Orlando City remains unbeaten after a 1-1 draw at home against New York City FC. After a scoreless first half, Nani gave the Lions a lead in the 52nd minute for his third goal in three games. But João Moutinho, who came on to replace Ruan after halftime, conceded a penalty and Valentin Castellanos slotted it away to equalize. It was a game filled with chances for both sides, but neither was able to capture all three points, as has happened so often in this evenly matched series.
Here’s how each Lion individually rated in the match, along with who was named the Man of the Match.
GK, Pedro Gallese, 7.5 (MotM) — The Peruvian goalkeeper had his busiest game of the season, making three saves. His first and easiest came in the seventh minute when he dove to stop a shot from Andres Jasson outside of the box. Later, in the 28th minute, he made a crucial save one-on-one against Castellanos to keep the score level. But his biggest save came in the last moment of the game. Jesus Medina was in on goal and it looked as if NYCFC would steal all three points. But El Pulpo went low and covered all angles to make the crucial stop. If I could take the Man of the Match title and divvy them up three ways to Gallese and his center backs, I would. The three of them have done extremely well to only concede two goals this season, a giveaway and a penalty. But today’s honor goes to Gallese, even if he wasn’t able to make the save on the penalty. His confidence and positioning ability deserves some recognition, especially late with the game on the line as he put himself in the best possible place to not be easily beaten.
D, Ruan, 6 — Ruan’s speed was a factor early on, with the Brazilian sprinting down the field on a counter and making a tight pass that almost found Tesho Akindele in the box. His crossing ability still needs some fine tuning as both of his attempted crosses were unsuccessful, but he’s getting better at lifting his head up with the ball at his feet instead of taking shots at bad angles. He was the outlet for most of Orlando’s offense until going down in a tackle where he tracked back to stop a surging Jasson. He was limping in the final minutes of the first half and didn’t return in the second half, replaced by Moutinho. Ruan finished the match with 26 touches and 17 passes with an 88% success rate. Defensively, he made three clearances, tying for most on the team.
D, Antonio Carlos, 7.5 — The center back led the team in touches (89), interceptions (3), and passes (75) in a strong performance full of great moments. Of those 75 passes, 69 of them found their intended target for an impressive 92% success rate. Going up against a group of clever players from NYCFC, Carlos made sure that they weren’t able to capitalize on the many chances they created. Keep an eye on Carlos in set pieces moving forward. Orlando’s corners and free kicks usually wound up near the Brazilian’s head and it’s likely by design rather than chance. Carlos was only able to get his head onto one for a shot that went wide, but if he can improve this part of his game then he can become one of the best center backs in the league.
D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 7.5 — If there is one thing to learn from Schlegel’s performance last night, it’s that he is so much more than a folk hero or feel good story for Orlando. The Argentine center back is a defensive juggernaut, and not just because his head seems to hit the ball harder than the X-Men villain’s would. While he was a force all night, his best minutes of play came around the 20th minute. Schlegel slid to deny Castellanos on the end line and then blocked Maxime Chanot’s shot on the following corner before getting back into position to make life difficult again for Castellanos. He had 63 touches, two tackles, two interceptions, a headed shot right at Sean Johnson, and completed 90% of his 52 passes. There were so many times in the past where the absence of one center back would cripple Orlando’s defense. That’s no longer the case thanks to Schlegel.
D, Kyle Smith, 6 — In the first half, he had a tough match-up against Anton Tinnerholm, one of the best right backs in MLS. He was also beaten by Castellanos in the 28th minute in a play that ended with a shot on goal for NYCFC, but improved defensively as the game wore on. Ruan exited after halftime and Smith drifted back to his preferred right side of the pitch. NYCFC wasn’t too threatened by him offensively and he didn’t give them much of a reason to be, apart from some nice series with Urso on the wings. He had a weak shot from an awkward volley that might have been an attempted pass but it was gobbled up by Johnson anyway. Neither of his two crosses found their mark, he picked up a yellow card, made two clearances, and had one tackle in a full shift. Smith had 73 touches in this one and completed 83% of his 52 passes.
MF, Junior Urso, 7 — Urso had a bit of a quiet first half with little room to work with in the center of the field, but was a man possessed in the second half. With Ruan off the field, the offense needed a new dynamic and Urso stepped up to the plate. The Bear had a shot saved after a good series of passes along the right side, and minutes later he beat a defender with a nutmeg dribble in the play leading up to Nani’s goal. It was great to see Urso pushing forward in the attack, but he was no slouch on defense and pitched in with two tackles and an interception as well. He had 68 touches in this one and a decent 90% success rate on 51 passes.
MF, Sebas Mendez, 6 — Compared to last week’s match against FC Cincinnati, Mendez had to work in a much more crowded midfield this time around. There were a few errant passes early on from him, but he settled in and carved himself out a spot to connect Orlando’s defense and offense. He led the Lions with five tackles, tied Ruan with a team-high three clearances, and made two interceptions. On offense, his only shot of the game sailed high into the stands, but he did set Mauricio Pereyra up well for a shot. The Ecuadorian was second in touches with 85 and made 64 passes at an 84% rate. His only attempted cross of the game was unsuccessful and Mendez wasn’t able to impose his will on the midfield like past games this time around.
MF, Chris Mueller, 5 — No player was affected more by Ruan’s exit than Mueller and he was eclipsed a bit by Urso on his side of the attack. Mueller had no shots in 80 minutes of play, and in fact passed up a couple of good opportunities to fire a shot. He had a hard time finding his place in this one and only had 39 touches and 23 passes — albeit at a good 87% rate — also connecting on one of his two crosses. Mueller was dispossessed twice and had a habit of dribbling into trouble in a quiet game that was far from his best. He does get some brownie points for deflecting a free kick that could have been dangerous though.
MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 6.5 — Pereyra led the Lions in key passes with three as he continuously found players in great positions. The Uruguayan made the assist on Nani’s goal, becoming a revolving door to turn an incoming pass from Urso into perfect service for Nani in one of his favorite spots on the field. He had an 81% success rate on 54 passes, which is pretty good considering the usual distance and boldness from the type of passes he attempts. Pereyra also had the ball teed up for him by Mendez outside of the box, but his shot went wide. He was subbed off late in the second half and had 69 touches. Defensively, he had the second-most tackles on the team with three and had one interception. Pereyra also won three fouls, committing two of his own.
F, Tesho Akindele, 6 — Perhaps no one on the team ran more, or harder, than Akindele did throughout his 71 minutes of play. He still has moments where his touch lets him down, like when Nani delivered a good ball in the box in the first half. But his hold-up play was good for the second-straight match and he made multiple runs to split NYCFC’s center backs that went unrewarded with a pass from his teammates. His only shot attempt was blocked by a desperation lunge by a defender. Regardless, Akindele did all of the little things. If there was a loose ball in Orlando’s attacking third, Akindele was usually chasing it down and his pressing forced NYCFC into turnovers or poor long balls on occasion. He only made nine passes, but all were on target and one was a key pass. Subbed off in the 71st minute for fresher legs after running like a madman all game, the Canadian finished with 17 touches on a night when the opposition’s tight shape limited opportunities.
F, Nani, 7.5 — The captain did it again, working his magic at the top of the box and firing the ball into the back of the net. He was patient as he picked out what he wanted to do with the ball and then got his shot off before NYCFC could close down on him. It was a bit of an off night for his distribution though considering all four of his crosses in open play were unsuccessful, although not all were his fault and it was difficult to center the ball to a teammate with all of NYCFC’s bodies in the box. His one key pass was from one of his five corner kicks and he ended with 44 passes at a 77% success rate. Nani’s other shot of the evening was blocked and there were some miscues late when Orlando tried to switch play and take advantage of Tinnerholm’s exit. Still, it was a good game from Nani beyond his goal as he racked up 75 touches, two dribbles, a tackle, a clearance, and an interception, and often dropped to provide a calm outlet from New York City FC’s pressure — something that doesn’t show up on the stat sheet.
D, João Moutinho (45’), 5.5 — Whether it be from rust or fatigue, his tackle in the box that led to the penalty was a bad one. To be fair, Ishmael Tajouri-Shradi put the left back in a tough position and Moutinho took a stab that landed on the midfielder’s foot. It was rough to watch as NYCFC was given a lifeline back into the match, but life goes on and Moutinho will shake it off. Aside from the one bad moment, Moutinho was actually a bright spot at both ends of the pitch. In the most action he’s seen this season, Moutinho had 43 touches and was successful on 77% of his 31 passes. He had one cross, a key pass that found Benji Michel’s head in the box.
F, Benji Michel (71’), 5.5 — The forward didn’t make much noise as a substitute in this game, his only shot coming from Moutinho’s cross. It was an awkward angle for him as the ball wasn’t from out wide, but Michel was able to dig low like a volleyball player and then spring up to flick the ball in on goal. Johnson handled it with ease, but props to Michel for making something out of it. His running and energy forced Johnson to rush a long ball attempt that resulted in a turnover. He had eight touches and completed all six of his passes, adding a tackle as well.
MF, Andres Perea (80’), N/A — Although he wasn’t on the field long enough for a proper grade, I liked what I saw from Perea on set pieces. There’s a level of alertness he has that is pretty valuable late in games. In the 85th minute, Nani’s corner was dealt with but Perea made sure to be onside before Smith hit a weak volley that Perea rushed down. Late on, he made a similar dash on a free kick to try to make something happen. It’s hardly anything groundbreaking, but it’s nice to see.
MF, Silvester van der Water (80’), N/A — The Dutchman didn’t connect on either of his two passes and had seven touches. His biggest contribution was being fouled in the 88th minute in a good position for the Lions to whip a ball in.
That’s how I saw the individual performances of the Lions in a tough draw against NYCFC. Let us know what you thought and make sure to 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’ 1-1 draw with New York City FC?
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