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.
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.
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.
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
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