Of the starting lineup for Orlando City SC on Wednesday night against Memphis 901 FC, six of the 11 were players who either haven’t been starting regularly for the Lions this year, or have not been first choice at their position for at least the last several weeks of the MLS season. That meant that there was a valuable opportunity for those players to showcase what they were capable of and make a case to James O’Connor to reconsider the pecking order. So, how did they do?
GK, Adam Grinwis — 7
For my money, Grinwis had a pretty good showing. He came off his line well on several occasions, was solid with his positioning, and made a couple of good saves in the second half. He was also largely helpless on the goal, which came from a point-blank header off a corner kick. He also seemed to be comfortable when it came to playing the ball out of the back both on the ground or booting it longer, which should win him some points with JOC. All in all, a good night’s work from him.
LB, Alex De John — 5
I thought De John had a pretty quiet night. He did well to get forward a few times especially considering that he’s a center back who was deputizing at fullback, but other than some good passages of play out wide with Chris Mueller, he didn’t offer a lot on the offensive end of things. Defensively he was sound for the most part, and looked comfortable enough for most of the night. While he didn’t necessarily do anything to cause oohs and aahs, he also didn’t make any big mistakes. Overall it was a solid, if unspectacular night for him.
RB, Shane O’Neill — 5.5
I found O’Neill’s night a little difficult to quantify. Like De John, he was asked to play fullback instead of his normal position in the center of defense. He got forward pretty frequently but didn’t necessarily offer a lot once he got there, which probably shouldn’t be held against him too much considering fullback isn’t his strong suit. However, he was very clever in getting his body in front of the ball to win the penalty that led to Orlando’s opening goal. While he was steady enough in defense for much of the match, it was his man that headed home the equalizing goal as it looked like he might have mistimed his jump. Other than that though, it was a fairly good night from him.
MF, Sacha Kljestan — 6.5
Scoring two goals is never a bad thing, and while one of them was from the penalty spot, Sacha had a big part in creating the second goal before he stuck it away in the bottom corner. He also played a role on the third goal, heading down an aerial ball that skipped off Santiago Patino for a Robin Jansson finish. He did well enough when it came to his play in the midfield but perhaps wasn’t as dominant as fans were hoping him to be against a USL side. Still, he passed the ball efficiently, tracked back when needed, and played some good balls in the final third. While it feels odd not to be glowing about someone who scored a couple of goals, it was a reasonably good night for Sacha, just not as good as it probably should have been.
MF, Dillon Powers — 8
For me, Powers was the best of the players on this list. He was a constant source of energy in the midfield, and at a distance perhaps could have been mistaken for Will Johnson given the way he motored around. His passing was also very good, and he picked out a couple of excellent passes while also not being afraid to have a shot when things opened up for him. Aside from Chris Mueller, he looked to be the player carrying the most threat, and even though the opponent was a lower league side, perhaps it’s something for Powers to build on. I’m very interested to see how he does if he gets the start again next week.
F, Santiago Patino — 4.5
I think Patino was a victim of circumstance when it came to Wednesday’s game. He was asked to lead the line on the night and while he generally did well with the ball when he got it (his hold-up play in particular was good) he simply didn’t get the ball all that much. With neither fullback able to bring a lot to the table going forward, he also found himself isolated when Mueller was forced to drop into midfield to pick up the ball, leaving defenders to focus their efforts on him. He did get a touch to the ball that Jansson eventually put in the back of the net, although he was not credited with an assist.
I found these grades particularly tough to decide on. Outside of Powers, who was only outshone by Mueller, I didn’t think anybody had stellar nights, even with Kljestan bagging a brace. It’s worth remembering that the two fullbacks were playing out of position but the team as a whole didn’t look the most cohesive on Wednesday, and I think a lot of the grades reflect that. Whether it was due to rustiness or lack of familiarity, I think things definitely could have been better. Hopefully it’s a better performance for the Lions in the Round of 16 of the Open Cup, which will take place next Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. E.T. at Exploria Stadium (which still feels a bit weird saying).