled the base salary and guaranteed compensation information for every player under contract with the league as of April 25 — except Wilder Cartagena, apparently. Luis Muriel is the highest-paid Orlando City player, and his $4.3 million in guaranteed compensation is the 12th most in the league, while his base salary is just over $2.83. As for other Orlando newcomers, Nico Lodeiro’s compensation is $800,000 and David Brekalo’s is $683,000.

Lionel Messi predictably tops the list of all players with $20.4 million guaranteed for playing with Inter Miami. To put that number into perspective, it’s more than the compensation of every team in the league except his own team (Miami), Toronto FC, Nashville SC, and the Chicago Fire. Orlando City is 22nd in the league in compensation, clocking in at $15.07 million.

Duncan McGuire Weighs In on Moving to Blackburn

Orlando City forward Duncan McGuire had a hurricane of an off-season due to a transfer saga that nearly saw him join Blackburn Rovers in England. An administration error by Blackburn prevented the move from going through, and McGuire ultimately returned to Orlando. In the time since, there have been reports that Orlando offered him a new contract and that Blackburn still wants him to join in the summer. McGuire spoke about whether he is still interested in a move to Blackburn after the difficult experience.

“It’s tough to say,” McGuire told GOAL.”That was a pretty bad mistake, a pretty bad mistake by them. I’d be open to maybe having a conversation but it would have to be a lot to get me to go back there. On the plane ride back, I just felt like my tail was between my legs. I asked my agent how often this happens and he was like ‘This doesn’t happen’.

“I didn’t burn bridges with my teammates or have it be like ‘Oh you wanted to leave and now you’re back’. When I got back, it was like I never left.”

Orlando Pride Prepare for the Seattle Reign

The Orlando Pride will take their six-game win streak on the road for a match against the Seattle Reign Sunday night. The Reign are coming off of a 4-0 loss to the Portland Thorns in their sixth defeat of the season, but Pride Head Coach Seb Hines discussed how the Reign played better in that match than the score suggests. The Pride have also never won in Washington, and the turf and atmosphere of Lumen Field could give Orlando some trouble after a long trip. Injuries, particularly to the midfield, have made things difficult for the Pride, but midfielder Morgan Gautrat detailed how the team’s chemistry has helped them get results despite the adversity.

Nashville SC Fires Gary Smith

Nashville SC has parted ways with Gary Smith, who had been the club’s only head coach while in MLS. Smith joined Nashville back in 2018, coaching the team for two seasons in the USL Championship before. With a defensive style, Smith led the team to MLS playoff appearances in all four years but couldn’t put together a deep run. Nashville is currently 10th in the Eastern Conference and Rumba Munthali will serve as the club’s interim head coach while the club searches for a new permanent coach.

Charlotte FC Transfers Enzo Copetti Out

Another Designated Player is leaving Charlotte FC, as the club transferred Enzo Copetti to Rosario Central in Argentina’s top flight. The forward recorded eight goals and three assists across all competitions while with Charlotte, and has played less than 500 minutes this season. Copetti is the latest Designated Player transferred out since Dean Smith took over as Charlotte’s head coach, with Kamil Jozwiak sent to Granada and Karol Swiderski loaned to Hellas Verona. Despite the turnover, Charlotte sits fifth in the Eastern Conference and could make some noise this season if it brings in the right players in the summer transfer window.

Free Kicks

  • Former Lion Miguel Gallardo spoke with the folks over at The Blazing Musket about the New England Revolution and the art of goalkeeping.
  • Our condolences go out to the friends and family of Derek Sanderson, who played for many teams across many leagues back in the 1980s, including the American Soccer League’s Orlando Lions.

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. Inter Miami CF: Player Grades and Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions perform in the scoreless draw against Inter Miami?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Well, it wasn’t the most exciting of games, but that’s what you get when you put a rivalry game midweek. Still, Orlando City got a point against a good team, still hasn’t lost to Inter Miami at home, and looked the most defensively solid that it has in quite some time. Here’s how I graded the individual Orlando performances from an even, defensive affair.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 7.5 — This was another strong performance from Gallese, after he had a good showing in Saturday’s win over the Philadelphia Union. He was called into action mere minutes into the game, and made a great save to deny Luis Suarez in a 1-v-1 situation. He made three saves on the night, but didn’t face any real danger aside from Suarez’s early chance. His distribution wasn’t at its best, as he only passed with 65% accuracy on the night, but he’s far from the only Lion who had some trouble delivering their passes. Overall, he commanded his area well, came off his line at the right times, and made the big save when it was needed. He’s starting to look more like his old self.

D, David Brekalo, 6.5 — Like Gallese, Brekalo built off a good performance in his last game out. He made an excellent block in the seventh minute to deny Robert Taylor, although the play may have been called offside anyway (it wasn’t on the field). He was busy defensively and ended his night with three clearances, two interceptions, one block, and one aerial duel won. He popped up on the offensive end with one shot, which he put on target, and a passing accuracy of 88%.

D, Wilder Cartagena, 7 — If I didn’t know the Peruvian wasn’t a natural center back, then I never would have guessed it. He’s looked a natural at the position through two games. The play he made in the 54th minute to head a ball out for a corner while tracking back towards his own goal with Taylor draped all over him was excellent, and he made several timely interventions while generally keeping things very calm in the center of the back three. He also recorded three clearances, two interceptions, and one block on defense, as well as committing a foul. He also drew a foul of his own and delivered his passes with 80% accuracy. He gets a half-point bump over his compatriots for being a midfielder by trade and looking as good as he did back there.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 6.5 — Schlegel made his return from a red card suspension, and had a much calmer game than his last time out. His four clearances led all players, and he also won an aerial duel, and recorded a tackle and two interceptions while committing a foul. Like Cartagena, he drew a foul of his own, and also took one shot (blocked), while passing with 87% accuracy. I was a bit worried about his tendency to burn a little too hot during high pressure games, but he turned in a steady and reliable performance.  

WB/F, Facundo Torres, 6.5 — Like Angulo, Torres’ defensive responsibilities at the wingback position meant he wasn’t as involved on offense as we’ve become accustomed to seeing, although he did move up to forward late in the match shortly before subbing off in stoppage time. He took one shot (off target), drew one foul, made two key passes, completed one cross, and passed the ball with 83% accuracy. On defense, he contributed a tackle, a clearance, and one aerial duel won. He’s always started slowly and the constraints of his position in the last two games are what they are, but this team needs to find a way to get him firing on all cylinders. The Lions are better when Torres is balling, and so far this year he hasn’t been.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 6.5 — As the only true defensive midfielder, Araujo had his work cut out for him in this one, but he performed that work pretty well. He finished with two tackles, an interception, one completed dribble, one aerial duel won, three fouls draw, and a passing accuracy of 95% on 62 attempted passes. The big blemish on his night was from a boneheaded and unnecessary foul on Julian Gressel, which means he’ll be suspended for Saturday’s trip to San Jose. If nothing else, he’ll get a little rest after doing a bunch of running these last two games.

MF, Martin Ojeda, 5.5 — We got to see Ojeda as the no. 10 sitting behind the pair of Luis Muriel and Duncan McGuire, and it just didn’t quite work. The statistics say that he didn’t have a bad night, as he finished with two interceptions, three shots (one off target, one on target, one blocked), two key passes, two crosses, and 87% passing accuracy. The eye test says that things weren’t fully clicking though, and in a game where he was largely freed of defensive responsibilities, he didn’t have the necessary impact at the other end of the field, although Drake Callender did very well to save his low shot in the 32nd minute. Aside from that, his best opportunity to make something happen came when he had an excellent chance to put the ball on a plate for a wide-open Torres at the back post in the 69th minute, but failed to see him, and instead played a harmless low cross that was cleared out for a corner.

MF, Nico Lodeiro, 6.5 — Asked to help facilitate play from deep, Lodeiro looked lively in the first half, although his influence waned as the game went on, which was true of most of the offensively inclined Lions. He totaled one clearance, one shot (which was blocked), one completed dribble, one foul drawn, two key passes, two crosses, and 94% passing accuracy. Lodeiro wasn’t as involved on the offensive end as he probably would have liked to be, but he did some important tracking back on multiple occasions when Miami sent runners from deep during its attacks.

WB, Ivan Angulo, 5.5 — Angulo seemed to be the man Miami singled out to try to pick on, as the visitors repeatedly tested him with chipped or diagonal balls in behind him. They were tests that he failed on several occasions, as he fell asleep on Franco Negri’s back-post run in the seventh minute, and again on Jordi Alba’s run in the 74th. Both occasions required timely interventions from his teammates to spare his blushes, but the visitors went after him for a reason. His night finished with one tackle, one clearance, two interceptions, one completed dribble, and one foul drawn, while passing with 90% accuracy.

F, Luis Muriel, 7.5 (MotM) — Listen, I get being frustrated with players when they don’t hit the ground running and light the league on fire. But for the people who have been vocal online about thinking Muriel looks washed, I just don’t know what to tell you. He contributed a tackle and a clearance, took three shots (one on target, two blocked), drew a foul, won an aerial duel, and completed two crosses and three key passes while passing with 74% accuracy. Oh, and his six completed dribbles were the most of any player on the field by a country mile. Time and again he beat one or multiple Miami players and got the ball into a dangerous area, and his pass in the 32nd minute to set up Ojeda’s shot was genius, as was his run in the 69th minute to set up the same man. He drew a yellow card on Robert Taylor after stealing the ball from the Miami forward in the 65th minute. His only blemishes on the night come from the counter that he and Torres couldn’t manage to fashion a shot from (a big blemish), and the “foul” he committed, and the subsequent booking he was given (much smaller ones). Still, it was a lively, involved performance, and he gets his second straight Man of the Match award.

F, Duncan McGuire, 6.5 — Like his strike partner, Muriel, McGuire also took three shots, one of which was off target, while the other two were blocked. He also recorded two key passes, two completed dribbles, one tackle, and one clearance. I would have liked to have seen him try to stretch Miami’s back line more than he did, but Oscar Pareja may well have given him different instructions. His work tracking back defensively was impressive, but it was an indictment of Orlando’s play in the second half that he had to pop up back there as often as he did.

Substitutes

WB, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, (79′), N/A — Brought on for Muriel, Dagur Dan slotted in at right wingback and had an extended cameo appearance, which wasn’t enough to earn a fair grade. Still, he contributed one clearance and two key passes, while accurately delivering all four of the passes he attempted.

WB, Rafael Santos, (80′), N/A — Santos came on for Angulo but went over to fill the left wingback role. He didn’t record any defensive statistics but completed two dribbles and 91% of his passes, and he was involved in some half-chances for the Lions as the game wound down.

F, Jack Lynn, (85′), N/A Lynn entered the game for McGuire as the clock ticked ever closer to the 90th minute. He wasn’t super involved, and completed two of the three passes he attempted. He’ll want to have the other one back though, as he did really well to bring down a difficult ball and hold play up, only to misplay an easy pass to Santos with his left foot, which stopped a break before it started.

F, Yutaro Tsukada, (90’+3), N/A We got the briefest of looks at the man the Lions signed to a short-term agreement from OCB for the next two matches. Despite coming on late, he had a chance to make the biggest impact of the night, but volleyed a tricky chance over the bar and out of play with the last action of the night.


How did you see the individual performances in this game? Make your voice heard down in the comments, and be sure to vote in our Man of the Match poll. Vamos Orlando!

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