Orlando City finally snagged that elusive first home win of 2019 in last night’s 4-3 win over the Colorado Rapids. I’ve never gone whitewater rafting, but they say it’s a fun, wild ride. That’s a pretty good description of last night’s game as well. Ideally the Lions won’t be conceding quite so many goals typically, but since the final score went the right direction, I’m willing to overlook that.
When speaking to reporters after the match, Nani mentioned the team had been pressing and feeling a bit of pressure to deliver a win to the home fans. He said that now that the team has crossed that bit of business off the list, maybe they can play more relaxed and deliver more results. Let’s hope that’s the case, because winning at home >>>> losing or drawing at home.
But enough preamble. Let’s get to the individual player grades from last night’s game.
GK, Brian Rowe, 6 — While I wouldn’t say any of the three goals were on bad goalkeeping errors per se, Rowe would probably say he should maybe have done better on the first goal. If he couldn’t beat Kei Kamara to the spilled ball in the box on the first goal, he might have at least come off his line and made himself big to pressure the Rapids striker. He went long quite often but his passing percentage should ideally still be better than the 23.8% he produced last night. He also stayed a bit deep in his area a few times when he could possibly have snuffed out some danger before it became a problem. Still, he had a vital punch that could have led to a counter-attack if not for a Colorado foul and he made a couple of nice saves, considering the weather conditions and the wet ball, including a free header thumped low by Kamara in the second half.
D, Robin Jansson, 5.5 — The Swede had a difficult night against Colorado at times. The first goal hit off his head and fell in behind him but I’m sure he was screened by the leaping Lamine Sané on the play. He fell for a fake by Cole Bassett on the third Colorado goal and allowed the midfielder to cut back inside where he had a much better angle. His passing accuracy wasn’t great (74.2%) but he did lump some long balls forward, which contributed to that. His four clearances led the team and he added two interceptions. It wasn’t a terrible performance but he was as much affected by the rotation to a four-man back line as anyone.
D, Lamine Sané, 6 — If Sané had been one inch taller (or able to leap one inch higher), Kamara wouldn’t have opened the scoring nine minutes in. The French-Senegalese center back still had a decent game overall, with a tackle, three interceptions, and three clearances. His 77.5% passing rate led the back line, including the wingbacks. Even his 4/9 accuracy on long balls outshone his fellow defenders. Still, he got pulled out of shape a few times in the game, but he wasn’t alone in that.
D, Carlos Ascues, 5 — It was a short night for the Peruvian, who left the game at half an hour with a hamstring injury after getting tangled up with a Colorado player while running down a loose ball. He touched the ball just 20 times and his passing rate was just 53.8%, which was worst on the team in the first half. He was OK defensively (one blocked shot, two clearances) and helpful in moving the ball, but it wasn’t the best outing of his time in Orlando, nor his worst, but the shape change after his injury hurt the defense.
WB, Joao Moutinho, 6.5 — A somewhat chaotic night in defense prevented this score from being higher, but I thought Joao played well overall. He certainly drifts too far inside on defense sometimes and occasionally gets caught up the pitch too far, but I think that’s because he’s used to playing wingback, which seems a more natural position for his skill set than fullback. Last night he was asked to play fullback after the Ascues injury and there were some shaky moments defending. However, he’s also a good ball winner, leading all players in tackles in the game (7). He contributed two interceptions, notched an assist on his one chance created, and generally helped facilitate the attack. But there were a few bad touches on switches in the first half that broke down attacks, a poor back pass that almost went horribly wrong, and some poor positioning to offset some of the good he did.
MF, Sacha Kljestan, 6.5 — The mustachio’d one doesn’t do a lot of flashy things on the pitch and he may frustrate some fans, but I’ll bet James O’Connor is happy to have him. Kljestan finished second on the team in touches, with his 79 being just one fewer than Ruan’s 80. The ball finds him often and that’s because he puts himself in the right spots and because his teammates rely on him to connect the lines. He attempted one shot (which was blocked) and created two chances on the offensive end. His gorgeous chip pass over the top to spring Ruan started the sequence that led to the penalty on Axel Sjoberg — and ultimately to Nani’s game-winning penalty kick. He hit a pretty decent 80% of his passes and chipped in a tackle and an interception on defense.
MF, Nani, 8.5 (MotM) — With two goals and a hockey assist, it was a big night for Nani and it pushed him over the top for my Man of the Match. The Portuguese star man finally opened his Orlando City account with a nice header in front of goal. It wasn’t the most difficult goal he’s scored in his career, but he made no mistake on the opportunity. He played a great ball to Dwyer in the 43rd but Dom’s shot was blocked. He was calm and collected on his penalty, sending Tim Howard the wrong way. He lulled the defense to sleep at one point and then fizzed a cross through the six but nobody made a run to get onto it, so maybe he also mesmerized his teammates. His 87.5% passing rate was among the best on the team, he created two chances, and he got two of his three shots on goal (scoring on both). He also often tracked back and helped defensively.
MF, Sebas Mendez, 6 — While Mendez’s 94.4% passing accuracy stands out, he also had a couple of bad giveaways in the game. He was dispossessed twice and had two bad touches and seemed a bit late closing down a few times. He finished with two tackles and seemed to have trouble getting on the ball at times. It’s easy to forget how young he is and although he and Moutinho may be inconsistent at times, they’ve got a ton of upside and that showed through for the most part last night.
WB, Ruan, 8 — The highway patrol would like you to know that speed kills and watching Ruan play shows that’s absolutely the case on the soccer pitch. The Brazilian gave Dillon Serna fits throughout the first half, got to the end line repeatedly, and sent several dangerous passes into the area. He figured heavily in three of Orlando’s four goals. On the first, he fizzed a cross through Tesho Akindele’s legs that should have been tapped home, but the ball found Moutinho on the other side and he crossed in for Nani. Ruan roasted the Rapids on a counter attack off a Rapids corner kick to help set up Akindele’s goal. Finally, his cross late in the game led to the handball that Nani converted. He literally played Serna off the pitch by halftime, drew a yellow card on Kamara, and led the team in touches. He needs to improve his passing accuracy (67.5%) and defending, but his pace changes the game and Orlando wouldn’t have won last night without him. Defensively, he had four tackles, two interceptions, and a clearance.
F, Tesho Akindele, 8 — There were a couple of spells where the Canadian seemed to disappear from the proceedings last night but overall he was very good in his return from a hamstring issue. He scored the second goal and assisted on the third, but he was also important on aerial balls, winning a team high six of them. He passed at an 83% clip, which is a high rate for a striker. He created four chances, took three shots (one on frame), and even defended well, making three tackles and an interception. His only true misstep was getting himself nutmegged two yards out by Ruan’s cross on the buildup to the first goal, but at least Moutinho and Nani bailed him out for that miss.
F, Dom Dwyer, 6.5 — Dwyer was active all night but somehow didn’t figure in any of the scoring. He fired seven shots to lead all players and got four of them on frame, forcing two pretty good saves from Tim Howard. But he also knocked a header right at Howard from only a few yards out and completely missed the gaping empty net on the play that ended up as the handball on Sjoberg, so it’s a good thing that was spotted by Jair Marrufo to avoid him the embarrassment of the miss. He had one clearance on the defensive end, hit 70% of his pass attempts, and drew two free kicks.
MF, Oriol Rosell (30’), 6 — Uri came on for Carlos Ascues and O’Connor changed the shape to go four at the back. Rosell had a mixed night. He tied for second on the team in tackles and passed well (85.7%) but he also gambled and lost on a midfield ball that led to Colorado’s second goal and he was left to try to defend Kamara on an aerial attempt at the back somehow as the defense got pulled out of shape and, well, he didn’t do a great job of it. At least Rowe made the save. Mostly Uri had a decent night but there was room for improvement.
F, Chris Mueller (80’), 8.5 — It’s not easy to get a really high grade for essentially 10 minutes of work, but Cash did it. He scored his second goal of the year just a minute after getting on the pitch, and he darted and dashed around with the ball in the offensive end, bending the Colorado defense out of shape. He had 12 touches and eight passes (87.5% accuracy) in his short time on the pitch and he terrorized the Rapids in that time. He created one scoring chance, got his one shot on target, and beat one of the legendary American goalkeepers for a huge game-changing goal.
WB, Kyle Smith (90’+2), N/A — Smith came on for Nani in stoppage time as more of a time-wasting substitution than anything. He didn’t even touch the ball in about two minutes on the pitch so there’s really no way to give him a grade for the appearance.
That’s how I saw the performances on a rainy Saturday night in Orlando against the Rapids. Let me know where you agree and/or disagree in the comments below and be sure to vote for your Orlando City Man of the Match in the poll below.
Who was your Orlando City Man of the Match in the Lions’ 4-3 home win over the Colorado Rapids?
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