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Is Luis Muriel Who We Thought He Would Be?

A thorough investigation into whether Luis Muriel has underperformed or if fans just need some dissuasion.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Winston Churchill famously evaluated what Russia would do during World War II by saying, “I cannot forecast to you the action of Russia. It is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma, but perhaps there is a key.” In the grand scheme of things, the performance of one player on Orlando City’s 2024 squad is slightly less important than what Great Britain’s prime minister was discussing, I think, but when analyzing Luis Muriel and how his season has gone thus far, I continue to come back to the same question: is Luis Muriel underperforming expectations or were our expectations never correct in the first place?

Let’s get right into it — Muriel’s traditional stats thus far this season do not look fantastic for a striker (though it must be said that his post-goal dance on Saturday, dubbed “The Muriel” on this week’s episode of The Mane Land PawedCast, did look fantastic). Here is a chart, using data from fbref.com in collaboration with Opta, that shows some of his 2024 stats, their rank in MLS, and their rank on Orlando City (for some of these metrics I included a qualifier of number of attempts and chose 19 as the minimum, because for many teams that would mean a player had averaged at least one attempt per game in that category):

For a player who is, according to the MLS Players Salary Guide, the 12th-highest paid player in MLS, you would like to see a lot of those ranks closer to the top 10 or 20 in the league than what you see in that chart. For a player who is by far the highest paid on Orlando City’s 2024 team, and is the second highest-paid player ever for Orlando City (Kaká was the highest paid), you would like to see him leading the team in at least one of those categories, if not several.

The bottom two in particular stand out to me, as there are 125 MLS players who have taken at least 19 shots this season, and Muriel ranks 113th on that list in distance from the goal and 92nd in getting his shots on target, meaning he is shooting from farther away than nearly all high-volume shooters, and he is getting his shots on goal less often than most. In fact, his shot profile shows that he is taking a higher percentage of shots from 25+ yards away from the goal (dark purple section below) than any of his teammates are taking from 19+ yards away from the goal (dark purple + light purple sections), and he is taking nearly 70% of all of his shots from outside of the 18.

Now, were he putting these shots on goal — or, even better, in the goal — then nobody would care about where he was shooting from, but when you have three goals all year and 69% of your shots are not on target, then heads are going to shake, shake, shake, shake like a song by the Ying Yang Twins and Pitbull. But this is where I think a step back is needed, because if fans were expecting Muriel to come in and perform as a traditional striker or No. 9, then they were misreading his historical performance and his strengths as a player.

When you look at Muriel’s season-by-season statistics, two seasons jump out that would seem to contradict what I just wrote, and those are his 2019-2020 and 2020-2021 seasons, when he scored 18 and 22 goals, respectively.

“That seems like a lot of goals for someone you say is not a traditional striker, Andrew.”

Well, yes, but 11 of those 40 goals were from free kicks (which definitely takes skill, but skill that is not unique to a striker), and two were rebounds that fell to him inside the six-yard box, and while I do not generally love the statistic called xG (expected goals), it can be useful in some contexts, and those two rebounds both fell to Muriel in a location where a goal was expected 82% and 85% of the time. It’s almost so easy a caveman could do it.

So, either we are left with 27 of his goals (excluding 11 free kicks + two rebounds) or 29 of his goals (excluding only the 11 free kicks) that came from open play during those two high-scoring years — an average of 14.5 or 13.5 a season. Those are definitely good numbers, especially in a highly rated league like Serie A, but they are still also outliers when compared to his goals/year during most of his career.

Looking at his seasons from 2010-2011 through 2022-2023, excluding the two big seasons discussed above, Muriel averaged six non-penalty-kick goals per season. He scored those goals in Italy’s Serie A or Spain’s La Liga, top leagues, but six goals/year is not an amount generally associated with big-time strikers. To assume he would all of a sudden become a major goal scorer in the latter stages of his career just because he is joining a league rated lower than the one where he played previously is a bit of a stretch, and may be an unfair expectation by us as fans.

The other part I want to focus on that I think may be underappreciated by fans is all of the non-scoring contributions that Muriel has made during his time on the field. Yes, in the end the only stats that actually matter are goals and wins, and there have not been a lot of either thus far this season, but no single player is primarily responsible for that, even if they are a highly paid Designated Player.

A lot of the issues Orlando City has had this year are due to geometry (there will always be math when I write) and how the Lions’ shape needs to be in order to get the most out of the players on this year’s team. There are quite a lot of overlapping skills and overlapping places where players like to receive the ball, and that has frequently led to spacing issues on the field with creative players all wanting to go and get the ball in the same location at the same time.

Muriel, unlike many of his teammates, is a two-footed player and thus able to attack from anywhere on the field and in any direction, allowing him to create open spaces to play the ball all over the attacking third of the field. While this can get him into trouble (see: shots from very long range), he also has used this ability to be one of the more active and dangerous players in all of MLS when he has the ball:

As an aside, the last row there is interesting to me because Muriel ranks 16th in all of MLS, yet third on Orlando City (behind Nico Lodeiro in third overall and Facundo Torres in 15th overall). The Crew have two players in the top 16 as well, and every other player in the top 16 is the only one on his respective team. I am not sure whether Orlando City having three near the top is an example of an unselfish team that is comfortable playing the ball among playmakers or reflects a team that does not have the pecking order set, and thus it becomes a little of “my turn, your turn” type offense.

Last season, there was a clear order in that Torres led the team and was 25th in MLS, and the next-highest-ranking players were Martín Ojeda in 57th and Mauricio Pereyra in 79th. Is this something? I think it is still too early to tell, but removing own goals, Orlando City players scored 1.59 goals/game in 2023 and thus far this season they are only scoring 1.16 goals/game, and I believe that the lack of a defined primary creator is one of several contributing factors to the lower-scoring output this season.

Back to Muriel and that chart above, his talent and skill clearly shows in how he is able to thread passes into dangerous areas and create shots at a rate that puts him among the leaders in all of MLS. His dribbling ability, reflected in the progressive carry percentage, shows that he is moving the ball at least 10 yards forward towards the goal 12.7% of the time he dribbles the ball in the offensive half of the field. This puts the defense under pressure, because he is building up a head of steam and coming at pace, and since he is also completing approximately 80% of his short passes (0-15 yards) thus far this season, and completing many of those into the 18, he is a constant threat once he has the ball.

As I mentioned before, Muriel is a two-footed player (Opta’s tracking has the foot used for 83 Muriel goals — 22 were left foot and 61 were right foot, an impressive mix), so he is a player who can go left or right, is accurate with his passes in tight spaces, creates shooting opportunities for his teammates, and wants the ball at all times. These are all qualities you want in an attacking player, especially one as proficient as Muriel is in them.

So we return to the riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma — a player with clear skill and pedigree who is contributing offensively but is not putting up the counting stats fans thought he would, even though he never really did aside from two outlier years. As much as I like to be more glass-half-full than half-empty, I do feel like Muriel should have contributed more goals by this point in the season, but unlike what the fan sitting next to me said during Saturday’s game, I do not think he is massively underperforming either.

In the end, I think Muriel’s performance thus far has been kind of like where we frequently see him on the field, more in the middle than in the front.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 7/15/24

Lion Links: Orlando City tops New England, OCB wins shootout after Miami draw, Euro and Copa America champions crowned, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you down in Florida. I’ve been working at Under Armour all weekend and managing broadcast operations for tournament matches for the NISA Independent Cup.

Before we get started, let’s wish Orlando Pride defender Carrie Lawrence a happy birthday. We’ve got plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links. 

Lions Beat New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium

Orlando City overturned a poor first half and a 1-0 deficit to defeat the New England Revolution 3-1 and secure its first win at Gillette Stadium. All the Lions’ goals came in the second half, as Facundo Torres found the back of the net twice and Ramiro Enrique added one as well. Orlando won its third consecutive game and fourth in its past five matches. Orlando stays in seventh in the Eastern Conference with 30 points, while New England dropped to 13th with 22 points. The Lions will be on the road for a clash against Nashville SC on Wednesday at Geodis Park.

Barbra Banda, Anna Moorhouse named to NWSL Best XI

Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda and goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse were named to the NWSL’s Best XI for June. Banda scored three goals and added three assists in four matches. She also became the first player in league history to score 12 goals in her first 12 appearances. Moorhouse recorded 20 saves and only allowed one goal last month. She also has seven clean sheets this year and has tied the club record for most clean sheets in a single season. Orlando’s next match will be on the road on Saturday against the North Carolina Courage in the NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup.

OCB Draws at Home Against Inter Miami CF II

Orlando City B and Inter Miami CF II battled to a 1-1 draw at Osceola County Stadium on Sunday. Inter Miami CF II struck first, but the Young Lions came up with a great Wilfredo Rivera goal to equalize and send the game to penalty kicks. In the shootout, OCB won 2-0 to grab the extra point. OCB remains 10th in the Eastern Conference with 23 points, and its next match will be on the road on Sunday against New York Red Bulls II.

USWNT Beats Mexico in Friendly

The U.S. Women’s National Team avenged its loss to Mexico in the Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup earlier this year with a 1-0 victory in a friendly at Red Bull Arena on Saturday. Sophia Smith scored the lone goal in the second half. The USWNT has not conceded a goal in its last three matches with Emma Hayes on the sidelines. Also, the USWNT that won the 1999 Women’s World Cup was honored before the match as it was the 25th anniversary. The USWNT will have one more match against Costa Rica on Tuesday before it travels to Paris for the Olympics.

Spain Wins Its Fourth European Championship

Spain edged past England 2-1 in the Euro 2024 final in Berlin to win its fourth European Championship. Nico Willams put Spain in front before Cole Palmer got an equalizer for England. It looked like we were about to go to extra time until Mikel Oyarzabal struck late in the second half to seal the win for Spain. This was Spain’s first major title since winning Euro 2012. Spain won all seven of its matches and is the first team to score 15 goals in a tournament. As for England, it has lost consecutive European Championship finals and extended its major trophy drought to 58 years.

Argentina Wins Copa America Final

This year’s Copa America also came to a close, with Argentina beating Colombia 1-0 to win its 16th title. It took extra time to determine a winner after a scoreless 90 minutes. Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez, who led the tournament in goals, came off the bench and scored the winner. The result snapped Colombia’s 28-game unbeaten streak and it was the first time Colombia was shut out in this tournament. Lionel Messi exited the game in the second half due to an apparent ankle injury as well.

Free Kicks

  • Former Orlando City defender Ruan scored the winning goal for CF Montreal against Atlanta United over the weekend.
  • Kickoff for the 2024 Copa America final was delayed after fans without tickets breached one of the security gates at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium. Police secured the gate, and kickoff for the match was delayed an hour and 20 minutes.
  • Celtic is reportedly close to an agreement to add former Leicester City, Nice, and Anderlecht goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
  • England manager Gareth Southgate stated he would discuss his future with the national team with important people behind the scenes, even though the English FA has indicated it prefers him to stay on. Southgate’s contract expires in December.

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 vs. New England Revolution: Player Grades and Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions perform in Orlando City’s 3-1 road victory at New England?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

There is probably a more eloquent Dickensian reference out there I could use about how this match was a tale of two cities halves. The Lions looked poor initially but started to find their footing toward the end of the first half and then came out and really lived up to our great expectations and smashed New England in the second half. A final score of 3-1 means that Orlando City finally won for the first time ever at New England and has now won three games in a row and four of its last five.

The Lions have a short turnaround with a game at Nashville coming on Wednesday, but for now, let’s bask in the glow of another high-scoring win and get to work on the report card. I have my purple pen out, and I am ready to issue those grades, so here we go.

Let’s take a look at how Orlando City’s players rated individually in their Eastern Conference matchup.

Starters

GK, Pedro Gallese, 6 — The Peruvian international did not have a lot to do during this match, as New England did not really threaten his goal often. The Revolution only had three shots on target all game long, and the one goal they scored was from point-blank range after a defensive breakdown. I think Gallese perhaps could have collected the initial ball over the top from Esmir Bajraktarevic, but that would have been a risky play and he likely did not assume that his defenders would all ball watch and let runners go unmarked right in the middle of the box. Gallese made one save and completed seven passes on the night, but it was a mostly unremarkable game for him.

D, Kyle Smith, 5 — After two consecutive solid games starting in the back four, Smith looked almost subdued in the game Saturday night, completing a lot of short passes but not really accounting (see what I did there?) for any — for lack of a better term — oomph in Orlando City’s attack. He completed 30 passes at an 88.2% rate, but aside from one ball to Iván Angulo towards the left side of the box, there really was not a lot that was memorable about his play in the first half. In fact, he did not record a single defensive statistic, and I was not surprised that Rafael Santos was on the field in place of Smith when the second half started. This did apparently surprise Apple TV’s broadcasters, since they did not realize he was out for a few minutes, but Smith had not put on a Santos disguise, and he had indeed gone off after 45 minutes.

D, Robin Jansson, 6 — New England has an excellent striker in Giacomo Vrioni, but he really did not do a lot to threaten the center of Orlando City’s defense, to the point that neither Jansson nor Rodrigo Schlegel had a tackle. Now, the obvious counter to this is that, you know, Vrioni scored a goal (aside from that whole gunshot thing, how was the play, Mrs. Lincoln?), but I thought Jansson helped limit Vrioni to really only be a target and not someone that the Revolution played through. On the play that led to the goal, Jansson was marking Jack Panayotou, so I do not think he takes much culpability in that goal, even thought it happened right in front of him. As I mentioned, the Beefy Swede did not have a tackle but he led the team with four clearances and one blocked shot, and he completed 36 passes at a 90% completion rate. It was a quiet night for Jansson after his Man-of-the-Match-level performance last week against D.C. United, but I do not think the captain will mind since the Lions picked up another three points.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 6.5 — I thought Schlegel was excellent for most of the game, except for the three seconds from 22:44 to 22:47. During that time, he followed the ball instead of his man, and Vrioni slipped unmarked into the center of the box and smashed a shot home to give the Revolution the lead. Ugh. However, during the rest of the game, I thought Schlegel was really good, especially around the marking of Vrioni, and he showed why even with the return of David Brekalo from the Euros that Orlando City has not made a change to the pairing of Jansson and Schlegel in the middle. Rodrigo was third on the team with 51 completed passes, compiling a 98.1% completion rate (that’s 51/52, everyone), and he even advanced forward and got two shots off, though neither were on target. He also had two clearances and blocked one shot, and led the team with 11 accurate long balls on 14 attempts.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 6.5 — I know Thorhallsson is listed as the starting right back, but I really think that D for defender should be a DD for Dagur Dan, because to call him just a defender or just a right back does not really satisfy what he brings to Orlando City. He is a Dagur Dan, and just like Tigger, he is the only one. On Saturday night, he was once again all over the field making plays, and although he did not contribute to any of the goals it was not for lack of trying, as in the first half he got himself into a great scoring position for a cross from Angulo that he just could not place properly to get by Aljaž Ivačič, and he was constantly probing and making runs off the right side of the box and helping to cause worry along the left side of the Revolution’s defense. He also completed 39 passes at an 88.9% completion rate, with one key pass among those passes, and he had one tackle and one clearance defensively. I have to ding him some early defensive mistakes. He was beaten early in the match by Panayotou but Jansson was able to intervene in the 11th minute. He was in position, but still got beat over the top on the cross into the box that led to New England’s only goal. Despite the early defensive errors, I thought on the whole his performance was solid on the evening.

MF, César Araujo, 7 — The Uruguayan defensive midfielder had another typical game, generally short on flash but long on making a difference in the middle of the field. Cesar was second on the team in passes completed (54), tackles (3), and shot-creating actions (3), with one of those shot-creating actions being the assist for the second goal when his header back into the middle of the box was knocked in by Ramiro Enrique in the 58th minute. The midfield pairing of Araujo and Wilder Cartagena has been excellent during the recent three-game winning streak. I do not think it is a coincidence that as soon as Cartagena returned from the Copa America tournament, the team got hot. Araujo and Cartagena know how to play with and off of one another, which showed Saturday night. I think it is instructive to look at this heatmap from whoscored.com in between the grades for Araujo and Cartagena, because you can see just how well they balanced each other with their play during the match.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 7.5 Saturday night’s performance was another outstanding showing from the Peruvian midfielder, as he was once again all over the field making plays and bossing the game with midfield partner Araujo. Wilder led the team with 60 completed passes at a 93.8% completion rate, and he also led the team with 16 completed passes in the attacking third, five tackles, two fouls suffered, and one (friendly) face slap of Facundo Torres, after Torres scored his second goal. I will be tracking friendly, and unfriendly, face slaps for the rest of the season, do not worry. I thought Cartagena dictated the game with his play in the center of the field, and though he did not play a major role in any of Orlando City’s three goals, he was the best two-way player on the field, and was definitely a candidate for the Man of the Match.

MF, Iván Angulo, 7.5 — During the first part of Saturday’s match it seemed like everyone wearing Orlando City colors was sluggish except one player, and that player was Angulo. As he seems to do every game, Angulo looked like he was perpetually playing on turbo mode, making runs up the sideline and getting around defenders to create opportunities. Orlando City was profligate in front of the net for most of those, but eventually his hard work paid off, as it was his driving run into the box and pass to Torres that led to the latter’s tying goal in the 51st minute. Angulo led the team in progressive carries (7), shot-creating actions (6), and key passes (4), and he completed 31 passes at an 81.7% rate. He chipped in a tackle and an interception defensively before coming off for Brekalo in the 84th minute in a defense-for-offense substitution, but the Colombian winger had well earned a few minutes of rest after another strong effort.

MF, Martín Ojeda, 6 — The Lions went with the same attacking midfield group that had been starting during the last few matches, but on Saturday night Ojeda just did not seem to have the same juice as he had brought during those other recent wins. As usual, this was not due to lack of effort, but something just was off from the Argentinean midfielder. Despite playing nearly 70 minutes, he only completed 27 passes, though he did complete them at a 96.4% rate, and he only crossed the ball four times all match, unusually low for him, completing two. He did play the corner that led to Enrique’s goal, and that was a well-placed corner kick to Araujo’s head that then came right back into the middle for the tap-in (one of Ojeda’s two key passes), but on the whole I thought it was just a muted performance by Ojeda on the night.

MF, Facundo Torres, 8 (MotM) Facu is so hot right now, not unlike how Hansel was during Zoolander. Since the official first day of summer, Torres has five goals in five matches, and he has now moved into a tie with Nani for third all-time on the Orlando City goal-contribution list (career goals + assists = 44). On Saturday night he started slowly, but as the first half came to a close he started to pick up. Then, in the second half, he was excellent. Hmm, sounds a lot like how Orlando City’s overall game flow was, too. Coincidence? No. Facu’s two goals were absolutely perfectly hit curling balls from the right side of the box that went exactly where every soccer coach tells you to shoot — low and hard to the far corner. Torres also put a third shot on target that was saved well by Ivačič, so he put all three of his shots on frame. The Uruguayan winger completed 44 passes at a 91.7% rate with two key passes. He also compiled a dribble, a tackle, and an interception. As he goes, so will this offense, and I think there is very little that we as fans love more than to see Facu over by the corner flag with his pretend phone up doing the Selfie Celebration with his teammates.

F, Ramiro Enrique, 7 — The one change in the starting lineup from the last two matches was Enrique in for Duncan McGuire, and that was most definitely not a like-for-like swap. Enrique is not as adept at holdup play and winning long balls to create possession for the offense, but what he does bring, which showed on Saturday night, was an extra burst of quickness and shiftiness to get something on the ball and create plays. This manifested in the first goal, when Angulo slipped a pass to a cutting Ramiro who then played it back, and it eventually made its way across the box to Torres. Enrique then made the dashing run on the second goal to beat everyone to Araujo’s header back across the box, tapping it into the net for his second goal in the last two games. Enrique had no key passes or defensive stats, only had 23 touches, and only completed seven passes on the night (87.5% rate), but he still contributed majorly to Orlando City coming from behind to take the lead before he made way for Luis Muriel in the 69th minute.

Substitutes

D, Rafael Santos (46′), 6 — Santos checked in after halftime and provided a spark that had not been there in the first half from the left back position. The raw stats show that Smith completed more passes and at a higher percentage, and that neither left back made many plays defensively, but Santos definitely looked more composed and threatening on the ball during the second half than what the Lions got from that position during the first half. His hustle to get to a ball that he nearly lost after a heavy touch led to the third goal for Orlando City, and while his passing accuracy (87%) was among the lowest on the team, the danger he brought to the field with his play during the second half definitely contributed to the second half comeback.

F, Luis Muriel (69′), 6.5 — The Colombian Designated Player had one of his best games as a Lion on Saturday night, which is both good news and bad news for Orlando City. I am writing grades specifically for this match, but it is hard not to also take a step back and consider that the fact that an appearance off the bench with one assist against a bottom of the conference team is one of the best games for Muriel this season does raise some questions. That said, I thought Muriel looked dangerous in this match and made the right decision with the ball on most of his possessions — in particular, his perfect pass to Torres for an assist on the third goal that effectively iced the game for Orlando City. He unselfishly played the ball with the outside of his foot to a sprinting Torres, and the weight of the pass allowed Facu to curl that ball in without ever breaking stride. That was the first Muriel-to-Torres combination for a goal, and I, for one, would enjoy seeing many more of those this season. I recommend they do this again on Wednesday. Muriel put his only shot attempt on target, forcing a save, had one key pass, and won an aerial duel.

MF, Nico Lodeiro (69′), 6 — I think the role of supersub off the bench fits Nico well, and he turned in another strong performance in his 21 minutes Saturday night. The Uruguayan took over for Ojeda and completed 14 passes at a 93.3% rate, including hustling to win a loose ball that he then played to Muriel that then went on to Torres for the backbreaking third goal from Orlando City in the 81st minute. Lodeiro was active throughout his minutes on the field, also making one tackle and intercepting one pass.

D, David Brekalo, (84’), N/A The Slovenian international came on for Angulo shortly after the Lions took a two-goal lead, moving the team to a five-man back line and playing as the right center back in between the Nordic duo of Jansson and Thorhallsson. Brekalo made one interception and completed four of his five passes, including one long ball, but he did not contribute enough in his short outing to earn a grade this week.

MF, Jeorgio Kocevski (90 +2′), N/A — Jeorgio subbed in for Araujo during stoppage time to help close out the game. He was able to get four touches of the ball and complete two passes, but he was not on the field long enough to earn a grade this week.


That’s how I saw the individual performances on Saturday night. What did you think? Be sure to let us know in the comments, and vote in the poll below for your Orlando City Man of the Match.

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Orlando City vs. New England Revolution: Five Takeaways

What did we learn from the Lions’ road victory against the Revolution?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City traveled north to battle the New England Revolution in a stadium where the Lions had never secured three points. Falling behind early, the Lions were able to ride a dominant offensive performance in the second half to walk out of Gillette Stadium with a 3-1 win. What follows are my five takeaways from a match in which the final result was both needed and a surprise all at the same time.

Poor Marking Early

Orlando City started the match flat and the Revs looked to be the aggressors for the majority of the opening half hour of the game. New England should have capitalized on poor defensive marking in the 11th minute of the match but a sliding attempt on goal was deflected wide of the near post by a recovering Robin Jansson. The poor effort ultimately came back to bite the Lions in the 23rd minute, as Dagur Dan Thorhallsson was in decent position but was too passive in defending DeJuan Jones on a back-post cross, allowing him to get to it and lay it off. Rodrigo Schlegel also attempted to defend Jones at the back post and seemed surprised when he saw Thorhalsson, peeling off but then not locating a wide-open Giacomo Vrioni in his area. New England capitalized and took a 1-0 score into the break.

Torrid Torres

Who knows what the Lions had for a halftime snack? Whatever it was, it needs to become a staple going forward. Six minutes after the start of the second half, Orlando City leveled the game, as Facundo Torres ran onto a ball near the top of the 18-yard box and skillfully placed a shot into the bottom left corner. The Uruguayan has been in top form over the last six matches, and Saturday night illustrates that when Torres is on his game, it elevates the entire team. I am calling it now…summer time Facu has officially arrived.

Success from Set Pieces

Orlando City won a corner in the 58th minute after a strong shot attempt by Torres from outside the box had been parried out of play by New England goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic. Martin Ojeda then sent in an in-swinging corner kick to the far side of the box, which found Cesar Araujo rising to meet it. Araujo wisely put the ball back across the face of the goal, as he wasn’t in a great position to make an attempt on goal himself. At the same time, Ramiro Enrique made a smart, curling run behind the defense and in front of Ivacic. Enrique met the ball as it landed and flicked it past the keeper and into the back of the net. In what seemed like the blink of an eye, Orlando City went from a goal down to having a one-goal lead.

Securing the Victory

Orlando City fans did not have to sweat out the final minutes of the match clinging to a one-goal lead thanks once again to Torres. In the 81st minute, a quick takeaway transition was sent from second-half substitute Nico Lodeiro to fellow sub Luis Muriel. Although Muriel could have tried to get into the box himself, he spotted Torres open on the right and made the pass. Torres shot with his first touch and again picked out the inside of the left post to give the Lions breathing room. With his brace in New England, Torres is up to six goal contributions in the last three matches. Torres seems to be thinking less and doing more. Against the Revolution, both goals that Torres scored were instinctual, with no extra touches or dribbles.

Resilience on the Road

Orlando City had been winless at Gillette Stadium throughout the entirety of the club’s existence in Major League Soccer, entering the match with a mark of 0-6-2 in eight previous visits to Foxborough, MA. It is a tall task to win matches on the road in MLS, but Orlando City’s ability to grind out results away from home propelled the Lions to their best finish in team history in 2023. It’s also helped keep the ship afloat this season. Not only did the Lions make some history with the victory in Foxborough; they did it by coming from behind, demonstrating a strong desire to earn all three points on the road. It is these kind of performances that the team will be able to draw upon as the season continues.


That is how I saw things in an exciting, come-from-behind, 3-1 victory. What players or moments stood out to you the most? Let us know in the comments below and as always, vamos Orlando!

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