After James O’Connor made 11 changes on Wednesday against Seattle, fielding a second string lineup to allow rest for much of his first team, the Irishman predictably made a further 10 this weekend as the Lions returned to full strength for the visit of MLS new boys FC Cincinnati in a crucial Eastern conference clash. Having thrown all of his eggs into one basket, his team backed him up and strolled to a 5–1 victory over the newest expansion side.
Here’s how your Orlando City Lions performed:
GK, Brian Rowe, 6 — Rowe came off his line to confidently collect a couple of balls early on as he looked to settle back in between the sticks following his midweek rest but was beaten in the 20th minute by Emmanuel Ledesma only for the woodwork to come to his rescue. Cincinnati’s second shot also beat Rowe, fired in from close range, but this time hit the back of the net. He wasn’t really tested again until a rising header towards goal but Rowe stretched tall in first-half stoppage time to keep things level going into the break. The second half left Rowe largely untested until garbage time when Ledesma just put wide his consolation attempt that had Rowe frozen. He seemed to have a much more active role in building from the back, completing 24 passes — two more than Tesho Akindele.
D, João Moutinho, 6.5 — After his midweek rest, Mountinho returned to put in a shift although he continued to clutch at his back throughout the game. Regardless, he made the fifth most passes, including one to Will Johnson for the secondary assist on Orlando’s opener, and connected on one cross. He was third on the team for touches, with 73, as he was in constant support of the attack, offering a safety valve for the likes of Chris Mueller and Nani when they found themselves without other options on the left. However, he only managed to register one defensive action, a sole tackle on the day, and was part of the group doing little to affect the Darren Mattocks goal. He made 55 passes at 86% accuracy.
D, Robin Jansson, 5.5 — I personally think Jansson has been excellent since arriving in March and he looked on form as he did well to keep pace as the last man against Darren Mattocks and shepherd the ball back to Rowe in the opening few minutes. But he was beaten at the second time of asking before Mattocks found Ledesma, only for the Argentine to hit the bar. The third time proved fatal, as Mattocks fired home past a statuesque Orlando defense with Jansson closest to him. He ended the day with one tackle, one interception, and one clearance in a performance to forget for the Lions’ defensive unit.
D, Lamine Sané, 5.5 — Sané was one of four players surrounding Mattocks on the first goal with the Bundesliga veteran doing little to take charge of the situation. He also came striding out of defense with the ball a couple of times as well as sending some searching long balls, completing three. His biggest contribution to the game was arguably to be the innocent victim of Kendall Waston’s suplex on a corner to earn a penalty that swung the game in Orlando’s favor. He made the second most passes on the team, with 66, and led in accuracy at 94%, although I can count on one hand how many of them were actually worth making. No tackles, no interceptions, but three clearances. Statistically a good game but in general the central defensive partnership left a lot of questions to answer.
D, Ruan, 8 — Ruan flashed one of his trademark lightning runs down the right as Orlando went on the counter early on but eventually had his run halted by substitute Alves Powell. He later had the same break down the left wing. This time Powell was called for the foul and got Cincinnati’s first yellow. His pace continued to cause all sorts of issues the entire game and he eventually beat Waston to make it to the byline and set up Nani for a tap in and Orlando’s third. However, as is the case with this performance, the Lions’ defense has not come out smelling of roses. They looked unsure in the first half and were redundant for most of the second. The Brazilian registered no defensive actions, gave away one foul, and was perhaps fortunate to not give up another. He made 30 passes at 83.3% accuracy but went 0/5 on crossing attempts. His output relies on high chance creation. Luckily he has the engine to sustain it.
MF, Sebas Méndez, 8 — Even without his usual midfield partner, Uri Rosell, Sebas Méndez totally bossed midfield as usual. He led the team with a staggering 100 touches and made a team-high 91 passes, including one key pass. Perhaps more astonishingly given the volume, he was second for passing accuracy at 93%, as he provided a link between both flanks in the middle of the park. He was also the second biggest contributor defensively, making three tackles, one interception, and one clearance, but his tackling was sloppy. He picked up a first half yellow for taking a nibble at Frankie Amaya as the 2019 first overall draft pick accelerated away from him, but the risk of a sending off did little to clean his act up. I’m surprised he wasn’t substituted instead of Cristian Higuita but that doesn’t detract from how excellent he was.
MF, Cristian Higuita, 7.5 — Higuita got his second start in three games — making his 100th competitive appearance for Orlando City — and took the opportunity to once again put his case forward for a regular spot. He came closest to drawing level just before the hydration break, trying to thunder one into the top corner from distance but it was wide of the post on his lone strike of the game. He had a similar game to Méndez in passing and tackling, leading the team with four tackles and two interceptions, as well as one clearance, and was third for passing, with 65 attempts at 91% accuracy. His inconsistency means he’s a high-risk, high-reward player compared to the likes of Will Johnson and Sacha Kljestan, who are consistent but with a much lower ceiling, and James O’Connor is starting to see the benefits of when the Colombian has a good game.
MF, Will Johnson, 7 — Johnson looked to respond quickly to the Cincinnati opener and had a flash at goal thanks to a ball in from Mueller, but the Canadian couldn’t find a way past an onrushing Spencer Richey. He turned provider for Akindele for the eventual equalizer, finding the forward with a first time pass on the turn. His next significant piece of action saw him end up in the book, getting a yellow for a desperate tackle. He led the team in key passes with three, acting as a quarterback at the top of the box to thread through passing lanes and also drew two fouls. In total he had three shots: two blocked and an especially weak third from distance that epitomizes some of the poor shooting we’ve seen from Orlando’s midfield this season. Please make it stop!
F, Nani, 7.5 — Nani passed, tackled and crossed well in the first half but a lack of genuine attacking output from open play made him look a little stifled. His set piece delivery was wanting for the most part, although Cincinnati looked worried by a free kick in first-half stoppage time. He came out in the second half with more intent, looking vastly improved, and took an early invitation to fire a shot at goal to force a diving save. His penalty attempt was abysmally placed but the Lions’ captain kept his calm to tuck away the rebound to give Orlando its first lead of the day in the 50th minute. He smartly peeled away from the defenders for his second goal, allowing space for Ruan to pick him out from six yards out. His day ended in the 66th minute with the Lions comfortably leading 4–1. Nani was tied with Akindele for the most shots, with four, getting 100% on target but his passing accuracy of 81% was 11th on the team.
F, Chris Mueller, 8 — Mueller’s creativity and energy shone against Cincinnati as he looked to be the forward most inclined to press the Cincinnati back line and continued to pick them apart, seeing some success one on one across his four registered dribbles and created some good scoring opportunities for both Johnson and Akindele. He came out equally as fast in the second half, running at two defenders before cutting a shot back across his body forcing Richey into a save on one of the two shots he took. Don’t let the fact he didn’t register a goal or assist detract from how good he was. He just needs to work on his crossing now, connecting on only one of a team-high eight today.
F, Tesho Akindele, 9 (MotM) — After spending the opening half hour trying to contend out wide, Akindele made the most of his first sight at goal as he fired in the equalizer, ghosting his way in between the Cincinnati center backs before his fellow Canadian countryman Johnson slipped him in. He was inches away from getting on the end of a Mueller cross that would’ve doubled his tally but eventually got his second after reacting fastest to a second ball in the box from a corner. All in all, Akindele provided a perfect illustration of the “take your chances when they come” clinical finishing that had been costing Orlando points this season, scoring on two of his joint-high four shots. That’s his one job and he did it twice. It proved the difference maker in both getting Orlando back in the game and then putting it out of sight.
FW, Dom Dwyer (66’), 7 — Dwyer was tightly marked from the second he entered the game but took a chance to strike from distance in the 74th minute to desperately end his goal drought only to see the ball sail over. Shortly after, he went in recklessly on Justin Hoyte for a yellow card, perhaps some signs that he has now been benched for two consecutive games despite the insane level of rotation. His celebrations were decidedly muted and dare I say bitter when he headed in Orlando’s fifth directly from a corner. Dwyer’s not the tallest man on the pitch by any standard but he did well to make the most of some half-hearted defending, make a run and direct the cross goalwards.
MF, Josué Colmán (78’), 6.5 — The game was all but over when Colmán got his customary cameo appearance. He showed some flair that O’Connor may deem as luxury but it’s both entertaining and encouraging to see that level of confidence and creativity from the 20-year-old Paraguayan youth international, who could have easily climbed into a shell given his lack of playing time. He sublimely picked out Dwyer from the corner for the fifth goal but was dispossessed twice as he looked to see out the game.
FW, Benji Michel (85’), N/A —If you thought the game was over when Colmán came on, spare a thought for Homegrown Benji Michel, who managed two touches in his substitute appearance with the score at 5–1 and nobody too bothered about continuing the game given the scoreline and heat.
There you have it, a five-goal performance from the Lions means Orlando City SC has an all-time 100% win record against FC Cincinnati and Nani extends his lead at the top of the team’s goal scoring charts, having now scored seven on the season. Agree with my Man of the Match pick or have a thought of your own? Vote in our poll or let us know in the comments!
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