Another beautiful evening in a sold-out Orlando City Stadium was capped by yet another fantastic performance for the boys in purple (or black on this night), who extended their impressive winning streak to four straight. Let’s take a look at how they performed individually on the night:
GK, Joe Bendik, 6.5 — Bendik wasn’t tested much early in the first half, but as San Jose began to up their attacking tempo, Bendik was there to shut it down. He displayed his usual adept skills in positioning and shot blocking, but this match also highlighted an attribute that was missing from last week’s match: the quick second effort to save the loose balls he’s already parried down. Granted, San Jose wasn’t spectacular in the attack on the evening. He did concede a couple goals on corners late in the second half though, and that caused a bit of consternation among the crowd and coaching staff, but ultimately his performance was typical of a Bendik showing: class shot stopping coupled with a few unlucky breaks.
D, Will Johnson, 6 — Johnson was offered yet another opportunity to display his versatility as Head Coach Jason Kreis deployed him at right back. Unfortunately, it seemed that Johnson was a target of San Jose’s pacey attack, as he struggled countless times in keeping up with the opposing wingers. He was involved in the attack though, and his effort in hightailing it back to defend shouldn’t be discounted. His second half, however, was a bit stronger. Multiple tackles won on his flank were deciding factors in not conceding additional goals, and his impact from a position that is not his natural one should not be ignored.
D, Amro Tarek, 6.5 — It’s hard to believe that Orlando City has three in-form, experienced, and consistent center backs (albeit Jonathan Spector has been out for a few matches), but the Lions do, and it’s clear. Tarek has been rock solid in the back through these first two months of the 2018 campaign and tonight was no different. He did allow Danny Hoesen inside him on one occasion. He also found himself involved in a few heated scuffles near the conclusion of the match, and that needs to be avoided (especially when leading by two goals), but his performance was fabulous yet again, and the supporters won’t forget about it anytime soon.
D, Lamine Sané, 8 — Sané has been a godsend since his arrival this summer. His consistency in the back has been a sight to see, and I’ll continue to champion the idea that he’s been the most important addition so far. His slide tacking is second to none in the squad (his height isn’t either), and his leadership shows in his communication with his teammates. Oh, and he was also perfect in his passing in the first half at 100% completed.
D, Mohamed El-Munir, 6.5 — Aside from an errant pass early in the opening minutes and a couple iffy crosses, El-Munir was solid in both the attack and in defense on the night. Stefano Pinho and El-Munir displayed wonderful communication and movement, and though the attacks on the left flank often ended disappointingly, they were a constant threat to the back line of San Jose. El-Munir’s interest in getting involved in the attack is what sets him apart in this squad, and it’s only a matter of time before one of his cascading runs ends with the ball finding the back of the net.
MF, Yoshimar Yotún, 7.5 — Yotún was pivotal in the midfield on the night, providing quality passes in the two goal sequences of the first half. His fluidity and versatility allowed him space in various attacking positions despite being deployed as a holding midfielder, and his touch and command of the midfield was highlighted during the match in multiple scenarios as he settled the play down. Had it not been for rookie Chris Mueller’s sensational showing, Yoshi was in the running to be named as Man of the Match. He did see yellow in the 64th minute and that’ll be something to keep an eye on going forward, as a player is suspended upon a fifth booking in a season.
MF, Christian Higuita, 6 — Higuita did a solid job winning multiple fouls throughout the early stages of the first half, and looked quick on the ball as he maneuvered his way through challenges (the few where he wasn’t fouled). Unfortunately, on a few occasions following beating a man he gave away possession a little too easily, with the majority on errant passes or passes that lacked the mustard to make it to the intended target. Other than that, however, Higuita is again establishing himself as a valid option in the midfield for Jason Kreis and the supporters can expect to see more of him in the near future.
MF, Chris Mueller, 8.5 (MotM) — The young man just can’t stop scoring. This time he did it early, as in second minute early. Not only did he notch yet another goal (his third in three games, and the fastest goal to start a game in the club’s MLS history), but he also snagged his first MLS assist as he helped Sacha Kjlestan get on the score sheet. It should be noted that Mueller could have easily taken on that chance, but maturely opted to slide the ball to a teammate for a somewhat easy (sliding) tap-in. His movement and energy was excellent and he continues to show vast improvements in his finishing and his relationship with his teammates. I initially wasn’t a huge fan of the “Cash” Mueller nickname...but if he keeps his name on the score sheet, Cash it is.
MF, Sacha Kljestan, 6 — The assist king got on the end of a Mueller pass in the first half to add his name to the score sheet on the evening. This was a match that saw Kjlestan take control of several attacking sequences that were seemingly going off the rails. While this was a strength of Kljestan’s performance, there was a clear weakness: being too fancy. On several occasions Kljestan took the route of a flick, back heel, or unnecessarily difficult pass when other options were available. Despite this, he was still solid in the attack and his performance, while not even close to his best, got the job done.
MF, Stéfano Pinho, 5.5 — Pinho had a fairly ugly whiff early in the first half that was a clear opportunity to increase the Lions’ lead. There were multiple times that Pinho would have benefited from being a bit more patient than he was, including an early first-half cross into the penalty area with no Lions making a run into the box. He was active on the defensive side of things though, and he provided much-needed support for left back El-Munir, so that certainly lifts his grade on the night.
F, Dom Dwyer, 6.5 — It’s not often that I find myself saying “Dwyer should have have been greedy there,” but I did say that to myself at least twice on the evening. He still found his way to the net though and his performance on the night was nothing to scoff at. His passing on the night was not quite up to par with what supporters have become accustomed to, but his movement in the attack was efficient and his pace was once again on full display. His goal in the 69th minute is a prime example of how dangerous he can be, even on a somewhat off night. Oh, the young man netted the 100th goal of his pro career, too.
MF, Justin Meram (60’), 6.5 — Meram entered the match at the hour mark and made an instant impact as he slotted a through ball to a sprinting Dwyer for the striker’s 100th career goal. One has to wonder if/when Meram will break back into the starting 11, and this performance may do just that for him in conjunction with Pinho’s lackluster showing. I’m sure he wishes he could have that penalty attempt back, but hey, it happens.
MF, Josué Colmán (78’), N/A— Colmán was brought on in the 78th minute for the star man on the night (Mueller) and didn’t really get to put his footprint on the match. While it was exciting again to see him on the pitch, I can only hope to see Colmán start a match to see what his performances can truly bring to the squad.
MF, Uri Rosell (85’), N/A — Uri was subbed on for an ailing Higuita near the finale of the match. He didn’t see the pitch long enough to make an impact on this one, but it was great to finally see his long-awaited Orlando City debut.
There you have it, Mane Landers. The Lions claimed another impressive win to add to their growing collection (despite the late scare), and Mueller continues to show why the Lions decided to call his name in January. What’d you think of the players’ performances? Let us know in the comment section below!
Who was your Man of the Match for Orlando City’s 3-2 win against San Jose?
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