James O’Connor made three changes to his lineup as he regained the services of midfielders Will Johnson and Sebas Méndez from international duty while Ruan also returned after being rested for Saturday’s visit to Columbus.
Having started brightly and looking in complete control, the momentum shifted on two key moments in favor of Philadelphia, which currently sits atop the Eastern conference. First, by scoring an equalizer and then seeing Orlando’s first red card, the Union wrestled the game back in their favor going into the break and landed another blow to Orlando in the opening few minutes of the second half before a few Lions truly hit self-destruct. Not everyone did poorly as some went down with the sinking ship with dignity and the grades reflect that:
GK, Brian Rowe, 6.5 – Rowe was forced into his first save in the 12th minute, diving low to his right to deny a long range Kacper Przybyłko effort destined for the bottom corner. He’d be forgiven for thinking he was in for a quiet day after the first half hour but that all changed. He ended up making five saves in total but couldn’t do anything about the first goal as Przybyłko had the entire goal at his mercy and from there things snowballed. He was equally as helpless for the other two Union goals, I wouldn’t expected any goalkeeper in MLS to stop those, and despite coming up big for a spectacular double save, it ultimately didn’t matter as the game had long slipped out of the Lions’ grasp. A commanding day aerially and some good distribution (84.6% accuracy, fifth best) are relatively moot points on a night like tonight.
D, Danilo Acosta, 4 – With João Moutinho’s injury persisting for now, Acosta got another chance to stake his claim for the starting role following his return from an anonymous Gold Cup jaunt with Honduras, for which he still hasn’t been cap-tied but he likely damaged his chances. A bright start offensively with some neat interplay with Nani soon gave way to slack defending. It finally cost Orlando when Acosta was caught out on the long ball that Alejandro Bedoya was able to turn back infield for the assist on the second goal and after the third goal went in, I seemed to notice Acosta immediately turn inwards towards Miller, shouting and throwing his arms up in frustration. Not a good look from a player a long way from a good performance himself and I’m not sure O’Connor is the type of person that takes kindly to such blame culture. Two tackles, three clearances and the second-worst pass completion percentage on the team.
D, Robin Jansson, 3.5 – Jansson was having a pretty sturdy outing for the first half hour, reading play and cutting out passes as Orlando was able to defend as a unit, but a turnover left the defense vulnerable on the counter, and the Swede got sucked to the ball and left Przybyłko unmarked for the goal. His late attempt at stepping up didn’t dissuade him from a valiant last ditch slide but it did little to salvage the situation. He then got caught as the last man against Fafà Picault on another break close to halftime that ultimately spelled the end of his day — Jansson lost his composure, recklessly left the ground and wildly swung his legs through the back of Picault. Chris Penso surprisingly only showed yellow before VAR rightfully asked him to revisit the decision. Prior to his dismissal, Jansson had actually completely all 16 of his pass attempts and made a joint-high five clearances.
D, Lamine Sané, 5 – Similar to Jansson, Sané made a couple of good tackles prior to the goal but failed in his first one-on-one scenario, not doing enough to close down Jamiro Monteiro, who was easily able to feed Przybyłko for the Union’s equalizer. With 11 defensive actions (two tackles, three interceptions, five clearances and one blocked shot) he had a significantly busier game than usual and actually did pretty well, remaining pretty tight despite the numerical disadvantage and introduction of Kamal Miller. Still, I really don’t trust his ability to win individual battles and it really heaped the pressure on Jansson both for the Union’s first goal and then his red card.
D, Ruan, 4 – Ruan continually tested Kai Wagner and Brenden Aaronson out for pace on the Philadelphia left and saw some mild success but for all the good will he has built up during his time in purple, his attacking output has dried up and it’s no longer covering his defensive frailties. He registered absolutely no defensive actions whatsoever in a game that left the Lions defending for their lives at times. One shot and an 80.6% accuracy on 36 passes, the fifth most, is all he really has to show on his return to the side. He did rank first in one category though, losing possession a team-leading six times.
MF, Sacha Kljestan, 3 – Gone are the days of Kljestan as an assist-hungry attacking midfielder. He has adopted a more central and deeper role in the current O’Connor system with a lot of defensive responsibility, serving as a box-to-box on the break. He had a good passing game, completing the fourth most at 81.4% but his lack of pace showed at times and as the game slipped away, Orlando began chasing shadows in midfield. That made Kljestan frustrated and you won’t like Kljestan when he’s frustrated. It ultimately ended in Jansson being left to hold Kljestan’s beer as the 33-year-old went lunging in on Monteiro for what was frankly a horrendous challenge. Red card, maybe an additional game ban. It was that bad.
MF, Sebas Méndez, 5.5 – Méndez was the deepest-lying midfielder as he once again assumed the role of quarterback on his return, sitting in between Jansson and Sané in possession to help dictate play. He led the team in passes with 64, which is comparatively low to some of his other games this season but did make 93.8% including five long balls. Like the vast majority of the team, he was left high and dry by the sending offs and was a passenger once OCSC was reduced to nine.
MF, Will Johnson, 7 (MOTM) – Will Johnson had the game that Kljestan woke up this morning hoping to have. They played the same role on either side of a midfield tandem with Méndez sitting behind them. He covered every blade of grass and was the last man left running out there as he commendably channeled his frustration into work rate, not recklessness. Not only did he pass the eye test but he also bossed the stats sheet, leading the team in both tackles, with four, as well as key passes, with two, while his 98.2% pass accuracy was second only behind Jansson’s 100% on a much lower 16 attempts, compared to the Canadian’s 55, also good enough for second.
F, Nani, 4 – After what Orlando City analyst Miguel Gallardo called Nani’s most complete performance in purple against Columbus on Saturday, Nani only got 45 minutes as departed at halftime to make room for a defender following Jansson’s sending off. It was a forgettable half that the Portuguese was pretty anonymous in, flattering to deceive in transition. His 73.1% pass accuracy was the lowest of every Lion, starters and subs, and he only registered one shot that was off target. Considering the high standards the All-Star has set himself, it was a disappointing evening for the DP.
F, Tesho Akindele, 5.5 – Akindele was Orlando’s primary outlet when the Lions regained possession and showed some good hold-up play. However, he was caught out for the Union equalizer, getting dispossessed on what he thought should have been a foul and was the second-most dispossessed player behind Ruan. He was the only Orlando player to successfully complete more than one dribble and made 31 passes (83.9%) but he was another the game just got away from.
F, Chris Mueller, 7 – A storming solo run carved open the Union defense in the eighth minute, leaving Mueller ample time to pick his spot past rookie goalkeeper Matt Freese, taking the second-year forward’s personal total to five for the season. That set the tone as he was a nuisance for the hour he played before being subbed off. Closing down from the front, sniffing out loose passes, drawing fouls, running at defenders, and that’s not to mention his defensive hustle. A solid outing for Cash, who the Union will not be looking forward to matching up against again at the weekend.
CB, Kamal Miller (46’), 4 – In all honesty, rookie Kamal Miller was shockingly bad but he does have my sympathies, subbing on at halftime to cover for Jansson. But he didn’t get a second to adjust back to life in the Orlando back line following his return from national team duty as the Union scored inside two minutes, with Miller giving everyone a lesson in how not to defend, meekly turning his back on the shot. His efforts for Philadelphia’s third were even less impressive, getting caught in two minds whether to close down, which he began to do then stopped, or track the run of Picault, which he probably realized he should’ve done just as Picault was shooting. There’s a strong argument that the youngster was less useful in the second half than the departed Jansson was sat back in the locker room, although he earned some points back for a last ditch block on Marco Fabián in garbage time.
CB, Shane O’Neill (61’), 4.5 – In all honesty, I’m reading Shane O’Neill’s name on my notes and I’m struggling to remember if he actually came on or he’s still on the sideline waiting to enter the game. He managed one more touch than an isolated Dom Dwyer who subbed on at the same time as him although he did manage one tackle so I guess that automatically elevates him above Ruan and Miller at least. Not a healthy situation to sub into that soon got worse. It’s confusing to know how defending for half an hour with nine men your central defender can go so unnoticed but I guess that’s just a wider metaphor for O’Neill in general. Not actively messing up counts for something, right?
FW, Dom Dwyer (61’), 6 – Playing his first minutes since May 19, Dwyer struggled to get into the game. He did attempt a spectacular bicycle kick off a corner in the 84th minute but playing with two fewer players, he was never going to get much of a look at goal as Orlando struggled to retain any purposeful possession. He managed to spring Akindele after a neat turn before Penso brought it back for a foul in stoppage time but nothing came of it. In difficult circumstances, you can at least take heart that he looked sharp in the few moments he did actually touch the ball. He gets the benefit of the doubt purely as the life of striker is already quiet enough when you have the correct number of players on your team.
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