Orlando City

Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Player Grades and Man of the Match

How did your favorite Lions perform in Orlando City’s 5-0 home win vs. D.C. United?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

On a night when the merch of the match was a shirt showing a picture of Orlando City legend Kaká in the midst of his iconic post-goal celebration, the current iteration of the Lions celebrated five times themselves after putting goals into the net and trounced the squad from our nation’s capital, 5-0.

Thankfully, the fans in The Wall did not shoot off all of their flares and fireworks on Independence Day, as they needed them all night long in Inter&Co Stadium on Saturday night. Nine different Lions had goal contributions, and the team kept a clean sheet. Games like these are the fun ones to evaluate and grade.

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 — It was a mostly quiet night for the Peruvian goalkeeper, especially after a red card was issued to D.C. United’s Lucas Bartlett in first-half stoppage time. Pedro recorded one save on United’s only shot on target and completed eight of his 12 pass attempts, but really was not called upon for very much after some initial action early in the match. Still, a clean sheet is a clean sheet, and he will be happy to have contributed the fifth shutout of the season for the Orlando City defense.

D, Kyle Smith, 6 — Kyle started for the second consecutive match on the left side of the defense and I thought he performed well on the night. He brings a different look to both the offense and the defense than when Rafael Santos is on the field, and on Saturday night I thought he had a good partnership with the defensive back line and also with the offense. He completed 44 passes at an 89.8% clip, and got two shots off as well, though neither were on frame. Defensively, he contributed two tackles, an interception, and three clearances before making way for Alex Freeman in the 82nd minute.

D, Robin Jansson, 9 (MotM) — I toyed with going even higher for Robin, as what more can you do as a central defender than be the captain, contribute to a clean sheet, score a goal, complete 97.3% of your passes, save a ball off the line, and basically smother a former Premier League starting striker in Christian Benteke? Jansson recorded a tackle, an interception, a blocked shot, and three clearances. His header was too powerful for Tyler Miller to stop on Orlando’s second goal, providing the Lions some breathing room early in the match, and he nearly scored a second goal in the 73rd minute off Miller’s fantastic save of Rodrigo Schlegel’s header, but the defender couldn’t make good contact with the ball while it was in the air. He helped break D.C.’s pressure with two successful dribbles, too. The only knock on Jansson was that he did not play the full 90 minutes, but when you sub out when your team is leading 4-0, is that a knock, really? The game was well in hand when he subbed off for the returning David Brekalo, and I believe the Beefy Swede was the top reason why the Lions were dominating the game, so for me he was the Man of the Match.

D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 8 — While the Argentinean defender’s night was a little quieter than that of his partner in central defense, he still put in an excellent shift and definitely contributed to the clean sheet. Rodrigo went the full 90 minutes, leading the team with four clearances in addition to an interception and a blocked shot. He completed 92.9% of his passes, including four of his six long balls, while nearly tucking away a header that was headed, literally, for the upper corner before a fine save by Miller kept it out. He also played a major role in keeping the aforementioned Benteke off the score sheet, something many teams have not been able to do this season, with a team-high four aerials won. His goal early was well taken, even if it didn’t count because he was well offside.

D, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, 7.5 — Dagur Dan got Orlando City going early in the match, intercepting a pass, smoking down the right side, staying on his feet despite a major shoulder bump from Christopher McVey, and then stopping on a dime to cut the ball back and play a perfect pass to Martín Ojeda for the opening goal. That was just one of 46 completed passes for the Icelandic right back on the night at a 97.9% completion rate, with three of those passes leading directly to an Orlando City shot. He also chipped in a clearance and two dribbles. Thorhallsson went the full 90, and he was still making runs up and down the field late in the game, even with the Lions clearly having the game in hand. When Smith subbed out, Thorhallsson switched over to the left side of the field and did not show any issues at all with playing in an unusual position, and he helped close out the final few minutes to earn the Lions their clean sheet.

MF, César Araujo, 6 — The Uruguayan defensive midfielder had a solid game, playing his usual destroyer role in the middle of the field and helped start the offense out of the back. As he always does, César drew a few fouls (2) and completed most (90.9%) of his passes, and I was somewhat surprised it was him who made way for Luis Muriel in the 58th minute, though it was likely to protect him from yellow card accumulation. In another surprise move, it was Araujo who attempted to score off a free kick when the Lions had a golden opportunity to score from just outside the box in first-half stoppage time. His effort, while hit very hard, cannoned off the wall and nothing came of that opportunity. It was one of his two shots on the night — both off target. He added a clearance on the defensive end. It was a strong, but quiet, game for César.

MF, Wilder Cartagena, 8.5 I thought Wilder was excellent on Saturday night, as he led the team in passes completed (77), shots (4), and shots on target (3), and was also second on the team in tackles (3). The Peruvian midfielder also had an assist on two key passes, as he took a pass from Facundo Torres and played a perfect ball right onto Jansson’s head to put the Lions up 2-0. Cartagena also played the ball over the top that led to the red card foul by Bartlett on Iván Angulo, a wonderfully weighted ball in just the right spot that could well have been his second assist had there not been a foul. It was one of nine attempted long balls by the Peruvian and he completed all nine. After Araujo subbed out, Wilder also held down the center of the park for the rest of the game, recording one clearance and putting in an excellent shift on a very hot night in Orlando.

MF, Facundo Torres, 8.5 — I feel like the Facu we loved during his first two years has returned, and Saturday night’s match was emblematic of everything he is capable of doing on the field. The Uruguayan winger had five key passes, two secondary assists, and one goal (with his right foot!), and I think he should have also created two penalty kicks with shots that looked very much like they hit arms that were in places that should have led to a handball call. Neither was called, because…Orlando City. Back to Facu though, he now has four goals in his last five matches and is creating goal-scoring opportunities all over the field for his teammates. In addition, he added three tackles and an interception defensively. He was outstanding on Saturday, and he was definitely in contention for my Man of the Match.

MF, Iván Angulo, 8 — On the other side of the field from Facu was Iván Angulo, and his performance about as impressive. He scored his third goal of the season on a looked-intentional-but-perhaps-was-slightly-unintentional-but-it-worked-out-so-we’ll-call-it-intentional give and go with Martín Ojeda (though officially Ojeda did not get the assist as it came off a defender before Angulo shot it). It was his run that drew the DOGSO (denial of a goal scoring opportunity) foul that reduced D.C. United to 10 men late in the first half and, for all intents and purposes, ensured that Orlando City would win the match. Angulo also played the through ball to Duncan McGuire that led to Facu’s goal, and had that ball come back into the middle, he was in perfect position to tap it in for a goal as well. The Colombian also led the team in tackles, with four, and completed 53 passes, third on the team, at an 84.1% rate, with three of those passes leading directly to a shot. With D.C. United down a man, it was often Angulo who stretched the defense to the limit on the left side of the field; he received 21 passes from 10 yards or more away in the attacking half of the field on Saturday night, tied for third most by any player in a MLS game in 2024. One thing he could have done better was get his crosses past the first defender, as he went 0-for-2 on attempted crosses though he did win a couple of corners out of them.

MF, Martín Ojeda, 8 — Ojeda’s cannon shot opened the scoring as he timed his run perfectly to find a huge swath of space near the top of the 18 and then absolutely smashed the cross from Thorhallsson past three defenders and the goalkeeper to put the Lions on the board. He now has two goals and one assist in the last three games, and it seems like perhaps the South American trio of he, Torres, and Angulo are starting to gel as the attacking midfield group. He would have scored a second goal on a brilliant shot later but had strayed well offside on the play. As he nearly always does, Ojeda led the team in crosses (14) and completed half of them (7), part of an overall passing completion percentage of 93.8%. He was also second on the team with four key passes and added a tackle, before making way for Nico Lodeiro in the 78th minute.

F, Duncan McGuire, 6 — The effort was definitely there for Duncan during this game, and even though he did not score a goal himself, he did contribute a wonderful assist on a play he could have tried to take himself, but instead made a great pass across the box for Torres to run onto to and deposit into the back of the net. On a similar play a few minutes before, he had tried to take it himself and his timing was off and he ended up dribbling it out of bounds, but he got a second chance and he did not waste it, contributing to making the score 4-0 and effectively ending the game. He put one of his three shots on target, a flicked effort at the near post on a corner. I was unable to attend the game in person so I was watching on the AppleTV+ feed, and Duncan also led the team in getting caught on camera yelling “pass me the (inappropriate) ball” after making another run that went unrewarded, which meant he also led the team in comedic output. He only had 23 touches and only completed eight passes at a 66.7% rate, but on the whole I thought he was more positive than negative before he subbed out for Ramiro Enrique in the 77th minute.

Substitutes

MF, Luis Muriel (58′), 5 — It was a subdued performance from Muriel off the bench Saturday, as for the first time this season he did not even get a shot off, and the only real energy I saw from him was when he got into Torres’ selfie celebration. He completed 16 passes at a 94.1% rate, and he had a nutmeg while possessing the ball in the defensive end, adding a key pass and two dribbles. But on the whole, it was a rather pedestrian performance in a game where I thought he could have contributed more going against a hot and tired defense playing down a man.

F, Ramiro Enrique (75′), 6.5 — A late game sub, Ramiro made his presence felt with his first goal of the season on a glancing header in the 85th minute off a headed ball from fellow sub Alex Freeman. He provided his usual energy and hustle off the bench, and completed all five of his passes for a perfect 100% completion rate.

MF, Nico Lodeiro (77′), 6.5 — Nico only played 13 minutes plus stoppage time, but he managed to complete 19 passes (at a 90.5% rate) and have 32 touches of the ball, so he definitely came into the game like a firework. (It’s still close enough to Independence Day for this reference to work, right? Don’t answer that.) The Uruguayan also played the corner kick that Alex Freeman headed across for Enrique’s goal, made two tackles and had one interception, so I felt that even in a short performance he did earn a grade, and a good one, with how he contributed to the final portion of the game.

D, David Brekalo, (77’), N/A The Slovenian subbed in at the same time as Lodeiro, but since he subbed in for Jansson, and D.C. United barely had the ball while he was on, I did not think there was enough there for him to earn a grade. Brekalo completed all 11 of his passes, including two long balls, but aside from that he did not have any other involvement in the game.

D, Alex Freeman (82′), 6.5 — The final Orlando City substitution of the game, Freeman came on for Smith, playing right back, which pushed Thorhallsson to the left side. In his short time on the field, he completed all nine of his passes, including a perfect flicked header across the box for his first career MLS assist. On the play, he made a run from the center of the box to beat a D.C. United defender to Lodeiro’s corner kick, sending across to Enrique, who nodded it home. This was Freeman’s longest appearance of his young MLS career, and I thought he looked very comfortable on the field.


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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