Orlando City managed to come back and win 3-2 at home against Atlanta United. It was far from comfortable, but the Lions took all three points after trailing twice against their rivals. It was a momentous night as Mason Stajduhar got the start in goal, Kyle Smith found the back of the net, and Nani broke an Orlando record.
Let’s dive right into how each of your favorite Lions rated in this home win.
GK, Mason Stajduhar, 6 — Stajduhar’s MLS debut got off to a rough start, but there wasn’t much he could do on Josef Martinez’ goal. His first save in MLS was a good one, going low to stop a surging Erik Lopez in on goal. It was also his only save of the match as he couldn’t reach Marcelino Moreno’s curling strike from distance. Still, Stajduhar was solid and looked comfortable directing his back line and rushing to snuff out any potential chances. In terms of distribution, he completed two of his five attempted long balls and ended up with a success rate of 83% on 18 total passes. While conceding two goals isn’t great, both are likely MLS Goal of the Week candidates and Stajduhar shouldn’t be too upset with a win in his debut.
D, Kyle Smith, 7 — Even with Ruan back in the lineup, Smith continues to start every game for Orlando this season. Playing at left back in this match, Smith proved that he’s more than a versatile, bit player on the team and scored his first goal as a Lion. Late in the first half with his team trailing, Smith got his head on the end of Nani’s corner to skip the ball into the net. It was great work from Smith. He was also solid on defense, leading the team in both tackles (three) and clearances (three). Smith was also second on the team in touches with 66 and completed 89% of 47 passes. A case can certainly be made that Smith deserves to start in every match no matter what other fullbacks are available.
D, Robin Jansson, 6.5 — The masked Swede wasn’t able to make much of an impact on either of Atlanta’s goals as they were well struck and out of his area of influence. The two conceded goals will overshadow a fairly good defensive performance from him and Antonio Carlos to keep Martinez quiet. Jansson recorded no tackles or interceptions, but did have a clearance and played all 90 minutes. He completed 41 of his 45 passes for a strong 91% success rate and had 48 touches.
D, Antonio Carlos, 6.5 — Carlos came up with a big block against Lopez in the 22nd minute after a deflected cross teed up the Paraguayan forward for a shot. The center back also had a tackle, two interceptions, and a clearance in a solid defensive performance. He’s getting better on offensive set pieces as well, nearly scoring on a corner after making good contact with his head but sending it wide. Carlos had 54 touches and completed 45 of his 47 passes for an excellent 96% completion rate.
D, Ruan, 7 — Orlando City looked most dangerous when Ruan was racing down the right side. His crossing has always left something to be desired, but he did really well finding players in the box in this match. He nearly had two assists, but Benji Michel couldn’t finish one and Chris Mueller was stopped by a terrific save from Alec Kann. Ruan had two shots and put both of them on target. Although the first was from distance and aimed right at Kann, the second was from a tight angle and earned the corner that led to Orlando’s first goal. On defense, he had a tackle, an interception, and a clearance. Ruan didn’t track back in time on Atlanta’s second goal after the ball was turned over in the midfield, although Atlanta’s tempo before Moreno’s curler didn’t warrant a desperate sprint from Ruan to get back. All in all, it’s nice to have Ruan back on the field to add another dimension to the offense. The right back went the distance and had 60 touches, two key passes, and completed 81% of his 36 passes.
MF, Uri Rosell, 6 — Rosell was solid in his third consecutive start for Orlando, completing 50 of his 55 passes for a 91% success rate. He made two tackles and an interception to help out on defense. Atlanta seemed willing to give him space in the midfield, preferring to pay attention to Orlando’s more offensive players, and Rosell never really made them pay for it. Still, he did a decent job as a passing outlet for defenders and getting the ball either out wide or to Pereyra. Rosell was subbed off for Tesho Akindele in the 74th minute as Orlando was trailing and he finished with 63 touches.
MF, Andres Perea, 6 — With Rosell playing defensively while Mauricio Pereyra was an offensive threat, Perea carved out a spot for himself in central midfield. He was a step behind Josef Martinez before the forward struck from distance, but it’s hard to pin the blame on Perea for that goal. The 20-year-old didn’t have a shot or a key pass in a pretty quiet night at home after scoring last week at home against the Philadelphia Union. He made a good run here and there, including some nice movement in the box on Smith’s goal to peel a defender and open up space. Perea was third on the team in touches with 65 and made 57 passes at an 86% success rate. Defensively, he finished with a tackle, an interception, and a clearance. With Rosell earning more playing time and the impending returns of Sebas Mendez and Junior Urso, Perea may see some of his minutes eaten up in the future. Head Coach Oscar Pareja has praised Perea’s ability to come in as a substitute and mimic the midfielder he’s replacing, so it will be interesting to see if he returns to that role in the future.
MF, Benji Michel, 6 — It was a mixed bag from the Homegrown Player. Although Michel had four shots, none were all too threatening as only two were on target and those were sent directly at Kann. While he did a good job making runs to find dangerous areas, more is expected of him to put the ball in the back of the net when it’s served to him on a silver platter. That being said, he completed all three of his attempted dribbles, won a free kick right outside the penalty area, and redeemed himself a bit with the assist on Silvester van der Water’s goal. It was his only key pass of the match, but it was a nice one as he headed the ball towards van der Water rather than trying to get a shot off. Michel was able to make more of an impact once Atlanta right back Brooks Lennon was forced off due to injury and he finished with 39 touches while completing 16 of his 17 passes for a nice 94% success rate. He didn’t attempt any crosses and often drifted in to the center of the attack while Nani had free range.
MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 7 — After missing Orlando’s last game due to his suspension, it took some time for Pereyra to find his rhythm in this one. But once he did, he really started to make an impact on the match. Pereyra led the Lions with five key passes, including a hockey assist on Orlando’s second goal. The Uruguayan delivered a beautiful ball over the defense for Michel to then head towards van der Water in the middle. Not only did Pereyra lead the Lions with a total of 59 passes, but he completed them at an incredible 92% success rate. Those passes were far from walks in the park too, as he was successful on all three of his crosses and was relied upon to switch the flow of play or find players making runs forward. His only shot was off target, but it was a desperate attempt after a poor clearance from Kann while Pereyra was falling down. Pereyra also led the Lions in touches with 71 and chipped in defensively with a tackle and two interceptions. He also didn’t earn any yellow cards, so it was a pretty nice night for him, although he was responsible for the turnover that led to the second Atlanta goal by letting the ball run through the midfield while his trailing teammate (Nani) wasn’t open enough to accept it.
MF, Chris Mueller, 6.5 — Mueller benefitted from Ruan’s work down the right side and nearly scored late in the second half but his shot was saved at the goal line by Kann. It was his only shot of the match though and he didn’t have any key passes or crosses either. Overall, his passing was decent as he completed 21 of his 25 passes for an 84% success rate. Defensively, he made two tackles and two interceptions. Mueller was subbed off for van der Water in the 74th minute and finished with 41 touches.
F, Nani, 8 (MotM) — Yet again, Nani bent the game to his will, scoring the game winner to give Orlando all three points. He turned on the jets immediately after van der Water whipped the ball into the box, beating his defender and heading the ball past Kann for his eighth goal of the season. His assist on Orlando’s first goal from a corner kick was his 23rd assist as a Lion, surpassing Kaká (who was at the match) for the club record. The captain finished with 57 touches and 36 passes with an 81% completion rate, including four key passes. Of his four shots, two were on target while the others were either sent wide or blocked. Nani is our Man of the Match for providing that lethal edge to a team that lacked a true striker for most of the match. He needed to do well in this one after not playing against New York City FC and he did just that, winning the game for the Lions.
MF, Silvester van der Water (73’), 7.5 — What more can you want from a substitute? Van der Water only had seven touches but he made them count as he scored an equalizer and then delivered the game-winning assist. His diving header was perfectly placed, but what was even better was his quick burst of speed to get past his defender and in position. His assist was a pinpoint cross to Nani in front of goal and couldn’t have been any better. The winger was the needed spark Orlando needed to come back from a deficit and win.
F, Tesho Akindele (73’), 6 — It’s baffling that Akindele was able to play in this match, considering he’d just played for Canada in Arlington, TX the night before. The big guy did what he does best, winning the ball upfield and pressing the opposition. He didn’t play much of a role in Orlando’s late goals apart from drawing the attention of defenders. Akindele had seven touches and completed three of his five passes.
D, Emmanuel Mas (84’), N/A — Although he was brought on late for Smith, Mas racked up 13 touches and completed eight of his nine passes. It wasn’t enough playing time to earn a grade, but he looks comfortable with the ball at his feet and had a couple of unsuccessful crosses.
MF, Joey DeZart (90’), N/A — The midfielder is becoming a closer of sorts for Pareja, brought on late to see out matches once Orlando has the lead. DeZart put his fresh legs to good use by chasing the ball and had four touches while completing two of his three passes
MF, Junior Urso (90’), N/A — The Bear had a tackle, four touches, and completed both of his passes in a late cameo. It’s nice to see him back on the field and hopefully he will feature more in Orlando’s next game.
That’s how I saw things play out in Orlando’s win over its rival. Make sure to weigh in on how you feel about the grades in the comments below and to vote for who you think deserved the title of Man of the Match.
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