Orlando City is unbeaten in four straight, although you might not know that if you judged the team solely by fan reaction on social media after last night’s 1-1 home draw vs. Atlanta United. Hyperbolic statements about the team playing its worst game under Oscar Pareja are neither accurate, nor fair. The fact is that the Lions created sufficient chances to easily blow Atlanta United off the field but simply struggled to convert them, and still would have won if not for a careless and unnecessary turnover in the 92nd minute. Missed chances happen to every team in soccer. Yes, even Bayern Munich (once in a while).
Playing five matches in 15 days, there’s going to be a lack of sharpness somewhere and so it was with the final ball on Saturday night, even though chance creation wasn’t an issue. On the other end, Orlando didn’t give Atlanta United many opportunities in the penalty area, but the Five Stripes were able to finish one of them and that was enough to get a wildly undeserved result.
Let’s get to the individual performances.
GK, Pedro Gallese, 7 — El Pulpo could do nothing about Adam Jahn’s powerful header into the bottom corner from close range. It was textbook. It was hit squarely, accurately, with power, and he bounced it right in front of the goal line to add to the difficulty. Gallese made five saves and none of them looked particularly difficult because his positioning was good. He did make one unconventional save on a shot from distance through traffic that he didn’t appear to see until the last second, but he had a strong hand and managed to knock the rebound out of a dangerous area. He did well to get his hand to a high cross to throw off the back-side attacker on a set piece in the 22nd minute. His passing accuracy of 58.8% suffered from Atlanta forcing him to go long more often than usual.
D, Kamal Miller, 5 — Up until the 92nd minute, the Canadian had a solid, if unspectacular match. He was able to get forward into the attack more often than he did on Wednesday, but still finished without a single cross and was only 1/4 on long balls. His passing accuracy of 76% wasn’t great and that included a pass right to Emerson Hyndman in the second minute of stoppage time that started the sequence for the tying goal. It’s unclear why Miller went up the middle in that situation with his teammates pointing him left, toward the sideline. Miller was also on the wrong side of the end of that play, failing to deal with Jahn. He was aware of Jahn and ran with him, but he didn’t pressure him before the jump to disrupt the timing or even jump himself. Yes, he was culpable in two ways on the tying goal but the draw isn’t solely on Miller, who contributed a tackle, three interceptions, a clearance, and a team-high six aerials won.
D, Robin Jansson, 7 — With a 92% passing rate, 6/7 long ball accuracy, six clearances, four interceptions, and a tackle, the beefy Swede was his usual self. He did combine with Antonio Carlos to get beat by Jahn in the 81st minute for a good scoring chance as the Atlanta striker split the Orlando center backs and was first to the ball, but Gallese was in position to save it.
D, Antonio Carlos, 6 — The defender passed at just an 80.7% rate, which is a bit below his usual standard, but he did win three aerials and contributed a tackle, two interceptions, and four clearances. He allowed himself to get pulled out of position just after halftime, leading to a scoring chance for Cubo Torres when his teammates failed to cover him positionally, and he have done better with a free header on a set piece in the 40th minute, but he pushed the shot wide.
D, Ruan, 6 — One thing Ruan continues to show is that for all the speed and quick movement he provides, he’s a terrible shooter and too many of his crosses don’t reach the target. If he can improve either of those, he’ll be a phenomenal right back. His 87.5% passing wasn’t bad last night, nor was his long ball accuracy (3/4), but he managed to connect on only one of four crosses and he missed the target badly from a good position in the 95th minute with the game on his foot. His two tackles and three interceptions were helpful, and he did well to clean up messes defensively all night, until the 92nd minute, when he allowed Jake Mulraney too much time and space to send in a cross on the tying goal. He turned down an opportunity to take on a defender on the sideline that could have set up a potential 2-v-1 break to seal the game late, instead opting to shield the ball so it could slowly roll out for a throw-in. That was an ultra-conservative move in a relatively low-risk and supremely high-reward situation and fatigue may have played a role in that decision.
MF, Uri Rosell, 7.5 (MotM) — I don’t know how Uri does it, but for the fifth time in 15 days, the Spaniard put in a phenomenal blue collar shift. He led all Lions with eight tackles to go along with three interceptions, a clearance, and a blocked shot. He was a 90% passer who completed nine of his 10 long balls. He helped steer Atlanta’s attack to the wide areas and kept the Five Stripes from posing any danger up the middle. I’m breaking my three-way tie in final scoring and giving my Man of the Match to a guy who simply doesn’t get enough credit for Orlando City’s success this season.
MF, Sebas Mendez, 5 — Mendez had a bit of a rough night in terms of providing his usual quality. He flubbed his lines badly on his first two shots — wasting a good cross in space in the fourth minute by popping up his shot badly and scuffing his second opportunity around the half-hour mark. He would have scored on his third shot if not for a great save by Brad Guzan in the 34th minute. He committed five fouls — picking up a yellow for persistent infringement — and some of those were simply unnecessary, like the one that set up a dangerous Atlanta free kick in just the eighth minute. But he also did a lot well, passing at a 97% rate and getting into those three good scoring positions in the first place, recording two tackles, an interception and a key pass, and earning two free kicks.
MF, Chris Mueller, 7.5 — Cash was a threat throughout the first half, more with his passing than his shooting. Although his second half wasn’t as good, that’s true of the entire team. His passing was good (93.1%) and he created two scoring chances, but it seemed like more than that. His outside-in cross for a Benji Michel scoring chance was sublime and deserved to be an assist. He scuffed his shot a bit in the 17th minute but still forced a save by Guzan. He fired two shots (one on target), completed three dribbles, and drew four free kicks — one of which should have been allowed to play on when Daryl Dike was entering the box in full control of the ball. He made one interception and one tackle, and worked with Dike and Michel to force several bad balls from Guzan.
MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 7 — It was a deceptively quiet night for the Uruguayan. He made a lot of small plays all night that combined together to form a good overall performance. He made four tackles and two interceptions to win the ball back, created two good scoring chances, and finished with 80% passing (5/6 on long balls, 1/2 on crosses). But he also made a lot of intricate little plays to retain possession when put into a bad spot by his teammates, with some nifty little outside-in flicks between two onrushing defenders to keep the play alive. It’s fun watching Pereyra play the game.
MF, Benji Michel, 7.5 — My triumvirate of 7.5 scores finishes with Michel. Although rewarded by our readers for scoring a goal Wednesday night in an otherwise objectively poor overall performance, it’s only fair to call out how good he was last night despite not really knowing much about the goal he scored in first-half stoppage time until the ball was right on top of him. That’s not to say that he simply “got hit with the ball,” which is perhaps how I described it last night, because I’ve had time to watch the play several more times and it’s clear he directed it intentionally and well played for doing so, even though it might have gone in off him anyway. Good reflexes there by Michel. He was also an 85% passer, created three scoring chances, and made a clearance on the defensive end. The only blemish on his night was getting only one of his four shot attempts on frame, because he was set up nicely multiple times. One of those hit the crossbar and I’m not convinced he wasn’t fouled while he was shooting. There were a couple he should have done better with and a couple opportunities where no shot came because he showed a bit too much of the ball or was closed down from behind. He had three unstable touches, which is six fewer than Wednesday, so that’s an improvement. His overall touch was better, but he was still dispossessed three times, so he must improve shielding the ball from defenders.
F, Daryl Dike, 6 — The big man didn’t get either of his shots on target but one still went in because he smashed it right at Michel. His movement was good and he occupied defenders well. But the night was marred by five unstable touches to lead all Lions and he was dispossessed twice and his 56.4% passing, albeit only on 11 attempts. He chipped in one tackle and helped pressure Guzan into mistakes all night.
MF, Andres Perea (57’), 5 — Perea came on for Dike, pushing Michel up into the striker role. He finished with a tackle and a blocked shot but completed just four of his six passes (66.7%). The youngster had a moment or two of hesitation, which broke down some promising attacks, as Pereyra sent one through ball to where he should have gone but he didn’t read the play correctly and stopped at the top of the area.
F, Tesho Akindele (72’), 4.5 — He wasn’t on the pitch that long, but Akindele contributed no shot attempts or key passes and had three unstable touches, completing just three of his five passes and managing only 10 total touches. I think he was on the field long enough to contribute more than that.
MF, Nani (72’), 6.5 — The captain managed 15 touches in the same amount of time on the pitch as Akindele and he also created a scoring chance and hit the post on a gorgeous free kick that was inches from putting the game away in the 80th minute. His pass to Ruan in the 95th minute should have turned into an assist but the right back missed the target. His passing rate wasn’t great (72.7%) but he was able to keep the ball out of harm’s way even when he didn’t connect and a couple of those were on some of his younger teammates for not going where he expected them to be. He contributed an interception as well.
MF, Junior Urso (72’), 6 — The Bear did his thing, with 85.7% passing and two tackles in his time on the pitch. He had one shot on target but had to go up high for a bouncing ball and he didn’t get all of it, allowing the defense time to swoop in and clear it off the line before it could go in after Nani’s free kick hit the woodwork.
D, Kyle Smith (84’), N/A — Kyle came on as the team shifted to five at the back but wasn’t on the field long enough to truly grade. He had only four touches but all four ended up as passes and all of them were complete. The switch to five at the back was actually working quite well in helping the Lions see out the final moments until Miller made his wayward pass.
That’s how I saw the individual performances in a draw that felt more like a loss to fans and the players alike. Vote for your Man of the Match in the poll below and let us know where your opinion differs.
Who was your Orlando City Man of the Match in the Lions’ 1-1 home draw vs. Atlanta United?
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