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2022 Orlando City Season in Review: Ercan Kara

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Austrian striker Ercan Kara signed with Orlando City as a Designated Player on Jan. 27 to a multi-year deal and spent his first season with the Lions this past season. He replaced extremely popular MLS SuperDraft selection Daryl Dike as the club’s primary striker. It was never going to be an easy task measuring up to the imposing player who was sold to English side West Bromwich Albion last off-season and it was unfair for anyone to expect that to be the case. Our story about Kara’s signing even brashly stated in the dek that “The Lions have found their replacement for Daryl Dike.”

The 26-year-old came into a new team in a new country and began well in the preseason matches, but he sustained an injury that took away valuable time learning both his teammates’ tendencies, and Oscar Pareja’s system. He sustained a couple of other minor knocks along the way in 2022 but fought through them. He put up good numbers but, for some vocal fans, was blamed despite a dearth of service at times throughout the year.

Let’s take a look at Kara’s first season in Orlando.

Statistical Breakdown

Kara played in four of Orlando City’s six U.S. Open Cup matches (three starts), logging 323 minutes — that includes all 120 minutes against Nashville SC. He scored one goal in open play in the tournament and twice in penalty shootouts to help the Lions get past Inter Miami and Nashville, attempting eight shots with two on target. He completed 80.9% of his passing attempts with two key passes and three successful long balls. He finished the tournament with one interceptions, committing 11 fouls and drawing two, and did not receive a booking.

In the regular season, Kara appeared in 29 of Orlando City’s 34 matches (22 starts), logging 1,789 minutes. He led Orlando City in goals (11), giving the Lions a double-digit goal scorer in all of the club’s first eight seasons — something no team had previously done. He was the only Lion to reach double digit goals in the MLS regular season, firing 48 shots and getting 19 of them on target. His percentage of shot attempts that were on target (39.6%), overall shooting percentage (22.9%), and on-target finishing rate (57.9%) were all quite good. His passing rate of 68.1% could use some improvement, but he’s often receiving the ball in the most difficult areas of the pitch to complete them and early in the season he clearly wasn’t on the same page as some of his teammates (by way of comparison, Dike’s passing rate in 2020 was 71% and in 2021 it was 72.1%). Kara notched three assists on 14 key passes and completed two long balls. Defensively, he contributed 11 tackles, one interception, 21 clearances, and two blocks. He committed 31 fouls, suffered 24, and was booked twice.

Kara started and played the full 90 minutes in Orlando City’s lone playoff match this season, attempting one shot (off target), and he did not score or assist on a goal. He completed 76.9% of his 13 passing attempts but did not have a key pass, winning three aerials. He contributed one interception, committed two fouls while winning two, and was not booked.

Best Game

Kara’s best match came in Orlando City’s 2-1 win over the Houston Dynamo on June 18. The Austrian notched his first MLS brace, and while it’s true he didn’t know much about the second one, which deflected in off of him on Mauricio Pereyra’s shot, he still had a strong match overall.

In the 25th minute, Kara got on the end of a great passing sequence that included all three of Orlando City’s Designated Players, putting the final touch on it to put the Lions up 1-0.

The striker nearly doubled the lead on a free kick but forced a great diving stop by Houston goalkeeper Steve Clark. He then (officially) doubled the lead early in the second half when Pereyra’s shot deflected in off of him. Kara fired five shot attempts — tied for his second-best, single-game shot total on the season — and put a season-high four of those shots on target. He also completed 75% of his passes and contributed two tackles and a clearance. It was a strong performance in a run of them for Kara, who was in the midst of scoring five goals in a six-game span.

2022 Final Grade

The Mane Land gives Kara a composite rating of 7.5 out of 10 for his first year in MLS. This is going to seem high to those who feel like a DP striker should score 15 or more goals, but for any striker to score double-digit goals in Pareja’s system is cause for celebration if you look back at his teams historically. If you look at Kara’s numbers in his minutes played vs. other teams’ top scorers (like I did recently), his production rate stands up well. Orlando City was a team that faced some offensive challenges in many respects in 2022. Dropping Pereyra deeper in the middle of the season helped open some things up but the left side produced little threat until Ivan Angulo’s arrival and crossing in from the wide areas was an issue all year, and the loss of Robin Jansson over the season’s final months limited the opportunities for Kara to split defenders and actually receive a directly played ball. All things considered, Kara did well to put up the numbers he did.

2023 Outlook

Kara’s deal runs through 2024 and the Lions have contract option years for him in both 2025 and 2026. Kara may not have impressed some Orlando City fans, but he finished well when given opportunities and was the club’s most confident penalty taker. Kara now has a year of MLS under his belt, which is no small matter. Many players come to MLS and take a year (sometimes more) to fully acclimate to the league, the travel, playing in various climates and time zones, etc. We expect Kara to be back and to produce another double-digit goal season.


Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)

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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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from a 3-2 road victory against D.C. United?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City came from behind twice on the road at Audi Field to earn three points against a good D.C. United team, winning 3-2. It was by no means a perfect match for the Lions, but Head Coach Oscar Pareja and company pulled the right strings when it came to the lineup and substitutes after a bye week to earn the team’s biggest result of the still young season.

Here are our five takeaways from the match.

Sluggish Start

D.C. United found itself up 1-0 before most fans at home and in the stadium probably had a chance to settle into their seats. Christian Benteke, a man who you absolutely do not want to allow any space in the box, broke free for a header from the back post on a corner kick five minutes into the match. Say what you want about the contact that was allowed on Gallese, but El Pulpo could have been more demonstrative coming off his line. The shellshocked Lions took the next 20ish minutes to work themselves back into the match, but there was certainly a lot of concern early from those watching the events unfolding in the nation’s capital.

Angulo Creates the Equalizer

Once Orlando woke up, the squad was able to string together a solid second part of the first half with possession, passing, and solid cutting. The first equalizer of the night came in the 28th minute as Ivan Angulo streaked up the field and utilized his speed to get the ball into a dangerous position before playing a perfectly weighted ball to the back post, where Dagur Dan Thorhallsson slammed home an emphatic header. It was a welcome sign for Angulo to get involved as a contributor after an otherwise forgettable start to the year.

Muriel Lacking Quality

Much has been made about the signing of Luis Muriel, who has had a storied international career. His start to his time in the City Beautiful has been less than inspiring, however. On a night when he got the starting nod over fellow striker Duncan McGuire, Muriel looked slightly off and oftentimes was the victim of over dribbling or taking one too many touches.

His best goal-scoring opportunity came on a brilliant ball from Martin Ojeda with the D.C. keeper far off his line. Attempting to chip the keeper from distance would have been asking a lot and Muriel decided to dribble into the box, ultimately trying to guide the ball into the opposite corner. However, it was blocked by D.C. defender Aaron Herrera. One way or another, Orlando is going to need Muriel to find the back of the net, but when that happens may be anyone’s guess.

Breakagoalo

Remember where your heard the phrase ‘Breakagoalo,’ OCSC fans, as it is being coined here and now. With two weeks of rest, David Brekalo found himself inserted into what is undoubtedly his starting role for the remainder of the year, and he was able to open his Orlando City and MLS goal-scoring accounts. After D.C. once again pulled ahead, 2-1, a little after the hour mark of the match, Brekalo was able to showcase his athletic ability and aerial presence by outleaping multiple D.C. players on a corner kick, sending a glancing header into the net to level the game at 2-2.

These are the types of goals that Orlando City has lacked — not just this year, but last year as well — and there is no reason to think that Brekalo can’t find the net multiple times this year from corners and set pieces.

Duncan Does it Again

Duncan McGuire opened his account a little over a year ago, scoring his first career goal against D.C. United. Inserted as a super sub on Saturday, with the team down 2-1, it seemed then very fitting that he would be the one to find the late winner for the Lions. The TV angles unfortunately failed to capture the full greatness of his run, which started with an excellent ball from Nico Lodeiro. McGuire did everything right from that moment on by using two strong touches and then calmly picking out the right corner before hitting his famous flip celebration.

McGuire’s goal — and the late winner that it provided — was exactly what Orlando City needed to start to right the ship as the team looks to climb back up the table.


That’s what I saw in Orlando City’s come-from-behind victory against D.C. United. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

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