In a game that was a rollercoaster of emotions, Orlando City won 2-1 over the Columbus Crew to secure a spot in the top four of the Eastern Conference. The win also maintained Orlando’s unbeaten streak in Exploria Stadium this season and was the fourth-straight victory over the Crew. Chris Mueller and Benji Michel scored for Orlando, with Mauricio Pereyra assisting on both occasions.
However, Nani was ejected after a questionable red card and unless it’s rescinded he will miss Orlando’s final regular season game on Sunday against Nashville SC. Here’s how the Lions performed in a game filled with ups and downs.
GK, Pedro Gallese, 6.5 — The goalkeeper did well in the first half, snuffing out the Crew’s attempts to counter attack. Of his three saves, the toughest was coming out and going to ground to stop Luis Diaz’ run at goal as the last line of defense. There wasn’t much he could’ve done on Harrison Afful’s goal — his strike far too fast and well placed for Gallese. Although he didn’t get a clean sheet, Gallese did walk away with the win.
D, Kyle Smith, 7 — Smith was great in this one, showing once again how well he fits in Head Coach Oscar Pareja’s system. Defensively, he led the team with four tackles and five clearances as the Crew targeted his side of the field throughout the night. Offensively, only heroics from Eloy Room kept Smith off of the score sheet after the left back had two shots on target stopped in the 30th minute. He could’ve been a bit more clinical in those opportunities but it was still great to see from him in the left back position.
D, Robin Jansson, 6 — The Swede had a decent night against the Crew’s arsenal of offensive weapons. He had the fewest touches (51) among the players who played the full game, but that’s hardly a bad thing for a center back and Jansson had two clearances. His best moments came late in the match when Orlando led while down to 10 men. Unlike earlier in the match when he received a yellow card for dissent, Jansson played it cool to anchor the defense and made sure the Lions finished with all three points.
D, Antonio Carlos, 7 — As always, Carlos was a force in the air and finished with two clearances and a tackle to help defend Exploria Stadium yet again. He came up with a big block on a shot on goal from Lucas Zelarayan in the 40th minute, not only standing strong in the face of the Argentine’s shot, but also getting enough of his literal face behind it to stop any shenanigans with a deflection towards goal. He wasn’t able to close down on Pedro Santos quickly enough to stop him from making the final pass on Columbus’ goal, but it was a strong performance for Carlos.
D, Ruan, 6.5 — Yes, the right back is one of the fastest players in the league. But it is what he did with that speed that made him so effective in Orlando’s win. Defenders have to put in just that extra bit of effort they aren’t used to in order to deal with him and get to loose balls, which adds up over the course of a game. Ruan won free kicks, forced corners, played well defensively, and was able to help make up for the missing Lion on the field.
MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 8.5 (MotM) — Let’s just start with the stats. Pereyra had assists on both goals and led the team with 88 touches, 67 passes — at a 94% success rate — and six key passes. The game completely changes when the ball is at his feet and that showed on Mueller’s goal as Pereyra fizzed a perfectly weighted ball in front of the net in the blink of an eye. After picking up a yellow card in the second half that suspends him from playing in Orlando’s last game of the season, Pereyra’s final touch of his regular season was a beauty to Michel for the game-winner. It was a masterful performance from Pereyra and it’s clear that he is one of the premier playmakers in the league.
MF, Junior Urso, 6 — The Bear was great at finding the open areas on offense, but struggled when it came to actually finishing those chances. Urso had an open look in the 14th minute that he sent just wide and had another blocked in the 24th. His emotions ran high after Nani’s red card and the Crew scored during the chaos, but he settled in more as the match wore on. The poor finishing is becoming a trend, but he continues to deliver when it comes to midfield performance with 41 passes at a solid 88% success rate in this match.
MF, Andres Perea, 7 — The midfielder finished with 53 touches, 44 passes, and had a key pass for finding Nani in the first half for a shot that was deflected for a corner. Other than Gallese and the defenders, Perea was the only starter to go the distance in this one. The 19-year-old was calm, cool, and collected throughout the match and that was needed when emotions started to run high. It’s a good sign to see from the young player, especially with Pereyra out this weekend.
MF, Chris Mueller, 7 — After a missed opportunity early in the match, Mueller delivered in the 27th minute by scoring his 10th goal of the season. An error by the Crew defense due to Orlando’s high press sparked the play, but Mueller’s ability to be in the right place at the right time paid off yet again. He was substituted off after the Crew’s goal, spoiling what was setting up to be a great night for him.
F, Nani, 6— The captain looked lively in the first half, fooling defenders with skill plays and creative passes. He took a hard foul in the the first half but continued on without much of an issue. Things went awry in the second half though after he made a tackle in the 49th minute. The referee initially issued a foul and yellow card but escalated to a red card after checking video review. Nani left the game in tears, finishing the night with two shots, 38 touches, and 26 passes.
F, Tesho Akindele, 6.5 — The big man made a great run to occupy a defender so that Mueller had time to pick out his shot and score. Akindele didn’t score, but continues to do well when holding up play for the other offensive playmakers to shine, making two key passes. He also chased down defenders and put his all into fighting for possession after Nani’s red card before being subbed off for Benji Michel.
MF, Sebas Mendez (58’), 6 — Mendez came on in the 58th minute for Mueller after the Crew’s goal in an attempt to stabilize things. The Ecuadorian did just that, bringing structure to the midfield and making sure Orlando wasn’t as frazzled. Mendez had 29 touches, 22 passes at an 82% success rate, and led the team with four interceptions.
F, Benji Michel (69’), 7 — The Homegrown Player may have had his most defining moment as a Lion. Michel came in with the Lions down a man and the score level and did the impossible in the 84th minute. After taking a fantastic first touch on Pereyra’s final pass, Michel spun to shake his defender and sprinted after the ball to tuck it past Room for the game-winner. While amazing, don’t let the goal overshadow the amount of work he put in as the lone forward to keep defenders honest. He had 16 touches in the match and he made sure they counted.
D, Rodrigo Schlegel (88’), N/A— He only had four touches in the game and his first was a header to see out a dangerous set piece. It was a short shift but an efficient one, with another clearance late and doing enough to stop Columbus from capitalizing on crosses.
MF, Joey DeZart (88’), N/A — The rookie looks better and better each outing. Brought on late after Orlando took back the lead, DeZart ate up time with Ruan and cut off a pass in the final moments to ensure Orlando’s victory.
That’s how I saw things play out. What about you? Let us know in the comments how you thought the Lions did and vote for who you think deserves the title of Man of the Match.
Who was your Orlando City Man of the Match in the Lions’ 2-1 win over Columbus?
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