I’ll admit that I didn’t know what to expect from the lineup that Oscar Pareja sent out against Atlanta United at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. On the one hand, I knew he had to rotate the squad some, but it was a little surprising to see Tesho Akindele held out again and for Mauricio Pereyra not to be available off the bench if needed. The linchpin in the middle of the attack was Junior Urso and both of his wingers and his forward were young guys. The lineup didn’t seem like one that would go on to score three goals and narrowly miss on a couple other opportunities, but it got the job done.
Let’s look at the individual performances from an exciting 3-1 road win.
GK, Pedro Gallese, 7 — El Pulpo faced only four shots on target and he made a wicked save on the first of those, robbing Brooks Lennon blind in the eighth minute. He made a couple of comfortable saves and was sharp in reacting to a long-range Ezequiel Barco blast that may have been able to sneak in under the bar. There weren’t a ton of opportunities for him to flash, owing largely to his back line and defensive midfield, but when he did, he had it covered. There wasn’t much he could do about Lennon’s looping header late in normal time. However, there may have been an opportunity for him to do more to call off Joao Moutinho and avoid what could end up being a critical injury. Mendez nodded down a ball that Gallese easily could have reached and picked up, but Moutinho smashed an emphatic clearance and hurt himself on the play. It appeared Gallese was shouting at him but, whether he couldn’t get through to the Portuguese left back or Moutinho simply didn’t want to take chances, is unclear. Better communication there would have avoided what might turn out to be a costly injury for the Lions.
D, Joao Moutinho, 6.5 — It was another good night for Moutinho, although with the short turnaround he didn’t get forward nearly as much as we’re used to seeing. He defended well, finishing with three clearances. He passed well (85.4%) and went 4/5 on long balls. He won two aerials, including one on a Brad Guzan free kick that ended up going the other way for Chris Mueller’s goal. He also helped put out a fire early in the second half by helping stop Pity Martinez from getting in alone. Now we wait and hope his injury isn’t serious.
D, Robin Jansson, 6.5 — The beefy Swede bounced back after conceding in each of the last two matches. He wasn’t asked to do as much building out of the back and had more of a green light to knock the ball away in this one, but he still passed at an 85.7% rate and completed one of his two long-ball attempts. He made one tackle — a vital one in the 49th minute to deny a breakaway — and three clearances, and tried to tuck a flick inside the back post on his one shot but it skipped just wide.
D, Antonio Carlos, 6.5 — Carlos returned to the lineup after a match off and was steady, if unspectacular. He gave up a dangerous free kick late in the game and was reviewed for a potential penalty in stoppage time, but was otherwise solid. He had a co-team-high five clearances and two interceptions, with 80% passing and 2/2 long-ball accuracy. He got hung up a bit in traffic on an Orlando free kick, which kept him from being able to get his lone shot attempt on frame.
D, Kyle Smith, 6.5— Smith led the team in touches (65) and, despite conceding three free kicks — including two dangerous ones — did a fairly solid job slotting in for Ruan. He finished with one key pass, a dribble, three tackles, three interceptions and tied Carlos with five clearances. He might have gotten a higher grade if not for the 76.3% passing rate, long ball inaccuracy (2/7), and the trouble he had getting in crosses (and having his one cross attempt blocked by the first defender). He shifted to the left side, just inside Kamal Miller, late in the match when Orlando went to five in the back to see out the match.
MF, Uri Rosell, 6.5 — The Lions have been quietly getting a fantastic year from the Spaniard. Rosell ran his tail off and connected the lines as usual, doing the little things the team needs but which don’t typically get the glory. His 86.8% passing rate was best on the team and he connected on 3/6 long balls. He won two tackles with an interception and a clearance before making way in the second half for Sebas Mendez.
MF, Andres Perea, 6.5 — The Colombian teenager had a mixed night but it was a workmanlike effort that could have been a lot more glorious. He led Orlando in tackles won (4), and passed well (82.8%), hitting 1/2 on crosses and 1/2 on long balls, and creating two scoring chances. Perea absolutely should have scored in the 42nd minute, getting a free running header on the back side after a good job of Orlando disguising its corner kick strategy. Two runners cleared everyone out and all Perea had to do was hit the target, but instead it went wide.
MF, Chris Mueller, 8.5 (MotM) — The Money Badger was outstanding and even though he could have shared this honor with Urso, for me he just nips this award by a whisker. But rather than me spelling out everything about his accurate set piece delivery, smart decisions on passing and continuing runs, and his endless energy, let’s hear from someone else:
Chris Mueller: raw numbers for Orlando in 3-1 win vs Atlanta— Brian Sciaretta (@BrianSciaretta) August 29, 2020
1 shot 1 goal
3 key passes
81.8% passing (27/33)
6/8 passing in final third
3/4 accurate crosses
2/3 accurate long balls
- 6G, 2A, 9gms pic.twitter.com/yKpatK3kXi
Plus, it was Mueller’s birthday, so that should break the tie anyway, right?
MF, Junior Urso, 8.5 — The Bear was about as good as Mueller in this match, and in his postgame comments he said he wanted to show who Junior Urso is, and that he thought he played his best in this match. It’s hard to argue. Urso was snakebit on his shot attempts Wednesday but powered a header through Brad Guzan on the early corner for his first goal. He won the ball back with his tenacity, with two tackles, an interception, and one clearance defensively. He passed at an 81.3% rate and went 2/2 on long balls. But his best play of the night came shortly after Atlanta pulled within a goal. He pressured Martinez, stole the ball, and fed Nani for an easy finish to put the Five Stripes away. Fantastic night for the Bear.
MF, Benji Michel, 6.5 — I’ve used this score a lot in this piece but it’s my honest opinion. Early in the game, I honestly thought Michel looked a step slow in closing down or getting to loose balls, and a half a tick slow to react. But he turned that around nicely. He made a huge heads-up play to find Mueller for the easy tap-in on the second Orlando goal to earn his assist. He passed at an 83.3% rate and was 2/3 on long-ball accuracy. He didn’t register a shot attempt but he chipped in two tackles and a clearance on the defensive end.
F, Daryl Dike, 6 — The rookie didn’t score a goal for the first time when starting an MLS match but he was a factor. He kept the center backs occupied, won a couple of corner opportunities and fired two shots. Dike doesn’t officially get credit for a key pass but he is the one who slipped Michel in on the play that ended in Mueller’s goal and picked up the hockey assist. He only passed at a 72.7% rate and struggled with his touch a few times, but for playing his third match in eight days, he still looked good. He hustles and even chipped in a pair of clearances on the defensive end.
MF, Nani (62’), 7 — While the captain’s passing wasn’t great (66.7%), it was on only 12 attempts and he registered a key pass. He was whistled for three fouls but two of them were attempts to waste time with Atlanta in possession and one was complete crap — he had just been elbowed in the mouth by Cubo Torres before preventing the Atlanta forward from reaching a ball going out of play. That should have been an Orlando free kick. As we saw with Dike on Wednesday, nobody makes the Lions bleed their own blood (nobody!). Nani finished off Atlanta by getting into position for Urso’s assist late. It was Nani’s only shot attempt. He also added a tackle and a blocked shot.
MF, Sebas Mendez (62’), 6 — The big contribution from Mendez was to provide fresh legs for Rosell and continue his strong work in the midfield. He did that, with the Ecuadorian winning three tackles. He passed at an uncharacteristic 70% but that was on only 10 attempts and at a time in the game when the team had an “anywhere will do” mentality.
MF, Ruan (74’), 5 — I thought Ruan would be the player to finish off Atlanta, bringing on that speed late in the game with the hosts pushing forward, but the Brazilian Flash was quiet in his reserve role. None of his three pass attempts found its mark. His only defensive stat was a clearance and he attempted one shot, which was off target.
D, Kamal Miller (78’), N/A — The Canadian came on in relief of Moutinho after the injury. He got abused a bit by Jurgen Damm on Atlanta’s goal but managed only five touches. Despite being on for 22 minutes (10 of it stoppage time), it is difficult to assign a grade for the performance and I’m going to hide behind N/A on this one, as is my prerogative.
That’s the way I saw things in the Lions’ first win over Atlanta. Be sure to vote in the poll below for your pick for Man of the Match and if you have some disagreements, let me hear it in the comments section below.
Who was your Orlando City Man of the Match in the Lions’ 3-1 win at Atlanta United?
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