Orlando City extended its unbeaten streak to six matches after winning 1-0 over Toronto FC. Tesho Akindele scored in the 12th minute and the defense continued its dominant form despite injuries. Here is how each individual Lion performed in the win, as well as who earned the title of Man of the Match.
GK, Pedro Gallese, 7.5 (MotM) — The Peruvian goalkeeper secured his fourth clean sheet of the season, already surpassing his total from a shortened 2020 season. It was a busy night for El Pulpo, making five saves throughout the match, including a pair late in stoppage time to put the game on ice. Gallese also had a great save in the first half after a shot was deflected while he was already motioning to his left. In what couldn’t have been more than a second, he readjusted for a kick save to send the ball out of harm’s way. He was beaten by a terrific chipped touch by Yeferson Soteldo in the first half, but his defense was there to keep Toronto from scoring. As usual, Gallese was confident and calm when the game was on the line. He’s our Man of the Match for making difficult saves and standing tall in the game’s biggest moments.
D, Kyle Smith, 6 — With neither Ruan nor João Moutinho on the roster as they’re being eased back into things, Smith played at right back. He struggled to deal with Soteldo, who wreaked havoc all night long on Smith’s side of the field. That being said, Smith wasn’t terrible defensively by any means as he led the team with a whopping nine tackles. He also had two interceptions and a clearance. On offense, his one shot was on target but gobbled up by Toronto goalkeeper Alex Bono. He had three crosses but none found their target. Smith played every minute of the match with 63 touches, but only had 27 passes at a 78% success rate. Although he didn’t have a key pass, Smith delivered a great ball down the right side to Silvester van der Water in the play that led to Orlando’s goal for a secondary, or “hockey,” assist.
D, Antonio Carlos, 7 — It was up to Carlos to put out the fires when Soteldo or other attackers came charging into the box. The Brazilian did just that, leading the Lions with six clearances to snuff out Toronto’s chances. Carlos also had a tackle and three interceptions to help ensure Orlando’s clean sheet. He continues to be the target on set pieces and nearly scored on a corner kick but his headed effort went just over the crossbar. That area of his game seems to be improving and is something to watch for moving forward. Carlos finished with 61 touches and completed 83% of his 47 passes to help build out of the back.
D, Robin Jansson, 7 — In his first start of the season, Jansson’s biggest moment on defense came in the 32nd minute when he stopped Soteldo’s attempt after the winger got past Carlos and Gallese. With Carlos often drifting over to help Smith, Jansson had to be the backbone of Orlando’s defense and did well in that role. He also pitched in offensively with a key pass in the 67th minute to give Akindele a chance to double Orlando’s lead. In his return to the starting lineup, Jansson had a tackle, two interceptions, two clearances, 60 touches, and 53 passes at an 81% success rate.
D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 6.5 — After doing a great job as center back for the first five games this season, Schlegel was moved to left back and continued to impress. He had a tough assignment against former Lion Richie Laryea and was definitely scorched on occasion. In the 71st minute, Jacob Shaffelburg raced around Gallese to shoot from a tough angle and it looked like the ball would trickle into the back of the net. But Schlegel was there to cover for his goalkeeper, running back and getting in position to make a clearance on the goal line. Schlegel finished second on the team in both touches (79) and passes (59 at an 80% rate). Defensively, he had a tackles three interceptions, and a clearance. Schlegel showed his versatility by moving to left back and preventing Laryea from abusing the right wing.
MF, Sebas Mendez, 6.5 — The Ecuadorian midfielder had another great outing in his sixth-straight start this season. Mendez went the distance yet again, playing every minute and leading the Lions with 86 touches and 65 passes at a great 95% rate. He was a force defensively as well, racking up five tackles, three interceptions, and three clearances as he helped out all over the field. Mendez didn’t have any shots or key passes, but it was still a solid performance.
MF, Junior Urso, 6 — The Bear may have only had 50 touches in this one, but he put most of them to good use. Urso played all 90 minutes and had one shot that went into the stands, a key pass, three clearances, two interceptions, and blocked shot a shot from Jozy Altidore. It wasn’t his best night as he mostly dueled with Michael Bradley in the midfield, but he did help keep Altidore quiet by clogging up lanes in the midfield. Urso was dispossessed twice and only completed 23 of his 31 passes.
MF, Silvester van der Water, 6.5 — The Dutchman had an assist in his first start as a Lion. After rushing down a great ball by Smith, the winger cut back and then whipped the ball in with his left foot to serve Akindele the ball on a silver platter for his only cross of the match. Van der Water plays with a clear hunger to score goals, leading the team alongside Akindele with three shots, although only one was on target. Using quick bursts of speed to suddenly change direction or chase down the ball, he’s a dynamic player and showed plenty to be excited about in the future. In 58 minutes of action, van der Water had 28 touches, two tackles, a successful dribble, and completed 10 of his 13 passes.
MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 6 — With Nani suspended, it was up to Pereyra to create chances for the Lions. Pereyra was great at stringing passes together on offense and had two key passes. In the first few minutes of the second half, Carlos found him in open space and in a moment he sent the ball forward to give Akindele a golden opportunity to score that was squandered. But for most of the night, Toronto was all over Pereyra. He was dispossessed three times and had 46 passes at a 76% rate. Neither of his two crosses in open play found their target, but he was successful on two of his five crosses from set pieces. In 87 minutes on the field, Pereyra had 63 touches as he often had to become an outlet for Lions to get out of trouble.
MF, Chris Mueller, 6 — It was a tough night for Mueller, but mainly because he was dueling with former Lion Richie Laryea for most of it. Although he didn’t have any crosses or shots, Mueller showcased incredible vision on the left side of the pitch and led the team with three key passes. His best was in the 30th minute when he found van der Water in open space, but the shot went right at Bono. Mueller’s biggest issue remains dribbling into trouble as he was only successful on one of his five attempted dribbles. Mueller pitched in on defense with an interception and two clearances, often tracking back to help out. He completed 26 of his 29 passes and had 42 touches in a 70 minute shift.
F, Tesho Akindele, 6.5 — The Canadian scored his second goal of the season, getting his head on the end of van der Water’s cross to give Orlando an early lead. Akindele had another chance at the start of the second half after Pereyra sent him in on goal with only Alex Bono to beat, but his shot went wide. He had a similar opportunity later on, but just couldn’t get enough on his shot as he was closed down from behind at the last second. With Alexandre Pato injured and Daryl Dike on loan, Akindele has been under a bit of a microscope this season. He definitely had opportunities to put the game out of reach, but that shouldn’t overshadow him scoring the game’s only goal and keeping the pressure on Toronto. Akindele finished with three shots (two on target), 31 touches, and 24 passes at a 79% success rate.
MF, Andres Perea (58’), 6 — Coming on for van der Water, Perea did well solidifying the midfield to help Smith on the right side. He had 14 touches, two dribbles, completed eight of his nine passes. He also had a key pass, using his vision to send the ball to Benji Michel in a perfect spot to score. His versatility continues to matter as he’s able to come on and fulfill whatever role is needed of him in the midfield.
F, Benji Michel (69’), 6 — Michel nearly scored in the 84th minute. Perea put the ball in open space for him to run down and he took a great first touch with his chest to then shoot with his left foot. Bono managed to make a good save to keep Michel off the scoresheet, but it was nice seeing him make a familiar impact as a substitute. He had 11 touches and was successful on all six of his passes.
MF, Joey DeZart (85’), N/A — It was another late cameo for DeZart and there wasn’t enough shown in his brief appearance to warrant a grade. Regardless, DeZart did well late in the match to break up plays, including chasing down Ayo Akinola in a dangerous position. Throughout all six minutes of stoppage time, DeZart was there, working hard.
MF, Alexander Alvarado (85’), N/A — It was Alvarado’s first appearance since the season-opener and he was the epitome of fresh legs. The Ecuadorian kept plays alive on the wing, had a clearance on a set piece, and made a crucial block to end the game. With Nani out again next week, it will be interesting to see if he will get more minutes after a decent outing in this one.
That’s how I saw the individual performances of the Lions in this game. Let us know what you thought about the players and don’t forget to vote for your Man of the Match.
Who was your Man of the Match in Orlando City’s 1-0 win over Toronto FC?
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SIlvester van der Water