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Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Player Grades and Man of the Match

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It’s never easy with this team, is it? Orlando City SC is back in the MLS Cup playoffs for the third straight year, but had to do it the hard way in a 2-1 win over the Columbus Crew at Exploria Stadium on Decision Day. Junior Urso and Facundo Torres nullified Derrick Etienne’s goal, and the Lions will now face CF Montreal in the first round of the playoffs.

Here’s how I graded Orlando’s players in Sunday’s heart-pounding win.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 8 (MotM) — El Pulpo rebounded from the midweek loss to Miami in style. He made five saves on the day, several of which were seriously impressive. His first-half stonewalling of Cucho Hernandez nearly defied belief, as the Peruvian international got down low to his right to tip the ball onto the post and preserve a draw that wouldn’t last. It didn’t stop there though, as he made two late, great saves on Lucas Zelarayan to preserve Orlando’s slim lead and help put the Lions through to the playoffs. Gallese was successful on four of his seven long balls and completed 83.3% of his 18 passes. He takes the plaudits in this one.

D, Kyle Smith, 6 — Orlando Head Coach Oscar Pareja pulled a fast one in this game. It was expected that Smith would partner with Rodrigo Schlegel in central defense, only for him to be deployed at left back while Joao Moutinho was slotted inside. Despite the surprise, Smith had a solid game, notching two tackles, a clearance, a cross, and two accurate long balls while passing at a 77.8% clip. He also played roughly the last 20 minutes on a yellow card and was smart to avoid picking up another.

D, Joao Moutinho, 6 — I was originally quite fearful when I saw Moutinho at center back, as I had doubts about his ability to deal with some of the more physical aspects the position demands. As it turns out, I had no cause for concern, as he put in a steady performance in an unfamiliar role. His passing rate of 93.8% was excellent, and he also completed two long balls. Moutinho didn’t have any defensive stats, but he did have a shot that was off target. It will be nice to have Antonio Carlos back next week, but Joao did what he needed to do when it counted.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 7 — Schlegel put in a great showing against Columbus. He racked up three tackles, two interceptions, three clearances, a shot, a key pass, and drew a foul all while passing with 87.8% accuracy. His header back across the box late led to the Benji Michel shot that drew a penalty. The main black mark on his day was his positioning on Etienne’s goal, as he got sucked out too far from where he should have been by Lucas Zelarayan — leaving room behind him for Derrick Etienne to run into. Other than that, he was an immense figure in the back line in the most important league game of the season.

D, Ruan, 5.5— Ruan had a decent defensive showing in this one. He made three tackles and a clearance, and also won three fouls while passing at an 83.3% accuracy. He should have been quicker to tuck in and protect the space Schlegel vacated on Columbus’ goal, failing to track Etienne’s run. He also left Etienne too much space on the flank early for a cross that nearly gave Hernandez an early headed goal. Ruan couldn’t quite get going on the offensive side of things, and he’ll need to be more involved on that end if Orlando is going to advance past Montreal in the first round of the playoffs.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 6.5 — Araujo was his usual industrious self in the win. He did a ton of running in the Lions’ midfield and provided cover for when Mauricio Pereyra and Joao Moutinho ventured further forward. He chipped in with a tackle, an interception, two clearances, a block, a key pass, and a long ball. He also passed with 86.4% accuracy and did well to play over half an hour on a yellow card.

MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 7.5 — Like most of Orlando’s offensive players on the day, it took Pereyra time to get involved in the game. Once he did though, he was effective and finished with two key passes, an assist on Junior Urso’s goal, a cross, a long ball, a tackle, a clearance, and three fouls drawn. His passing accuracy of 83% on the day wasn’t his best, but he did well to bring the ball back out to find Urso with a good pass to his outside foot in order to give the Bear the chance to turn his man and get off a shot.

MF, Facundo Torres, 7 — Once Torres found his way into the game, he left his mark. He didn’t have a ton of shooting opportunities but helped affect the game with his passing, which he did with 93.3% accuracy while connecting on a cross and a key pass. He also had two shots, was fouled once, and most importantly, converted the penalty kick which sent Orlando City to the postseason for the third straight year. There was never really any doubt about the result when he set the ball down, and while goalkeepers seem to have figured out that he likes shooting to his right, when he puts the ball as far in the corner with as much power as he does, it’s tough to stop.

MF, Junior Urso, 7 — Urso had a rocky start to life in the first half. Several bad touches and misplaced passes meant there were concerns about the Bear having a bad game when Orlando could least afford it, but he came up big when he was needed most in the second half. He did ever so well to shield and turn his defender, shape his body and pick out the far side-netting to give Orlando a foothold in the game, and things kicked off from there. He finished with two tackles, two shots, two long balls, and 48 passes at a 95.8% passing accuracy.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 6 — Angulo started on the left wing, but had one of his quieter games in purple against the Crew. He wasn’t bad, as he recorded two key passes and 31 passes at an 84% accuracy with two key passes, while also notching two tackles and an interception. But he wasn’t quite as involved in the attack as Orlando City needed for large parts of the game, although the same can be said about many of his fellow attacking players. Not a bad performance, but not his best either. He also picked up a weird yellow card when the refereeing crew botched his substitution off the field.

F, Ercan Kara, 5.5 — Kara was also quiet during this one, and struggled to get involved with play. Part of that can be attributed to Columbus being content to sit back when it didn’t have the ball, making it difficult for Orlando to get the ball up to the big Austrian. Part of it can also be attributed to his teammates not providing service. Still, one clearance, one block, two fouls drawn, and a 62.5% success rate on eight passes is likely less than what Orlando was hoping from him on the day. His 14 touches weren’t many, but his replacements combined for just four over the last 20 minutes, so regardless of who played up top, there weren’t many connections being made.

Substitutes

F/MF, Benji Michel (74’), 6 — Benji didn’t do a ton to light up the stat sheet, as he finished the game with a yellow card, three touches, one shot, and one completed pass for 100% accuracy. With that being said, the shot he did take hit Milos Degenek’s outstretched hand, giving OCSC the penalty kick that sent the team to the postseason. Right place, right time, and it was a shot that would have been on target had it not hit Degenek on the way through.

F, Tesho Akindele (89’), N/A — Akindele was brought on as a late sub with time running down. His only stats recorded were being caught offside once and misfiring on the lone pass he attempted, but he ran hard and pressed the Columbus back line while the Crew chased an equalizer.

MF, Andres Perea (89’), N/A — Another late substitution, Perea didn’t record any stats during his time on the field, but helped provide energy and fresh legs to get the game over the line.

MF, Wilder Cartagena (89’), N/A — There was a mess of miscommunication on the officiating crew’s part that occurred while Orlando tried to get Cartagena on the field. Once he was there, he connected on his lone pass and also picked up a yellow card while helping see out the game.

D. Mikey Halliday (95’), N/A — Halliday came on as the final time-killing substitute from Pareja and stayed mistake free as Orlando booked its third-straight postseason berth.


That’s how I saw the performances in yet another game with late heroics from the Cardiac Cats. It wasn’t perfect, and the first half was almost universally ugly and devoid of the necessary urgency, but the Lions managed to find the required gear and get themselves into the postseason yet again. Be sure to have your say on everyone’s performances and vote for your Man of the Match below.

Polling Closed

PlayerVotes
Pedro Gallese26
Rodrigo Schlegel4
Junior Urso10
Mauricio Pereyra1
Facundo Torres8
Other (Tell us who in the comments)3

Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/16/24

Nico Lodeiro earns recognition, Marta up for Goal of the Week, MLS stock watch, and more.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I hope you had a good weekend and got your taxes filed correctly and on time. It was a good weekend for Orlando soccer, as the Orlando Pride, Orlando City B, and Orlando City went undefeated and picked up seven of the nine points on offer. As always, we have a lot to talk through today. Before we get into today’s links, let’s all wish Luis Muriel a happy birthday!

Nico Lodeiro Makes Team of the Matchday Bench

Midfielder Nico Lodeiro has earned recognition for his part in Orlando City’s 3-2 win over D.C. United, making the bench of the latest edition MLS Team of the Matchday. The Uruguayan entered the fray in the 72nd minute and helped OCSC come back and take all three points. He took the corner kick that David Brekalo equalized from, (even though he was not initially credited with the assist) and provided an outstanding through ball for Duncan McGuire’s game-winner. Sean Rollins graded him a 6.5/10 and named him Man of the Match in his player grades as well. Here’s hoping he keeps up the good work!

Marta’s Goal Nominated

Marta’s game-winning strike during Friday’s contest against Utah Royals FC has been nominated for NWSL Goal of the Week. On the road and in the game as a substitute, it didn’t take long for the Brazilian to make her mark on the match. She was barely on the field for five minutes when she met a ball that was rolling across the box with a first-time strike that she powered in off the back post. It proved to be the game’s only goal and was enough to give the Pride their first win of the season. Make sure you vote for her to win this week’s honor!

MLS Stock Watch

The fortunes of Major League Soccer teams are in constant flux, and it’s always nice to keep track of how your enemies are doing. Former Lion Sacha Kljestan weighed in on which clubs’ stock went up and which went down after the weekend’s games. We start on a good note, as a resilient performance from Orlando City saw the good guys pick up their second win of the season. The LA Galaxy hammered the Vancouver Whitecaps by a score of 3-1, and proved that their place atop the Western Conference standings is no fluke. On the other side of the coin, Toronto FC has given up 10 goals in its last three matches, and Jon Herdman needs to find a way to keep things from getting worse until the Reds’ group of injured players can return to the field.

Americans in Midweek Action

There are two big matches featuring American players this week, so get them marked down on your calendar and don’t miss any of the action. Thursday sees Christian Pulisic, Yunus Musah, and AC Milan travel to the Italian capital to try to overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit to Roma in the Europa League quarterfinals. Musah started Sunday’s match against Sassuolo and Pulisic subbed on in the second half as Milan clawed its way back to a 3-3 draw. Friday then has Juventus and Weston McKennie traveling to Cagliari for a Serie A tilt. Juve is currently third in the league and needs to keep picking up results to secure a UEFA Champions League place for next season.

UEFA Champions League Preview

Speaking of the Champions League, the quarterfinals wrap up today and tomorrow and there are a number of storylines to keep an eye on. Luis Enrique is strong in his belief that Paris Saint-Germain can overcome a 3-2 loss in the first leg to advance past Barcelona. Xavi has promised that Barca will look to attack rather than sitting and protecting its lead. Elsewhere, Bayern Munich will be without the suspended Alphonso Davies and likely Kingsley Coman due to injury, and their replacements will be hard pressed to contain Ben White and Bukayo Saka. Finally, Edin Terzic’s substitutions gave Borussia Dortmund a spark in the team’s 2-1 loss to Atletico Madrid in the first leg, which means the coach may have a selection headache on his hands as he tries to lead his side to a comeback.

Free Kicks


That’ll do it for me this morning. Vamos Orlando!

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Orlando City

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

How did your favorite Lions perform in Orlando City’s 3-2 win over D.C. United?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City came back from two deficits against D.C. United to claim a huge 3-2 win this weekend — the team’s second victory of the season. It looked like it would be a long night for the Lions in the first 20 minutes, but they turned it around. Down a goal late, David Brekalo and Duncan McGuire converted to earn Orlando City three points.

Here’s how I saw the individual performances by the Lions.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 6 — Gallese took his usual position in goal and had a strong night. He allowed himself to get pushed out of the play on the opening goal by Christian Benteke, though it arguably should’ve been a foul on D.C. He ended the game with four saves from six on-target shots, including two huge saves in second-half stoppage time. In addition to his shot stopping, Gallese completed 51.9% of his 27 passes, including seven of his 20 long balls. He was also credited with three clearances on the night.

D, Kyle Smith, 5.5 — Smith got the start at left back in this game over Rafael Santos, recording 53 touches. He had three tackles, three clearances, and a blocked shot. Going forward, he only completed 76.5% of his 34 passes, but connected with his lone cross and five of his nine long balls. He also won two aerial balls and was booked just before coming off for handling a ball that he should’ve cleared, giving D.C. a free kick in a dangerous position. The defender was replaced by Santos in the 73rd minute.

D, Robin Jansson, 6 — Jansson was a strong point for Orlando City once again in this game. He recorded one tackle, two interceptions, a blocked shot, and three clearances. Going forward, the center back completed 80.4% of his 46 passes, including four of his seven long balls. Arguably his biggest play of the game was drawing a foul late at the top of the box when D.C. was pushing for an equalizer.

D, David Brekalo, 6 — Brekalo had 60 touches and completed 76.6% of his 47 passes, including three of his 13 long balls. Defensively, he recorded one tackle, one interception, and two clearances. He made his first significant offensive impact as a Lion by getting his head to a Nico Lodeiro corner kick in the 82nd minute to even the game at 2-2.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6 — Thorhallsson only had 58 touches in the game, but the right back made the most of them. He completed 76.7% of his 30 passes and three of his six long balls, but failed to connect on his lone cross. Defensively, he recorded two tackles and three clearances. However, his biggest impact came in the 28th minute, when he got his head onto Ivan Angulo’s cross to even the game at 1-1.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 5 — Araujo’s 70 touches were the most on the team for this game. He only completed 78.2% of his 55 passes, but connected on two of his four long balls. Defensively, he won two tackles and blocked one shot while committing a team-high four fouls. He was also late getting over to cover Gabriel Pirani on the second goal for D.C. Overall, it wasn’t one of Araujo’s best games.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 5.5 — Cartagena started in the defensive midfield alongside Araujo. He recorded 41 touches and completed 81.3% of his 32 passes, including a key pass, his one cross, and one of his three long balls. Defensively, he recorded two clearances. As is common with the midfielder, he was booked in the first half for standing over Jared Stroud after a foul by Angulo. He was taken off during a triple substitution in the 72nd minute, replaced by Lodeiro.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 6 — Angulo was the least involved of the midfielders, only recording 35 touches. However, he completed 76.2% of his 21 passes, including a wonderful cross to Thorhallsson on the Lions’ first goal of the night. His lone shot was off target, but he helped defensively with a tackle and team-high three interceptions.

MF, Facundo Torres, 5.5 — Torres recorded 50 touches in this game and completed 90.9% of his 33 passes with no key passes. He was accurate on only one of his three crosses, which was an issue. His lone shot was off target but not by much, as he sent his effort just wide of the right post from outside the area. He came off in stoppage time after the Lions took the lead for center back Rodrigo Schlegel.

MF, Martin Ojeda, 5.5 — Ojeda started in the attacking midfield for this game, recording 46 touches. He completed 71.4% of his 21 passes, including two key passes, one accurate cross on his four attempts, and two of his four long balls. He also had four unstable touches and an off-target shot. Defensively, the attacking midfielder had a team-high four tackles, helping his team retain possession before being replaced by Duncan McGuire in the 72nd minute.

F, Luis Muriel, 5 — Muriel got the start alone up top, but had a difficult night. He got involved in the game with 36 touches and completed 64.7% of his 17 passes, including two key passes. He took two shots, with one on target, and completed two dribbles, but had five unstable touches. He could’ve had a much better performance, but attempted to dribble through the opposition in the box rather than finding a teammate, losing possession. The forward’s night ended in the 87th minute when he was replaced by Felipe.

Substitutes

D, Rafael Santos (73’), 5.5 — Santos came on in the 73rd minute for Smith at left back. He had 14 touches and completed seven of his 10 touches (70%), but failed to connect on his one long ball and three crosses. He also didn’t record any defensive stats in his 17 minutes of action.

MF, Nico Lodeiro (72’), 6.5 (MotM) — Lodeiro came on in the 72nd minute for Cartagena, looking to make a difference. The midfielder touched the ball 18 times and completed 75% of his 12 passes, including two key passes, two of his three crosses, and one of his three long balls. Both of his shots were on target and his through ball for McGuire in second-half stoppage time gave him the assist on the game-winning goal. Although the stats sheet credited Torres with the assist on Brekalo’s goal, it was the veteran who took the set piece, which should result in a two-assist night once the league has had a chance to review the tape (see below…even Evan Weston calls him ‘Torres’ on his call). Lodeiro was a game-changer when he came on so, despite his lack of minutes, he earns my Man of the Match.

F, Duncan McGuire (72’), 6 — McGuire came on with Lodeiro as the Lions were chasing the game. He had 14 touches and completed 44.4% of his nine passes. However, the striker was brought on to score and did so in stoppage time, timing his run perfectly and finishing well on the breakaway. He also recorded a tackle and clearance but gets a high grade from me for doing exactly what he was brought on to do in scoring the winning goal.

MF, Felipe (87’), N/A — Felipe came on for Muriel as the Lions looked to see out a point, but he only touched the ball three times. He completed both of his passes, but didn’t record any other stats in his minimal time on the field.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel (90+2’), N/A — Schlegel came on right after the game-winning goal for Torres as the Lions looked to see out the win. He had two touches and an incomplete pass, but no other statistics.


That’s how I saw the individual performances in Orlando City’s win over D.C. United. Let us know how you saw the game and vote for your Man of the Match below.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/15/24

Lions beat D.C. United, Pride pick up road win over Utah Royals, Barbra Banda arrives in Orlando, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you down in Florida. Orlando City and the Pride both won over the weekend, and there has been plenty of action in European soccer. Over the past week, I’ve been busy covering high school sports like lacrosse and softball. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Lions Top D.C. United

Orlando City overturned a late 2-1 deficit to win 3-2 against D.C. United at Audi Field over the weekend. David Brekalo scored the equalizer in the second half to tie the match at 2-2. Duncan McGuire came off the bench in the second half and scored in stoppage time, as the Lions beat D.C. United for the first time since Oct. 2, 2021. The Lions were 0-3-1 against D.C. United over the last two seasons prior to Saturday’s win. Orlando has now picked up points in each of the last three matches. Orlando City will be on the road again this weekend when it takes on CF Montreal on Saturday.

Orlando Pride Defeat Utah Royals; Help Arrives

The Orlando Pride got their first win of the 2024 NWSL last Friday with a 1-0 against the Utah Royals. Marta came off the bench in the second half and scored the lone goal to seal the win for Orlando. The Pride drew each of their first three matches to start the season against Racing Louisville, Angel City FC, and the Chicago Red Stars. Friday’s result means the Pride have six points through four league matches and are fifth in the NWSL table.

Despite needing four matches to pick up their first win of the year, the Pride are ahead of last year’s pace at the same point in the season, and remain undefeated (1-0-3) despite still waiting to play with this off-season’s marquee signing, Zambian international striker Barbra Banda. The new Pride forward arrived on Sunday to a warm welcome at Orlando International Airport.

It will be interesting to see how quickly Seb Hines can get Banda acclimated to the club and the league. Orlando could use Banda’s offensive firepower, as the club has struggled to score goals in the early part of the season. The Pride will be back in action against the San Diego Wave this Friday.

Bayer Leverkusen wins Bundesliga; Manchester City Leads EPL Title Race

Bayer Leverkusen cruised to a 5-0 win against Werder Bremen on Sunday to win its first ever Bundesliga title with five league matches left to spare. Xabi Alonso’s side won the league title by a 16-point margin, ending Bayern Munich’s 11-year run as title holders. Leverkusen is also unbeaten through 43 matches across all competitions. Meanwhile, in England, we have a new Premier League title race leader as Manchester City crushed Luton Town 5-1 on Saturday. On Sunday, Arsenal lost 2-0 to Aston Villa and Liverpool lost 1-0 to Crystal Palace. There are six match days remaining and this race could go down to the wire. Manchester City is at the top of the table with 73 points, while Arsenal and Liverpool remain two points behind in second and third, respectively, with 71 points.

Free Kicks

  • Houston Dash winger Maria Sanchez has reportedly requested a trade four months after signing a record-breaking deal in NWSL history in the off-season to remain with the club.
  • Manchester United edged Chelsea 2-1 to beat the Blues for the first time ever. Making the win even bigger was that it took place in the Women’s FA Cup semifinal. United will play Tottenham in the final at Wembley on May 12.
  • The EFL Championship is three weeks away from its finale, with a few clubs featureing Americans still in the mix for promotion. Josh Sargent’s Norwich City side holds the final playoff spot, while Haji Wright’s Conventry and Duane Holmes’ Preston North End in the hunt for a shot at promotion.
  • The AS Roma versus Udinese match was suspended after defender Evan Ndicka collapsed away from play and had to be stretchered off. The game was tied at 1-1 with about 20 minutes remaining when Ndicka went down. The club shared this update on social media.

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Monday, and I’ll see you next time.

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