It is with a heavy heart that I bring to you the final player grades article of the season. After an outstanding regular season, the best by any margin in team history, the Lions fell 2-0 to the Crew in front of a sold-out Exploria Stadium, exiting the 2023 MLS Cup playoffs in the conference semifinal round. There were individual moments of strong technique but ultimately finding the back of the net which had plagued Orlando City at various times throughout the year turned out to be the difference between joy and sorrow.
Let’s take a look at how Orlando City’s players rated individually in the last match of the 2023 season.
GK, Pedro Gallese, 7 (MotM) — It’s not often you give a good score and Man of the Match honors to the losing goalkeeper, but without several herculean saves by El Pulpo, the match may very well have never made it to extra time in the first place. For the vast majority of the match, his positioning was spot on, and he did well coming off of his line to win several balls from Crew corner kicks. The first goal was a bouncer through the six yard line across his box and while he initially got a touch on it, the rebound unfortunately was too close to the onrushing Christian Ramirez, who was able to get just enough of it to bundle it home. For the second goal, Gallese was about as far off his line as a keeper could be, but to no fault of his own. The minutes were winding down and with City down a man and a goal, the Lions had to push numbers forward and use him as a sweeper. Gallese’s distribution could have been better, as he passed at a 67.6% rate and only completed eight of his 20 long balls. He also recorded a clearance and was credited with five saves on the evening.
D, Rafael Santos, 6 — This game seemed like a bit of a mixed bag for the young Brazilian defender. He got forward and tried to build the attack with either Ivan Angulo or Facundo Torres but his crosses more often than not sailed over heads and were far from threatening. Defensively, he was sound, nothing flashy, but put in a decent shift. He was 0-for-5 on crossing accuracy and just one of his seven long balls found its target. His passing rate was 71.4%. Defensively, he contributed two interceptions, two clearances and a tackle.
D, Robin Jansson, 6.5 — Jansson put in the type of performance that Orlando City fans have grown to expect match in and match out. That is not to say that it was a perfect performance as the Beefy Swede found himself out of position a few times which luckily amounted to nothing from the Columbus attack. Jansson passed well at 87% and 10 of his 17 long balls were accurate. Jansson led the team in touches (90) and total passes attempted (77) which probably goes a long way to speak to how the game was played from the Orlando perspective. Defensively, he recorded two tackles and three clearances and three blocked shots. Jansson was also credited with one shot, which was not on target and suffered one foul while not committing any.
D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 5 — Schlegel went full Schlegel in this one and you never want to go full Schlegel. The center back, who had been a staple of the starting 11 throughout the second half of the season, got the nod once again next to Jansson after the extended time off during the international window. After picking up a yellow card in the 16th minute of the match, Schlegel did well not to draw another serious call for 61 minutes. The problem is that the match still had 13 minutes to go and Schlegel was shown a second yellow for dragging down Diego Rossi to prevent him from getting to a long ball. Prior to being sent off, Schlegel led the team in passing accuracy by completing 94.1% of his passes while completing one of his three long ball attempts, and he was credited with a key pass. Defensively, he led the team in clearances, with five, and logged one interception, one tackle, two aerials won, and two blocked shots.
D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6.5 — I am not sure what the Icelandic national did prior to the match to the referee but it seemed clear that the two were not fans of one another and probably won’t be following each other on Myspace any time soon. Thorhallsson grew into the fullback role quite well throughout the season and had what could be his best defensive moment of the year, when he broke into a full sprint to catch up and deflect a breakaway opportunity. Defensively, he recorded one tackle, one interception, a blocked shot, and three clearances. He passed at a 79.3% rate, and he was successful on one of two crosses and two of six long balls. He was shown a yellow in the 104th minute for subtly disagreeing with a foul call that went against him.
MF, Cesar Araujo, 6.5 — It was another solid night from the Uruguayan who was tasked with silencing both Rossi and Cucho Hernandez. His passing was a solid 88.9%, including a perfect three for three on long ball attempts, and he recorded one shot which was off target. The defensive midfielder recorded a team-high six tackles and one blocked shot. Araujo committed four fouls on the night and was issued a yellow in the 71st minute for persistent infringements. He was partly responsible for the Crew’s opening goal by not getting rid of the ball, but to be fair to the Uruguayan, he appeared to get caught for a foul that wasn’t given on the turnover that led to Ramirez’s goal.
MF, Wilder Cartagena, 6 — The second part of the Lions dynamic defensive midfield duo failed to leave as much of a mark against Columbus as he did against Nashville. Cartagena passed at an 85.7% clip, contributing a key pass and completing four of his five long balls. He recorded one interception and one blocked shot while committing a team-high five fouls. Oscar Pareja, perhaps afraid of going a man down if Cartagena picked up a second yellow, sacrificed him in the 62nd minute to send more fire power onto the pitch by introducing Designated Player Martin Ojeda.
MF, Ivan Angulo, 6 — Angulo got into several dangerous places throughout the night using his speed as a weapon but failed to connect the dots when he could have put City on the front foot and in the lead. Despite getting a clear-cut breakaway, Angulo was not credited with a shot. He passed at a 90.9% rate, which was the best percentage of all midfielders. He was credited with one key pass, setting up an early chance for Facundo Torres, and did not attempt a cross or long ball. Defensively, he chipped in with two tackles. Angulo was subbed off in the 82nd minute as the Lions looked to shore up their defensive shape after going a man down.
MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 5.5 — The captain was unspectacular throughout much of his time on the pitch, especially in the first half, when it seemed like Columbus was running free through a large expanse of the Orlando midfield. Offensively, he did not attempt a shot and completed 78.1% of his passes. He was unsuccessful on his lone crossing attempt, completed two of his three long balls and was credited with a key pass. Pereyra won two aerial duels. He chipped in one interception while committing two fouls and drawing two as well. Pereyra came off in the 72nd minute for Junior Urso.
MF, Facundo Torres, 6 — Torres had the best early chance to put Orlando ahead in what was otherwise an ugly first half when he recieved a pass from Angulo and then peppered the ball just a few inches above the crossbar. He nearly set up a game-winning goal for Martin Ojeda, but his fellow DP just missed the net deep in stoppage time. Facu contributed two shots, which were both off target, and recorded two key passes while passing at an 82.6% rate, completing two of his three long balls. He won an aerial duel and was fouled once. Defensively, he contributed two tackles and one clearance.
F, Duncan McGuire, 5.5 — The breakout star from the 2023 campaign failed to leave much of a mark on the final game of the year. In a win-or-go-home scenario, one shot which failed to even fall on frame doesn’t cut it. His passing rate of 66.7% was lowest out of the starters and he only won one aerial duel. He did manage to draw three fouls and contributed one tackle and once clearance. McGuire was subbed off in the 71st minute for Ramiro Enrique. His next task will potentially be the toughest of his young career…proving that a 13-goal, three-assist year was no fluke once the calendar turns to 2024.
MF, Martin Ojeda (62′), 6 — Orlando City fans will be left wondering what could have been as the DP super sub took a great through ball from Torres in stoppage time and shot it just wide of the corner post. Ojeda passed at a 68.8% rate and despite coming on as a substitute was credited with a team-high three key passes. Ojeda completed three of six crosses and one of three long balls. Defensively, he contributed one interception.
F, Ramiro Enrique (71′), 6.5 — Arguably the most potent of the substitutes, Enrique was brought on as fresh legs in an attempt to unlock the over-the-top game. Both of his shot attempts were on target (which now that I realize it, is the first time that I am writing that tonight) and he won four aerial duels. He completed 50% of his 10 passes and was not accurate on his lone crossing attempt. If not for some outstanding goalkeeping, Enrique may have once again been the sparkplug that Orlando desperately needed. On defense, the forward contributed one tackle and two clearances.
MF, Junior Urso (72′), 6 — The bear subbed on for the captain with a little less than 20 minutes to go in the match but wound up playing for nearly a full hour when extra time was taken into account. He demonstrated strong ball control and did well in his time on the pitch. He passed a a 79% success rate and was credited with a key pass, which should have unlocked god-tier Kyle Smith if not for an outstanding save from the Crew keeper. Urso was unsuccessful on both of his crossing attempts and on defense was credited with a lone tackle.
D, Antonio Carlos (82′), 6.5 — AC came onto the pitch with Orlando down a man, looking to desperately force the game into extra time, and he helped accomplish just that. Carlos completed 76.7% of his passes, including two out of four long ball attempts. Offensively, Carlos logged two shots, both which missed the target, and was fouled twice. Defensively, the Brazilian added two interceptions and two timely clearances while winning a team-high five aerial duels.
D, Kyle Smith (82′), 5.5 — The American defender had a terrific chance to bring Orlando level and hit a shot after a brilliant run with pace in the 100th minute. Unfortunately, Patrick Schulte was able to make the save to keep Columbus ahead. On the defensive side, Smith was caught up in the play which led to the first goal of the match, as he was just a step slow at being able to poke the ball out of bounds for a Crew corner kick instead of a Crew goal. He completed 84% of his passes in a little over 40 minutes of action but failed to connect on either of his two crossing attempts and only completed one of his four long balls. Defensively, Smith recorded one tackle and one clearance.
That’s how I saw the individual performances on Saturday night as Orlando City was eliminated at the hands of the Columbus Crew. Let me know what I got right and wrong in your opinion. Be sure to vote for your Man of the Match in our poll below and provide your thoughts in the comments section.