I’ll be honest, grading this squad, on the first day of the 2019 season is not something that I would wish on anyone. Pretty much no matter the outcome of the match, good, bad, or the draw we witnessed, this is a daunting task. I will give this my best go.
GK, Brian Rowe, 6 — First time out for new Lion Rowe, whose one-on-one stop was the icing on the cake for a pretty good outing. It was a bit surprising to see Rowe sending kicks long, considering that we all witnessed the certain play from the back towards the end of last season, but it could be because the height of the targets may have increased this season. Rowe ended the night with four solid saves. I am not sure there was much he could have done on the two NYCFC goals, but the ones that he should have handled, I give him credit for handling them very well.
D, Kamal Miller, 6.5 — How long has he officially been a Lion? I will say the left side was easily the more dangerous side for the home squad all evening, and Miller was a big part of that. Tracking back was solid, the communication was good, and the vision was there. For a back line that seems a bit patchwork, Miller was a very bright light throughout the match. Two aerials won, three tackles, and an 81% passer rating was a solid outing.
D, Alex De John, 6 — One goal might be on Alex, but he made up for it as the match went on. Being the center of three in the back, as a new Lion, would be a tall task for anyone, but you could certainly see the chemistry starting to blossom. The task was fairly tall, especially after NYCFC went up by two, but Alex grabbed the back line by the back of the neck and pulled the boys together, ending the afternoon with three solid tackles and an 85% passer rating.
D, Shane O’Neill, 6.5 — The second year Lion was solid again. The “veteran” on the back line played well both in defense and running up the sideline in attack. He passed at an 83% rate, with one attacking dribble, and one tackle, highlighting a good outing. He also showed good speed tracking back against counter attacks.
WB, Danilo Acosta, 6.5 — Again, part of the left side of the formation that certainly seemed the more dangerous all evening. The give-and-go play with Miller, Sebas Mendez, Chris Mueller, and Sacha Kljestan was solid, as was the tracking back to assist on defense. A solid first outing in purple, and certainly a stake in the ground to keep starting in that position. His 82% passing was decent, and you could certainly see the sparks flying and what the future holds.
MF, Sebas Mendez, 6 — He was given the softest of soft yellows from my vantage point, but the rest of the match was interesting to say the least. The rating here may be due to being with a new team, and Sebas expecting players to be in places where they weren’t. However, the fire was there, the drive was there, and seeing him grab players during every break and talk to them was extremely impressive, as was his 91% passer rating, and his two tackles on defense.
MF, Sacha Kljestan, 6 — It was a decent outing for the captain, and he certainly had many moments of shock and awe. It was certainly a bit crowded in the middle of the pitch all match, as NYCFC kept its formation fairly tight for the match, which was certainly a factor in keeping his passer rating at 76%. To his credit, he also had three total shots, with one on target and two blocked, but it was good to have him shooting on goal, if for no other reason than to keep the defense thinking. He could have had an assist on a shot Mueller missed just wide.
MF,Will Johnson, 7 — If only that first shot had gone in. If tonight didn’t remind you why Johnson is in purple, I am not sure what will. He had two shots, although both were a bit off target, a 90% passer rating, one aerial won and five solid tackles, which had him in the running for MotM. Tonight should endear him to the detractors, as he was still running his guts out in stoppage time, and if you still have questions, just re-watch the match. Solid night for Will, and a solid sign for what to expect for the season to come.
WB, Kyle Smith, 6 — Another new Lion to get familiar with, Smith had a good outing, with an 89% passer rating and three shots — with one on target and two blocked — and one tackle to round out his time on the pitch. He may not have the name recognition yet, and his crosses need a bit of work, but it is coming. Smith worked extremely well with O’Neill to hold down the right side. Keep an eye on this guy moving forward.
F, Chris Mueller, 7.5 (MotM) — Cash Rules Everything Around Me (CREAM). Just remember, Wu Tang is for the masses, and so is Chris “Cash” Mueller. Do not let the 71% passer rating detract you from the fact that Mueller was that beast mode player we saw last year, only more so. The free kick, put in the most dangerous of places, was so good that no one touched it, and it ended up in the back of the net. His hustle on offense and defense was infectious, and every time he got on the ball, the crowd was just waiting for the magic to happen. It might be a close call, but he certainly deserves the MotM call today for his goal, his team-high five chances created, and his hustle in multiple positions.
F, Tesho Akindele, 7 — Another field player with a deceptively low passer rating, Akindele finished at 73%. It was the rest of his time on the pitch that made the impact. He had one shot, and oh by the way it went into the back of the net, to go along with the aerial battles and two tackles. Can any of you remember a more consistent threat up top as a true striker behind Dom Dwyer? Yes, that statement was a bit rhetorical, but think back to last season and let me know the last time you can say the high press, the target striker, and hold and attack worked as well as it did today. Tesho was a very big part of that, a driving part.
F, Dom Dwyer (69’), 6.5 — It only took Dom a few minutes to make an impact, and that impact was assisting on the game tying goal, with a great run and assist to Tesho in the 75th minute. As Dom gets more minutes, it will be interesting to see he and Tesho gain more minutes together. He nearly provided the game winner that Maxime Chanot knocked down with his hand, too.
MF, Nani (70’), 6 — As hard as it is for me to cheer for a former Red Devil, Nani is going to be a name, and a player, to watch this season, Although we didn’t get to see much on the offensive side, he unlocked New York City’s defense with one long through ball that found Dwyer to set up the tying goal, earning him the proverbial hockey assist. His defensive prowess was on display, ending the evening with two solid tackles. With a solid 15 minutes on the pitch, you could see the vision, but the 67% passing rating might deceive you (small sample size). His passes were to where players should have been, and will get there with a bit of time.
MF, Josué Colmán (77’), 6 — When Colmán came on for Tesho, it was the first time this season that Orlando City has had all of its DPs (regular and YDP) on the pitch at the same time. His effort was solid, but 13 minutes is not a good amount of time to completely show what you have learned since last season. There were some flashes, like the pass that sent Mueller to the end line to cross for Dwyer, and we certainly saw a bit more confidence in going directly at opposing players. This is definitely a player to whom more minutes will mean the world.
It was a solid first outing for 2019, and the Lions have continued their tradition of being undefeated to begin the MLS season. Again, OCSC fielded a starting XI that may not be the ultimate best XI, but we may have just been witness to the depth that is to come. Head Coach James O’Connor has shown a wildly different side to team and tactics, something that many did not expect. It should stand as a positive as to what is to come moving forward in the 2019 season. Who was your MotM? Let us know in the poll below, and give me an idea how you rated the Lions in the comments below.
Who was your OCSC Man of the Match in the 2-2 draw with NYCFC to begin the 2019 MLS campaign?
This poll is closed