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

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City went on the road and won 2-1 against the Philadelphia Union for all three points. Both teams were without usual starters due to the international break, injury, or suspension. The Lions got off to a hot start, with Martin Ojeda and Ivan Angulo both scoring within the first 10 minutes of the game. Former Lion Andres Perea scored to bring the Union back within one, but the defense survived an onslaught of shots to win. It was Orlando’s first road win of the 2023 season and snapped the Union’s 24-game unbeaten streak at home. Here’s how each Lion individually performed in the victory.

Starters

GK, Mason Stajduhar, 6.5 — In his first appearance of the season, Stajduhar came up with five saves to ensure Orlando left Philadelphia with all three points. His first big stop of the night came in the 37th minute after a foul right outside of the box. The goalkeeper reacted well to Jack Elliott’s strike, jumping to push it just over the crossbar. The Union came out swinging at the start of the second half and Stajduhar did well to deny Joaquin Torres. But his best save came in the 75th minute, when he parried away a header from Alejandro Bedoya at point-blank range. There were a few shaky moments in the first half, as he made a meal of two long ball attempts that Philly pounced on. He dove to stop Perea’s first shot and couldn’t recover in time for him to stop the second after it hit the post. But he settled in as time went on and was accurate on seven of his 16 long balls, including the one that led to Orlando’s first goal. He had 24 passes at a 54.2% success rate, but ultimately did very well in one of the tougher stadiums to play in as a visitor.

D, Luca Petrasso, 5 — The left back had 53 touches in 79 minutes of action, but wasn’t able to make much of an impact on either side of the ball. Three of his six long balls were accurate and his lone cross didn’t find its mark, although it was a decent effort into the box. Problems arose for Orlando when Petrasso was often caught too far up the field to help defend Philadelphia’s counters. As a result, he only had two interceptions and two clearances in the match. The 22-year-old was also beaten in the air by Bedoya, allowing the Union captain to put a header on target that needed heroics from Stajduhar to keep out. Petrasso won two of his five aerial duels, had two unstable touches, and was accurate on 69.7% of his 33 passes. It wasn’t a particularly great outing from the left back, who was subbed off for Antonio Carlos late in the match.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 7 — After a rough game last weekend against Charlotte FC, Schlegel bounced back in this one. The center back led the Lions with 11 clearances, while also contributing three interceptions, two blocks, and a tackle. Schlegel won three of his five aerial duels and ended the game with a nice slide tackle to snuff out Philadelphia’s final opportunity. Schlegel had 27 passes at a 77.7% success rate and neither of his two long balls were accurate, although he did have two key passes. This was a great defensive performance from Schlegel to make life difficult for Philadelphia’s attackers. Mikael Uhre had a brace last weekend, but wasn’t able to get much going against Schlegel. Considering he’s played more MLS minutes than any other Lion, some deserved rest could be headed his way as Antonio Carlos works his way back from injury.

D, Robin Jansson, 6.5 — The Beefy Swede was putting out fires on the left side of Orlando’s defense all night long. Jansson positioned himself when the Union went on the counter and he had three clearances and a tackle in the match. The center back made smart slide tackles and was a force in the air as well, winning all three of his aerial duels. Four of his eight long balls were accurate and he completed 79.3% of his 29 passes while contributing a key pass. Jansson also didn’t commit a foul and has not received a yellow card since the season opener.

D, Kyle Smith, 4 — With Michael Halliday away on international duty, Smith started at right back for the Lions. The veteran was bossed by his former teammate on the Union’s goal, with Perea beating him once in the air and again on the rebound off the post. Smith won three of his seven aerial duels and committed four fouls, including one from a dangerous spot in front of goal right before halftime and another that allowed a free kick from near the corner. Defensively, he contributed eight clearances, a tackle, an interception, and a block. Three of his eight long balls were accurate, but he didn’t have a cross, key pass, or shot. Smith wasn’t as sharp with the ball as he needed to be and had 47 passes at a 74.5% success rate.

MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 7.5 — The captain notched his first assist of the season with a perfect ball over the top for Ojeda. The ball had enough on it to get past Elliott, but was weighted enough to give Ojeda all the time in the world to pick out his shot. Pereyra helped pull the strings on the second goal as well, getting another assist for setting Ojeda up to get the ball to Angulo. He connected on three of his four long balls, was accurate on one of his two crosses, and finished with 54 passes at a strong 85.2% success rate. The Uruguayan gave the Union headaches off the ball too, leading the Lions with five tackles and blocking a shot as well. Pereyra led the Lions with 74 touches and was successful on three of his four dribbles. Although he didn’t have a shot himself, Pereyra did well to garner attention from defenders and find the open man to maintain possession.

MF, Cesar Araujo, 6.5 — The Uruguayan was overshadowed by other Lions in this one, which is far from the worst thing for a defensive midfielder. Araujo quietly helped connect Orlando’s defense with its offense, completing 80.7% of his team-high 57 passes. He had nine long balls as well, although he was only accurate on three of them, and made two key passes. Araujo helped out defensively with three clearances, two interceptions, a tackle, and a block. His only weak spot in this one was when battling for balls in the air, as he only won one of his five aerial duels. Still, it was a solid performance from him and he did well working in tandem with Felipe to frustrate the Union.

MF, Felipe, 6.5 — It was Felipe’s first start of the season and he was great in the heart of the midfield. The 32-year-old led the Lions with six interceptions and recorded three tackles, two clearances, and a block. He had a key pass by setting up a shot for Ojeda and completed 77% of his 49 passes. There were a few moments of disconnect and neither his lone long ball nor his two crosses were accurate. The MLS veteran had 74 touches and won all three of his aerials. Felipe was shown a yellow card in the 20th minute, but didn’t let the caution impact his presence on defense and his experience helped the Lions see out the game.

MF, Martin Ojeda, 7.5 (MotM) — Ojeda was Orlando’s lone Designated Player on the pitch and lived up to his billing with a goal and an assist in the first 10 minutes of the match. He was patient and clinical with his strike, beating Joe Bendik for his second goal in as many games. The 24-year-old was just as composed when slipping the ball between defenders for Angulo to put away a few minutes later. Ojeda took a whopping eight shots, putting three on target, sending two off target, and having the other three blocked. He was also great when facilitating the offense, making two key passes, finding his man on four of his five long balls, and completing 79.6% of his 49 passes. Ojeda also contributed two tackles and two clearances on defense. The only blemishes on his performance were a few late opportunities to put the game to bed that he should’ve done better with. Ojeda is our Man of the Match for keeping Orlando looking dangerous from start to finish on the road.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 7 — Angulo certainly earned his first goal of the season. The Colombian winger made a good tackle to get his team started on a counter attack and then made a nice run to get past two defenders to slot his shot home. It was one of his two shots in 70 minutes of action, the other ruled off-target, although it appeared Bendik nudged it just wide of the far post after Angulo did well to beat Olivier Mbaizo with his speed. He only had 30 touches, but was a constant part of Orlando’s attack and had a key pass as well. Angulo could’ve taken better care of the ball, as he had four unstable touches and 24 passes at a 75% success rate. His only cross was unsuccessful as well. Angulo made an impact on defense too, contributing two tackles, an interception, a clearance, and a blocked shot. While he may need to work on his first touch, it was a great night from Angulo as he feasted on Philly’s defense once Pereyra and Ojeda cut it up for him.

F, Ramiro Enrique, 6 — Enrique did well holding up play and attracting attention from Philadelphia’s defenders so other Lions could work their magic. He deserved credit on the scoresheet for chesting down a long ball to set up Pereyra’s assist. Enrique is only 5-foot-7 but won five of his 10 aerial duels and did well up against one of the best center back duos in the league in Elliott and Jakob Glesnes. The statistics don’t reflect his impact on offense, as his only shot was blocked and he had no key passes. Before being subbed off in the 79th minute, he had 30 passes at a 73.3% success rate and his only long ball was inaccurate. Regardless, the 21-year-old was solid in his first trip to Subaru Park and helped out on defense with two clearances and a tackle.

Substitutes

MF, Gaston Gonzalez (70’), 5.5 — The winger had 10 touches in over 20 minutes of action and looked better than he did in previous games. Gonzalez showed off some of his strength and skill on the ball on the left side of the pitch, but wasn’t particularly dangerous. He was successful on one of his two dribbles, won one of his two aerial duels, and was inaccurate on his one cross and one long ball. He completed two of his four passes and had a clearance as well.

F, Duncan McGuire (79’), N/A — The rookie delivered a great key pass to serve the ball to Ojeda in the center of the box on a silver platter. McGuire beat Glesnes to a pass from Ojeda in the final third and then casually slipped the ball between the reigning MLS Defender of the Year’s legs for Ojeda to shoot. McGuire had seven touches, and completed three of his four passes. He only won one of his four aerial duels, but did well on offense to keep the Union on their toes while hunting for an equalizer.

D, Antonio Carlos (79’), N/A — The center back made his first appearance of the season, coming on for Petrasso to give the Lions some more height and stability in defense, and so the team could go five at the back in defense. Carlos had one interception, completed three of his five passes, was accurate on one of his two long balls, and won one of his two aerial duels. It was mostly just nice to see Carlos back on the field after missing games due to injury.

MF, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson (84’), N/A — Coming on for Pereyra late in the match, he only had four touches and completed his only pass. Thorhallsson had a chance to put the game on ice in stoppage time, but his shot went wide of goal.


That’s how I saw the individual performances in Orlando’s 2-1 road win against the Philadelphia Union. Vote for your Man of the Match in our poll and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.

Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew

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

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/24/24

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

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

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

Orlando City Gets Ready to Host the Crew

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

Barbra Banda Named MVP Frontrunner

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

Orlando Pride Announce Sleeve Sponsor

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

Orlando City Unveils Watch Party Schedule

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

Free Kicks

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

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

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Three Keys to Victory

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

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

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

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

Switch Focus

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

Goals Needed

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

Scheduling Factors

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


That is what I will be looking for Saturday night. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!

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