Orlando City defeated Toronto FC 4-0 at Exploria Stadium on Saturday night. It was a dominating performance from the Lions heading into the international break. Earning all three points at home was a big help as Orlando City is looking to make the playoffs for a third season in a row. It was also the most goals scored by the Lions during the 2022 regular season.
Let’s look at how the Lions performed individually in the win.
GK, Pedro Gallese, 6.5 — El Pulpo didn’t have a lot to do on the night since Toronto only took 11 shots, and only three of those were on target. His toughest challenge of the night came on a reaction save in the 88th minute. This was Gallese’s ninth clean sheet in the regular season, and his first since the 1-0 over New York Red Bulls on Aug. 13.
D, Joao Moutinho, 6 — It was another solid outing from Moutinho. On defense, he made two tackles, three clearances, and committed two fouls. He stood up former Lion Richie Laryea in the 61st minute, taking the ball right off his foot. He did receive a yellow card in the 38th minute for a hand to the face as he tried to create some separation. Moutinho sent in six crosses on the night with the one in the 48th minute resulting in an own goal by Lukas MacNaughton.
D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 6.5 — Schlegel showed why he’s the best backup center back in MLS. He had two tackles, seven clearances, and one blocked shot. He passed the ball at an impressive 91.7% rate and completed five of eight long balls on the night. Long balls like those are something that Orlando City has missed with Robin Jansson out due to injury, so it was nice for Schlegel to provide that for the Lions.
D, Antonio Carlos, 6.5 — Carlos was determined to get into the attack against Toronto. He took two shots — one on target — and provided the nifty back heel pass to Facundo Torres that led to the first goal. He was his typical efficient self on defense with two tackles, six interceptions, and two clearances. He passed at an 84.4% rate and was successful on one of four long balls.
D, Ruan, 6 — Ruan was his typical self. He played pretty well in defense with one tackle, one interception, and one blocked shot in the 73rd minute that saved a goal. He attempted two crosses, one of which actually made it into the 6-yard box, though Kara wasn’t able to do anything with it. He subbed off for Kyle Smith in the 80th minute.
MF, Wilder Cartagena, 6.5 — Cartagena did exactly what he was brought in to do — be an effective backup for César Araújo. He made three tackles and two interceptions on defense. He also got involved in the offense, taking one shot and making two key passes. He passed at an 88.9% rate and completed five of seven long balls. This was a very solid performance from the Peruvian.
MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 6.5 — The captain once again played a little deeper in the midfield providing more defense while still directing the offense. Defensively he made one tackle and had two interceptions. Offensively, he did not take any shots but did have two key passes, including a perfect through ball to Kara for Orlando City’s second goal. He completed 84.4% of his passes, including five of five long balls. He was subbed off for Andres Perea in the 71st minute.
MF, Ivan Angulo, 8 (MotM) — From the start, Iván Angulo was all over the pitch on both offense and defense. Angulo led the team with five shots — two on target — and contributed two key passes. He had a team-high 92.6% passing rate on 27 passes, with one cross. He completed his only long ball, and his only through ball provided the assist on Tesho Akindele’s goal. On defense, he made two interceptions, and on clearance. Most importantly, his work rate was outstanding. He was everywhere along the left side, and seemed to be completely in tune with Torres. He figured in three of the four goals, getting a primary assist on Akindele’s, a secondary assist on Torres’ opener, and his pass sent Moutinho to the end line on the play that resulted in the own goal. This was Angulo’s best match so far as a Lion and as such it was deserving of our pick for Man of the Match.
MF, Junior Urso, 6.5 — The Bear put in his normal efficient shift. He sniffed out trouble in Toronto’s half before it could develop. He had three dribbles and worked well with Pereyra and Torres in attack. His only shot was on target, but it was saved. He passed at an impressive 91.2% rate, with two key passes, and connected on three of his four long balls.
MF, Facundo Torres, 7.5 — Torres continued his run of good form scoring the first goal of the match in the 9th minute. After receiving the back heel pass from Carlos, he moved from the right side, along the top of the box, and finally smashed the ball inside the near post with his left foot. It was such a perfect shot that he froze Toronto keeper Quentin Westberg. As I mentioned, he and Angulo were seemingly reading each other’s minds. He almost scored a brace on a pass from Angulo, but he hit the left post. To be especially fair, the angle on that shot wasn’t great. He finished with three shots — one on target — and one key pass. He drew four fouls, and made one interception. He wasn’t perfect, as he passed at an 81.2% rate, and had a giveaway in the 60th minute that was the result of poor communication with Urso. Regardless, this was another excellent performance from the Young Designated Player.
F, Ercan Kara, 6.5 — Kara showed what he can do when given proper service. His run on Pereyra’s assist in the 22nd minute was perfectly timed and his finish was clinical. He almost added an assist when he chested the ball in the box to Angulo for shot that resulted in a corner kick rather than a goal. Kara’s second shot was not on target and seems to have been an homage to Carlos Rivas, as it hit the Heineken sign. Kara actually assisted on the defensive end as well, making one interception. He was subbed off in the 71st minute for Benji Michel.
F, Benji Michel (71’), 5 — Michel only had six touches after coming on for Kara, and two of those were aerials he won. The other four touches were passes, but he only completed one of them. He probably should have won a free kick and a red card on Shane O’Neill for denial of a goal-scoring opportunity on a late potential breakaway but the foul wasn’t given. The important thing is he didn’t do any harm and helped the team see out the victory.
MF, Andrés Perea (71’), 6 — Perea was pretty active after he came on for Pereyra. He took two shots, including a header that went wide in the 95th minute. He passed at an 83.3% rate, with one key pass, and he completed one of two long balls. Defensively, he made four tackles, one interception, and committed two fouls. A very solid night for the young man.
D, Kyle Smith (80’), 5.5 — The Accountant didn’t have any last-minute heroics in this match, and that is fine. The match was well in hand before he entered the match, and he helped see it out. Defensively, he made one tackle, one interception, and one clearance. Smith made one key pass — a good ball to Perea that was headed wide — and one cross.
F, Tesho Akindele (80’), 6.5 — Akindele scored his third goal of the season in the 84th minute to really emphasize how over the match was at that point. He made a nifty little move to run onto the pass from Angulo, and one-timed the ball inside the far post. Akindele also contributed a key pass.
MF, Nicholas Gioacchini (85’), N/A — Gioacchini came on late for Cartagena. He only had three touches, and passed at a 33.3% rate.
That’s how I saw the individual performances for Orlando City in this Eastern Conference bout. Let us know how you saw the game in the comments and don’t forget to vote on your Man of the Match.
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2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Kyle Smith
Let’s look back at The Accountant’s fifth MLS season.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)
- Alex Freeman: (11/29/23)
Lion Links: 12/1/23
Rodrigo Schlegel fined, MLS roster updates, USWNT faces China tomorrow, and more.
Welcome to December, Mane Landers! It always feels like a good sign when a month starts on a Friday. I don’t have many plans this weekend beyond helping a friend move and trying to make pad Thai for the first time. It should be a nice next few days to reset after a hectic week. But for now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.
MLS Issues Disciplinary Rulings After Playoff Games
Orlando City center back Rodrigo Schlegel was fined an undisclosed amount by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for not leaving the field in a timely manner after receiving a second yellow card in the team’s playoff match with the Columbus Crew. Schlegel did not crowd the referee or plead his case disruptively, but he did linger a bit before exiting the match. It was one of many fines handed out by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for violations during the playoffs, and Crew forward Cucho Hernandez was fined for embellishment for going to ground clutching his face after Schlegel shielded the ball from him.
The Vancouver Whitecaps players and staff received fines and suspensions for their actions during and after their playoff match with LAFC on Nov. 5. Head Coach Vanni Sartini was fined $20,000 and suspended for an additional five games for entering the field of play in a confrontational manner and his comments about the refereeing following his team’s elimination. Vancouver defender Mathias Laborda was also handed a one-match suspension for his actions during the match.
MLS Teams Update Rosters as Deadline Looms
The deadline for MLS teams to decline contract options is today and clubs around the league are getting their affairs in order. The Portland Timbers confirmed that Sebastian Blanco won’t be with the team next year, as he was out of contract after seven seasons with the club. Designated Player Jaroslaw Niezgoda and fellow forward Franck Boli had their options declined by Portland as well. FC Dallas triggered the options on the contracts of midfielder duo Asier Illarramendi and Liam Frasier, while declining the options for midfielder Facundo Quignon and defender Jose Martinez. The New York Red Bulls kept a key part of their defense by signing Dylan Nealis to a contract through the 2024 season. Nashville SC declined seven options, and veterans Dax McCarty and Fafa Picault are out of contract. Both players could be worth keeping an eye on as an Orlando supporter, depending on if Wilder Cartagena and Ivan Angulo will return. According to The Athletic‘s Tom Bogert, McCarty is not likely to return to Nashville.
Racing Louisville Names Beverly Yanez as Head Coach
Beverly Yanez was announced as Racing Louisville’s next head coach after serving as an assistant coach during the 2023 season. The 35-year-old retired as a player in 2020 and was an assistant coach with NJ/NY Gotham FC for two years before joining Louisville prior to this season. Louisville has yet to reach the playoffs since joining the NWSL in 2021 and Yanez is now the club’s third head coach. She’s earned plenty of praise from Louisville’s players and it will be interesting to see how her first season as a head coach goes in 2024.
Alejandro Bedoya Receives Impact Award
Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya won the MLS Impact Award, along with a $100,000 contribution by Audi to The Philadelphia Equity Alliance. Bedoya has worked with the nonprofit to promote inclusive economic growth and reduce poverty. He was also named 2022 MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year for his efforts to make a difference in the Philadelphia community. The Crew’s Darlington Nagbe and Nashville’s Taylor Washington were the other finalists for this year’s award.
Analyzing China Ahead of USWNT Friendlies
The United States Women’s National Team will close out its 2023 schedule with a pair of friendlies against China this month. The two nations will clash tomorrow at 3 p.m. in Fort Lauderdale before playing again in Frisco on Tuesday at 8 p.m. Although China lost all three of its group stage games in this past summer’s World Cup, it recently won the bronze medal in the Asian Games. China fell short in Olympic qualifying though, and 2022 AFC Women’s Coach of the Year Shui Qingxia’s contract was terminated, with Wang Jun taking over in an interim capacity for these friendlies. The USWNT should be able to find success on set pieces and crosses, although China has been working on strength training this year to compensate for that weakness. Tang Jiali, Zhang Linyan, and Shen Menglu are a few of the players in China’s versatile attack that could spell trouble for the Americans.
- Orlando Pride defender Rafaelle started as Brazil’s captain and Marta and Adriana came off the bench in a 4-3 win over Japan in a friendly. In her international debut, 19-year-old forward Priscila gave Brazil the late winner. The two teams will play again on Sunday.
- The Kansas City Current dedicated their press box to journalist and Kansas City native Grant Wahl.
- The New England Revolution have promoted Curt Onalfo to sporting director after four years as the club’s technical director. Onalfo served as the interim sporting director after Bruce Arena’s resignation in September and now gets the job fulltime.
- The MLS Players Association released a statement regarding Matt Miazga’s three-game suspension.
- Pierre Emerick-Aubamayeng scored a bicycle kick and a late winner as part of his hat trick in Marseille’s 4-3 win over Ajax in the Europa League.
- The 2023 Women’s College Cup semifinals kick off tonight, with Florida State facing Clemson and BYU playing Stanford. There are many talented players in action who are worth watching tonight before the NWSL Draft next month.
- Lyon, which is last in Ligue 1 with just seven points from 12 games, has sacked Fabio Grosso after less than three months as head coach.
That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!
2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Kyle Smith
2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Abdi Salim
Orlando Pride Sign Finnish Goalkeeper Sofia Manner
Lion Links: 11/29/23
Lion Links: 11/28/23
Lion Links: 11/27/23
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