Orlando City won its first game of the 2021 MLS season after a dominant 3-0 win over FC Cincinnati. Tesho Akindele scored within the first minute of the game and Nani doubled the Lions’ lead with perhaps his best goal yet for Orlando. Junior Urso scored in the second half to put the game on ice as the Lions secured their second clean sheet at home.
Let’s look at how each individual Lion performed in this game and who earned the title of Man of the Match.
GK, Pedro Gallese, 6 — El Pulpo didn’t have much to do in this one as Cincy’s best chances of the night were either blocked shots, missed headers from open looks on set pieces, or called offside. He didn’t record a save, but he did get his fingertips on an attempted chipped shot that was waved off for offside. Gallese was as comfortable as ever with the ball, with 27 touches and completing 18 of his 22 passes in his second clean sheet in three outings this year.
D, Ruan, 6 — The right back actually led the team with four key passes and all three of his crosses were accurate. He was much better creating chances in this game compared to last week, but there is still some improvement needed in that part of his game as he had an opportunity in the 72nd minute with other Lions in the box but couldn’t make anything of it. Still, Ruan’s work on offense with Chris Mueller is like clockwork at this point and he did well forcing defenders to deal with him. He had 51 touches, two interceptions, a tackle, one shot (on target) and completed 31 of his 39 passes for a 79% passing rate.
D, Antonio Carlos, 6.5 — Carlos was as solid as always, limiting Cincinnati’s opportunities throughout the match. His biggest moment came in the 46th minute when Cincy was on the counter. Carlos got in good position to cut off Ronald Matarrita’s passing lanes and then deflected the ensuing shot that would’ve given Gallese trouble. The center back had two interceptions, a clearance, and got his head on a corner kick but sent the shot high. The Brazilian also did well building play out of the back, with 64 touches and he attempted 57 passes at a 91% success rate.
D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 6.5 — The Argentine center back continues to impress as a starter, making smart and strong tackles to end Cincy’s counter attempts. Schlegel used his head almost as much as his feet, leading the team with two aerial duel wins and recording a shot with a header directed right at Cincinnati goalkeeper Przymeslaw Tyton. Although he had no tackles, he had an interception, blocked a shot, and led the team with four clearances. He made 41 passes with a great 95% completion rate and had 49 touches in another solid start while Robin Jansson recovers.
D, Kyle Smith, 6.5 — Still filling in at left back for the recovering João Moutinho, Smith had a decent outing. Defensively, he did well snuffing out Cincy’s chances, logging two tackles, an interception, and two clearances. However, there were a few mistakes as well as he turned the ball over in dangerous positions on occasion. On offense, Smith’s chemistry with Nani led to good chances for the Lions and Smith seems to be getting more and more comfortable crashing the box. Playing all 90 minutes, he finished with 69 touches and 48 total passes, both of which were third best on the team. Of those 48 passes, 42 found found their target for a decent 88% passing rate and one was a key pass. He attempted two crosses, completing one.
MF, Junior Urso, 7 — Although he missed an early header, Urso ended up scoring Orlando’s third and final goal of the match due to his penchant for being in the right place at the right time. In the 80th minute, the Bear got on the end of the ball right in front of goal to send it into the bottom left corner for his fourth goal as a Lion. Urso benefitted greatly from Cincinnati practically surrendering the midfield and he had a decent 88% passing rate from 34 passes. Defensively, he led the team with three interceptions and had two tackles. He had two shots, 45 touches, and committed a team-high three fouls within the first 10 minutes of the game.
MF, Sebas Mendez, 7 — Orlando City’s engine was at full steam in this match, leading the team in touches (85), passes (71), and tackles (three). He also had two dribbles in the match, tying Nani for most on the team, and his passing rate was a superb 94% as Mendez was given free reign in the midfield. He also had two interceptions, two clearances, and a yellow card after a miscued tackle. Mendez also had some work on offense, finishing with two shots from distance, a key pass, and an unsuccessful cross.
MF, Chris Mueller, 6.5 — Mueller notched his second assist of the season, finding Nani before the captain’s golazo. He was certainly hunting for his first goal of 2021, although three of his four shots were off target. His best chance to score came at the start of the second half when Nani found him open in the box, but his shot was deflected by a sliding Matarrita. While he didn’t score, Mueller’s assist was one of three key passes and he was successful on three of his five crosses. He also had a 90% passing rate from 21 total passes. Mueller had 37 touches in the match and a yellow card for a professional foul to make sure Cincinnati couldn’t capitalize on a counter.
MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 6 — It took some time for Pereyra to get going in his return to play after serving a two-game suspension. He had a chance to score in the 32nd minute after Nani snuck a pass to him in the box, but was tackled before he could shoot and stayed down after being stepped on. It ended up not being much to worry about and he carried on, creating more opportunities as the night went on. In the second half, his passes were lethal and reminiscent of those from last year as he found Lions in open space with pinpoint accuracy. Subbed off in the 59th minute, Pereyra finished his first match of the year with a 78% passing rate from 41 total passes, three of which were key passes. He had a corner kick and a cross seconds after it and both were successful although Orlando didn’t score. His one shot was sent into the stands and he had 52 touches.
F, Tesho Akindele, 6.5 — In his 100th MLS start, Akindele found the back of the net just 33 seconds into the match. The Canadian pressured Cincy defender Nick Haggland into an errant pass and then pounced on the loose ball in the box, slotting it home in the bottom right corner for his first goal of the season. After his goal, there was clear hunger and energy to Akindele as he hounded defenders and took chances. He used his large frame to win the ball often and then create opportunities for others with a notable two key passes. He had 24 touches, was accurate on nine of his 12 total passes, and had four shots, his goal being the only one on target.
F, Nani, 7.5 (MotM) — Just a week after his backheel goal, Nani scored another beauty for Orlando’s second goal of the game. At the top of the box, Nani spun and then cut back to send a defender sliding the wrong way for space to shoot. His strike was sublime, the ball sailing past Tyton for Nani’s second this year. The captain was a force all night long, nearly getting another with a header that beat Tyton but hit the woodwork. Nani led the team with six shots, two on target, and had two key passes. He was successful on three of his five crosses and finished with a 76% passing rate on 46 total passes after playing all 90 minutes. For the second consecutive match, Nani is our Man of the Match as Orlando was most dangerous when the ball was at the captain’s feet, which was often considering his 71 touches only trailed Mendez.
MF, Andres Perea (59’), 6.5 — The 20-year-old came on for Pereyra and helped keep Orlando’s offense running smoothly. Although Benji Michel will get credit for the assist on the score sheet for Urso’s goal, Perea’s headed pass in the box was excellent to give Michel a clear chance to score. He was composed and unselfish, with a chance to score his first goal as a Lion but opting to pass in that moment. All in all, it was a nice outing for Perea with 17 passes at a 94% rate and 21 touches.
F, Benji Michel (70’), 6 — Michel got his third assist as a Lion in bizarre fashion as his attempt to score wound up with the ball at Urso’s feet and then in the net. Regardless, he deserves some credit for being in position and drawing Tyton’s attention to give Urso a clear look. He only had nine touches in the game and completed all five of his passes.
D, João Moutinho (84’), N/A — In his first appearance since August, Moutinho was welcomed back with applause. He had nine touches and all nine of his passes were accurate. Hopefully we will see more of him soon.
MF, Joey DeZart (84’), N/A — DeZart only had two touches and completed both of his passes after coming on for Urso. His shift wasn’t long enough to warrant a grade in this one.
MF, Silvester van der Water (84’), N/A — Coming on late with Orlando up 3-0, van der Water played as if the score was reversed. He sprinted after the ball when tracking back on defense to make life even more difficult for a tired Cincinnati side that just wanted to go home. Van der Water completed one of his two passes and had a shot that went just wide.
That’s how I saw the individual performances of the Lions in their first victory of the 2021 season. Let us know what you thought and make sure to vote for who you think deserves the title of Man of the Match.
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