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Orlando City

In Praise of Wilder Cartagena’s Season

Wilder Cartagena has been a key part of Orlando City’s success this season, and it’s time to give him his flowers.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Wilder Cartagena has been a vital part of Orlando City’s 2023 season. He was brought in on loan last August following Sebas Mendez being traded to LAFC, and although he only made eight appearances behind Cesar Araujo and Junior Urso, he showed flashes of what he was capable of. Urso’s departure at the end of the year opened the door for him to compete for a starting spot in defensive midfield, and he seized the opportunity with both hands. The Peruvian has appeared in 24 games this year, starting 23 of those and logging 1,909 minutes alongside Araujo in defensive midfield, and he’s looked damn good doing it.

Passing

A big thing I want to highlight with Cartagena is his passing, which has been exemplary. According to FBref.com, he’s attempted 1,050 of them, which is fifth-most on the team behind Araujo, Robin Jansson, Rafael Santos, and Mauricio Pereyra. He’s completed 88.2% of those, which is the highest mark on the team aside from Favian Loyola and Alejandro Granados, who have only attempted six and nine passes, respectively. What’s been most important is that those passes have traveled 16,007 yards, and 4,849 of those yards have been in the direction of the opponent’s goal, meaning that 30% of his passes have gone forward, or been progressive passes.

That matters, because playing in a 4-2-3-1 that Oscar Pareja prefers, the formation is excellent when your team doesn’t have the ball. The staggered midfield lines make it hard to work the ball through the middle of the field, and you can get the team very compact. When winning the ball though, it’s important for the two holding midfielders to be confident and comfortable on the ball, since they’ll often be the ones trying to probe the other team’s midfield to find ways to progress the ball into the final third so the attacking midfielders can take over.

If your no. 6 and no. 8 are consistently playing passes backwards or sideways because they aren’t confident playing attacking balls, then it’s going to stunt a team’s offense in the so-called “half-court” of the opposing team’s half. Fortunately, Cartagena and Araujo are both great at playing progressive passes, as 36% of Araujo’s passes have been forward. When not one, but both of your defensive midfielders are playing one of every three passes towards goal, it helps keep the offense humming nicely.

Tackling

Since you can’t spell defensive midfielder without the word defensive, tackling factors pretty high up the list of something that you need to be able to do well if you’re part of a double pivot. Wilder has the most tackles of any OCSC player, with 57 to Araujo’s 48. Of those, 20 have come in the defensive third, 31 in the middle third, and six in the attacking third. Those 31 middle-third tackles are also tied for seventh in all of Major League Soccer, and it’s worth mentioning that Aidan Morris and Obinna Nwobodo, the only two players who have more than 40, have played significantly more minutes than Cartagena, with 2,490 and 2,492, respectively.

In fact, of the eight players who either have more than, or the same number of middle-third tackles as Wilder, only two have played fewer minutes than him. Basically, he’s one of the very best in the league at winning the ball back in the hotly contested middle third of the field, and once he gets it, there’s a 30% chance that the ball is getting played toward goal.

Offensive

Unsurprisingly, his offensive numbers have been far from eye-popping this year, as that just isn’t his job. Still, he’s got a goal and two assists in league play, a goal in the Concacaf Champions League, and a goal in Leagues Cup for a total of three goals and two assists in all competitions, which isn’t a bad haul for a defensive midfielder — especially when one of those goals was a 92nd-minute winner against Santos Laguna. He’s also averaging a completed dribble every other game, a key pass every other game, and draws an average of 1.5 fouls per game, which is good for third-most on the team. He’s far from an offensive weapon, but it’s been nice to see him develop that side of his game a little more, which is something we didn’t see at all during his limited minutes last year.


Alongside Araujo, Cartagena has formed one of the best defensive midfield pairings in the whole league. He excels at not just winning the ball back in midfield, but at then accurately distributing it toward goal and into the feet of Orlando City’s chance creators. His consistent level of play has been a big reason for the Lions sitting pretty as the second-best team in the league. If he can be signed on a permanent deal at the end of the season, he absolutely should be. He’s more than earned it.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Charlotte FC: Player Grades and Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions perform in a 2-2 road draw at Charlotte?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

On the road and up a man for much the midweek match, Orlando City was forced to settle for a 2-2 draw. Looking to build off a good effort that unfortunately was coupled with a bad result the last time out, the Lions headed north to challenge one of the best defensive squads in Major League Soccer.

Let’s take a look at how the players performed individually in the draw.

Starters

GK, Mason Stajduhar, 6 — Making his second consecutive start while Pedro Gallese is away representing Peru, the Homegrown goalkeeper put in a mostly solid effort on the night. The first goal he allowed hardly could blamed on Stajduhar, as a save likely required super human reflexes, as a badly missed clearance from the combination of Felipe and Ivan Angulo led to a wide-open opportunity. He was slow to make a decision to come off his line on the second goal, arrived too late and was chipped easily for a late go-ahead goal. He also had some strange tendencies to wander outside his box on plays the defense had covered and unnecessarily headed what was not a back pass out for a Charlotte throw. It’s best not to take chances when unsure, but that play was a toe poke to knock it away from an attacker, not a pass. Stajduhar made three saves on the night, with his biggest coming on a point-blank chance for Liel Abada on a set piece in the second half. He completed all of his nine passes, which included three long balls, and was credited with a clearance.

D, Rafael Santos, 4.5 — Santos had 101 touches in this game, good for third on the team. He completed 95.3% of his 85 passes, which is good, but his crossing was dreadful to watch, as the Brazilian completed only one of nine, overhitting several of them badly and sending a couple completely out of play. His only shot attempt came nowhere close to the goal frame. One of his passes was a key pass. Defensively, Santos recorded one tackle and committed one foul. He should have prevented Charlotte’s second goal, recklessly taking a wild swing at taking the ball from Patrick Agyemang and falling down to leave Robin Jansson to deal with two attackers. Santos exited the match in the 91st minute for fellow defensemen, Kyle Smith.

D, Robin Jansson, 5 — Jansson was unspectacular on the evening as was a good majority of the defense on the night. The Swedish center back recorded 68 touches and completed 89.8% of his 59 passes, including three of his six long balls. Defensively, he added one interception, two clearances, and one blocked shot while committing one foul. He played a role in both Charlotte goals, getting roasted down the channel to allow Abada’s cross that ended in the opening goal. On the second goal, he was in position to stop Agyemang, but allowed the striker to get past. He almost atoned for his mistakes late, when his shot from point-blank range was saved. It was his only shot attempt of the match and it required a big save from Kristijan Kahlina.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 6 — Schlegel was the more sound of the two center backs on the night when he was in position. He was caught up the field a few times, including on the second Charlotte goal. With Cesar Araujo already pushed up, Schlegel was easily beaten by a chipped ball over the top that gave the hosts numbers in transition. The Argentine recorded 62 touches on the night, completing an impressive 97.9% of his 47 passes, including two of his three long balls. Defensively, he contributed a team-high five tackles and one clearance while committing one foul. Offensively, Schlegel added two shots, with one on target that nearly produced a game winner. His shot was saved by Kahlina, who was able to deflect it off the left post.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 5.5 — Thorhallsson started in his usual right back position, but recorded only 25 touches, as the Lions played almost exclusively up the left side. He completed 86.7% of his 15 passes and was unsuccessful on both his lone crossing attempt and his one long ball. Defensively, he added one clearance, two interceptions, and one tackle. Offensively, he recorded one shot, which was not on target. Normally one of the most involved players throughout a match, Thorhallsson’s presence was lacking in this one and he was ultimately sacrificed for a more offensive minded player in Martin Ojeda after halftime.

MF, Facundo Torres, 7.5 (MotM) — Torres got back on the scoresheet in a big way against Charlotte while being involved in all aspects of the match, recording 107 touches. He put all four of his shot attempts on target, completed 96.3% of his 81 passes, including four key passes. If there was one blemish on his effort it was that only two of his 10 crosses were accurate, but he did complete his lone long ball attempt. His pass into the box off of a well-weighted header became an assist on Orlando’s first goal, as Duncan McGuire was able to flick it home. Later in the second half, again trailing by a goal, Torres collected a corner cross from Lodeiro near the back post, took one touch, and calmly picked out the opposite corner to tie the game. This is the type of outing that Torres, the coaching staff, and fans have been waiting to see and hopefully one he can build on over the summer.

MF, Felipe, 5.5 — Felipe slotted into the starting 11, replacing Cesar Araujo. He recorded 24 touches and completed all of his 21 passes, including one long ball. Defensively, he recorded one clearance. His sliding clearance attempt failed to deal with Abada’s cross on the first goal, and whether he mishit it or was distracted by Angulo’s simultaneous arrival, only he can say, but it dropped his grade a bit. Offensively, Felipe added one shot that was off target. The Brazilian was injured after winning the ball and being tackled late and from behind by Scott Arfield, leading to the latter being sent off. Felipe was in visible discomfort after receiving treatment from the training staff, couldn’t continue, and was subbed off for Araujo in the 40th minute.

MF, Nico Lodeiro, 7 — Lodeiro was the most active player in this game and for the second straight match, he recorded a team-high in touches, with 147. He completed 88.6% of his team-high 131 passes, including an incredible 10 key passes. Lodeiro also completed five of his 11 crosses, three of his six long balls, and one of his two through balls, putting on a passing clinic. The midfielder took one off-target shot and logged a successful dribble. Lodeiro logged an assist with his well-placed corner kick in the 81st minute that found Facundo Torres for the equalizer. He could have had a late shot at a winner in the 86th minute but opted to try to pick out Jack Lynn instead. Lodeiro did not log a statistic defensively as he was too busy making the offense run, which was contributed to Orlando’s problems. With only one true defensive midfielder on the pitch, Lodeiro was often up the field when Charlotte broke dangerously in transition.

MF, Ivan Angulo, 5.5 — The Orlando attack is at its best when Angulo is creating chaos with speed and overlapping runs, yet against Charlotte, there seemed to be less opportunity for the speedy Colombian to stretch his legs. The midfielder had 65 touches. He completed 92% of his 50 passes, including one of his two crosses, a successful long ball and added two key passes. He continues to struggle with decisions and turnovers in the final third, however, and clearly lacks confidence when presented with opportunities to shoot, as he failed to record a shot in the match. Defensively, he contributed two clearances, but he and Felipe both failed to deal with a loose ball on the first goal while not under any pressure from Charlotte in the penalty area. He was replaced by Alex Freeman in the 91st minute.

F, Luis Muriel, 6 — Muriel recorded 54 touches in his active role playing beneath McGuire. He completed 92.9% of his 42 passes, including three key passes. He picked up a secondary assist on Orlando’s first goal when he did well to pick out Torres on the left with a perfect ball. Muriel failed to connect on his one cross but was successful on his only attempted through ball. He was only able to get one of his four shot attempts on target. He was only dispossessed once, however, which is an improvement over previous outings. Defensively, he contributed one tackle and one interception. He was substituted off in the 83rd minute for Lynn.

F, Duncan McGuire, 6 — McGuire slotted into his usual role as the target man up top, recording 31 touches. He completed 83.3% of his 18 passes, including both of his long ball attempts. He only put one of his four shots on frame, which is a low percentage by his usual standards. McGuire had a gorgeous opportunity early in the match to give the Lions an early lead but smashed a shot wide of the net. It was a chance on which he should have done better, and he had another such opportunity in the second half when he knocked a good cross well wide of the near post with an open Torres making a run behind him. His only shot on target came in the 63rd minute and found the back of the net for his first goal since May 11 to tie the game at one. Ultimately, the timing for McGuire and his runs could have been a tad bit tighter but it was a welcome sign to see Big Dunc find the goal. Defensively, McGuire added two clearances.

Substitutes

MF, Cesar Araujo (40’), 6 — Araujo entered the match in the first half due to Felipe’s injury, and the Uruguayan managed 63 touches. He completed 94.6% of his 55 passes and was accurate on two of his three long balls. He also added three tackles and blocked a shot.

MF, Martin Ojeda (46’), 5.5 — Ojeda came on in the 46th minute for Thorhallsson and was unable to make the immediate impact that he had previously against LAFC, but it allowed the Lions to change shape. The attacking midfielder had 34 touches and completed 95.5% of his 22 passes. Ojeda was only accurate on one of his six crosses but did complete both of his long balls. He recorded three shots, which all failed to find the target, including a header which he certainly should have done better with.

F, Jack Lynn (83’), N/A — Lynn came on with seven minutes to go for Muriel. Orlando was looking for a game-winning goal, but Lynn was unable to help. He was able to get into a few dangerous spots, but his best chance was his only shot attempt, which he sent wide after he was sent in behind the defense. Lynn gathered the ball and slowed for some reason, allowing the defense to recover on the play and preventing him from going more directly to goal. Lynn had three touches on the night and completed his only pass.

D, Kyle Smith (90’ + 1), N/A — Smith came on in stoppage time for Santos to try to help secure the draw. He logged nine touches and completed 88.9% of his nine passes. The Accountant failed to record a defensive stat in limited stoppage time minutes.

MF, Alexander Freeman (90’ + 1), N/A — The young fullback came on in the 91st minute, replacing Angulo. Freeman put his lone shot attempt on target, earned a corner, and ended the game with four touches.


That’s how I saw the individual performances in Orlando City’s draw against Charlotte FC. Let us know how you saw the game and don’t forget to vote on your Man of the Match below.

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Charlotte FC: Five Takeaways

Here’s what we learned from a 2-2 road draw against 10-man Charlotte FC.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City traveled to North Carolina looking to get back on the winning side of things. Unfortunately, despite being a man up for more than 52 minutes and scoring two goals, Orlando City was only able to secure a 2-2 draw for a point on the road. It was not the result we were hoping for, but at least Orlando City scored some goals. What follows are my five takeaways from the match against Charlotte FC.

Worst Clearance Ever

Charlotte doesn’t score a lot of goals, but even the hosts couldn’t miss the gift-wrapped chance that Felipe and Ivan Angulo combined to give Kerwin Vargas in the 11th minute of the match. As the defender ran back towards his own goal, the ball came across and he tried to kick it out. However, he and Angulo came together at the worst moment. Felipe didn’t get anything on his clearance and Angulo was in position to intervene but perhaps was trying harder to get out of the way than to intercede. As a result, neither made the play and the ball trickled to a wide-open Vargas to slot it into the back of the net. Mason Stajduhar had no chance at the ball.

Red Card Call

Orlando City got a lifeline in the 38th minute when Scott Arfield was given a red card following a video review of his foul on Felipe. It was definitely the correct call, I’m just not used to PRO referees making decisions that benefit Orlando City, especially on video review. You would think that would give the Lions the advantage, but Orlando City did not manage to get a shot on goal the rest of the half. Things did get better in the second half, but it still took a while for the Lions to even the score. Orlando City really needed to take advantage of being a man up to bring home all three points, but it was not to be.

Welcome Back, Duncan

It had been 39 days since Duncan McGuire scored a goal for Orlando City. The last time was on May 11 against the Philadelphia Union. Fortunately, the dry spell is over as the young striker scored in the 63rd minute of the match — after a pair of uncharacteristic misses — to even the score. Luis Muriel chipped the ball over to Facundo Torres on the left side of the box. Torres headed the ball into the center, where McGuire managed to get a foot on the ball, redirecting it into the back of the net. Goals change games, and Orlando City needed that one.

Frustrating Defense

Orlando City was a man up and had the lion’s share of the possession and still managed to go down a goal again in the second half. On one of Charlotte’s many odd-man transition attacks, Rodrigo Schlegel got caught upfield on a ball over the top. Robin Jansson looked to be in good position but allowed Patrick Agyemang to get inside of him. Rafael Santos arrived and had a clear opportunity to knock the ball away, but he muffed his chance and his problems got worse when he fell, leaving a two-on-one Charlotte break. Agyemang found Brandt Bronico on the right side while Jansson tried to recover. He nearly got there in time. Stajduhar was late getting off his line and couldn’t get there in time. Bronico chipped it in to give Charlotte the lead again. Frankly, there were too many such attacks, and that particular one was horribly defended.

Ban Short Corners

Orlando City took several short corners in the match and every single one of them amounted to absolutely nothing. Alternatively, two corners taken late in the match resulted in two shots on goal, including Orlando City’s second goal to even the score at 2-2. Nico Lodeiro put his corner kick from the left all the way over to an open Torres on the right side of the box. Torres settled it and put it in the back of the net. Minutes later, another corner fell for Schlegel in the box and he sent a shot on target that Kristijan Kahlina saved off his post to keep the game tied. I’m just saying that perhaps one way works better than the other.


That is how I saw things in the 2-2 draw against Charlotte FC. What stood out to you in the match? Let us know in the comments below and as always, vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/20/24

Orlando City draws against Charlotte FC, Wilfredo Rivera joins first team, Ally Watt speaks on Black Women’s Player Collective, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City B / Mark Thor

How’s it going, Mane Landers? Last night’s Orlando City match featured plenty of ups and downs, but it was a pretty exciting way to spend a Wednesday night. Hopefully the Cardiac Cats weren’t too hard on your heart. Before we dive into today’s links, let’s all wish a happy birthday to Orlando Pride defender Celia!

Orlando City Draws Against Charlotte FC

The Lions went on the road for a match against Charlotte FC and earned a point with a 2-2 draw. Matches between the two teams are usually close affairs and this one was no different, as neither team did enough to claim victory. One one hand, equalizing twice on the road against a stingy defense isn’t the worst outcome for Orlando. On the other hand, Charlotte played most of the match a man down and a win was definitely in the cards for the Lions. Hopefully Orlando can break this five-game winless streak when it hosts the Chicago Fire on Saturday.

Wilfredo Rivera Available for the First Team

Orlando City B midfielder Wilfredo Rivera is with the first team this week after signing a short-term agreement with Orlando City. He was an unused substitute in Wednesday’s match in Charlotte and will be available for selection in Orlando’s match against the Chicago Fire on Saturday. The 20-year-old signed a similar agreement in March of this year, but has yet to make his MLS debut. Rivera came off the bench in OCB’s match against Chattanooga FC on Thursday and scored a brace earlier this month while on international duty with Puerto Rico. The signing was necessary as Ramiro Enrique is on an excused absence for a personal matter.

Ally Watt Discusses Black Women’s Player Collective

Orlando Pride forward Ally Watt talked about her role as the team’s representative for the Black Women’s Player Collective, which is a non-profit organization created by Black players in the NWSL. Watt spoke on how the collective allows her and other players to provide opportunities for young girls that they didn’t have. One such initiative is the creation of mini-pitches to give more safe and equitable spaces for Black girls to play soccer.

Copa America is Upon Us

This year’s Copa America, which will pit the top 16 nations in the Western Hemisphere against each other, kicks off tonight. Here’s a great guide to each team’s notable players and chances to win the tournament. Orlando City goalkeeper Pedro Gallese was noted as the star to watch on Peru’s squad. He has his work cut out for him though in a group that includes Argentina, Canada, and Ecuador. As for the U.S., Christian Pulisic and Giovanni Reyna are key players for the team’s aspirations at a deep run.

Chuck Booth over at CBS Sports also ranked each team heading into the tournament, placing the U.S. fifth on the list. Argentina tops the rankings, and I was a bit surprised to see Brazil in fourth. Peru is last, but hopefully Gallese and Wilder Cartagena can help prove the doubters wrong.

Germany Advances in Euro 2024

Germany followed up its opening win against Scotland with a 2-0 win over Hungary to become the first team to clinch a spot in the knockout round of Euro 2024. In the other Group A matchup, Switzerland and Scotland battled to a 1-1 draw that included a great goal from Xherdan Shaqiri after a bad giveaway by Scotland.

It looked like Albania was headed towards another frustrating loss after giving up the lead in the second half, but a late strike by Klaus Gjasula salvaged a 2-2 draw against Croatia. Today’s slate of matches features a showdown between Spain and Italy, along with Denmark’s clash with England. We also may get to see Orlando City center back David Brekalo take the field in Slovenia’s match against Serbia.

Free Kicks

  • Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Ryan Gauld won MLS Goal of the Matchday for his strike in stoppage time against the New England Revolution.
  • FC Cincinnati’s Luca Orellano scored one of the best goals of the season with a pinpoint strike from downtown.
  • NJ/NY Gotham FC extended its unbeaten streak to nine games, with rookie Maycee Ball scoring a late winner to beat the San Diego Wave 2-1.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week!

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