Winning is fun! It wasn’t necessarily the prettiest win (torrential rain will do that to a soccer game), but Orlando City grabbed a much-needed 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire courtesy of a second-half Benji Michel goal. Let’s have a look at how I rated each player in the win.
GK, Mason Stajduhar, 8 (MotM) — The Homegrown goalkeeper takes the honors for this one as he earned his first MLS shutout with a great performance. Our own Sean Rollins mentioned that Mason looks to have much better command of his box than he did during his first few games with Orlando City, and I think that was on display Saturday night. Aside from one occasion where Joao Moutinho headed a ball away that Stajduhar was coming to claim, he was on the same page with his defenders for the duration of the match. He did a good job of judging when he needed to come and claim a ball, and then followed through well on making contact or catching each one of them. He also made two excellent saves, with one in second half stoppage time that preserved all three points for the Lions. Overall, a much deserved Man of the Match.
D, Joao Moutinho, 7 — Joao didn’t have as much influence on the offensive end as he sometimes does, and his shot that went wide of the post in the second half when he was in an advanced position was disappointing, considering that the Lions had numbers forward. With that being said, it’s been good to have him back in the lineup, and while his crossing wasn’t as much of a weapon in this game as it can be, he still put a few very dangerous balls into the box. He was also rock solid defensively and was particularly good at helping provide an outlet when Chicago pressed high. Statistically, he passed at an 89% rate, completed one dribble and won an aerial duel.
D, Robin Jansson, 7 — This was another in a long line of good showings for the Swede. He totalled three interceptions, two clearances and a block while being the physical presence in defense that we’ve come to expect of him. I can’t help but feel that a goal is coming for Jansson sooner rather than later, and he wasn’t far away with a fierce left-footed drive from outside the box in the second half that didn’t quite start dipping in time to sneak under the bar. His other numbers going forward included a 95% passing rate with a key pass thrown in for good measure.
D, Antonio Carlos, 7.5 — Like his partner in central defense Jansson, Carlos continues to barely put a foot wrong defensively. He had another great game vs. Chicago with three tackles, two interceptions, a whopping eight clearances and an equally impressive five blocks. One sliding interception/clearance in his own box with the second half winding down was particularly eye-catching but he continues to be a pillar of defensive solidity even when he isn’t making the flashy play. To cap things off he passed the ball at a respectable enough 85% rate. All-Star snub, thy name is Antonio.
D, Ruan, 7 — The thing that impressed me most about Ruan in this game was his crossing. His delivery from wide areas isn’t always the best, and if he can become more consistent in that area then look the hell out. Against Chicago he did just that, with one of his two crosses finding the head of Chris Mueller with the other being met by Benji Michel. Like Moutinho, he didn’t have quite as much of an offensive impact as he sometimes does, although again, like Moutinho he was very good defensively. His numbers of one tackle, five interceptions and three clearances back that up.
MF, Junior Urso, 7 — The Bear did a bit of everything in this game. Defensively he had three tackles, two interceptions and two clearances while putting in his typical shift of hard running and gritty play in the middle of the field. Offensively he had two key passes, a dribble, and a shot. The shot he maybe should have done better with, as it was a header from pretty close range that he could only direct right at Bobby Shuttleworth. It ended up being one of Orlando’s better chances on the night, but with all of the other contributions he made, it’s hard to hold it against him too much.
MF, Joey DeZart, 6.5 — This was definitely a better outing for DeZart than his midweek performance against Nashville. It may be that the 90 minutes he played on Wednesday helped him get up to the speed of the game and get his feet under him, because he did well in his defensive midfield role. The 23-year-old recorded two tackles and an interception while passing the ball at an 85% clip. He didn’t really impact the game offensively, but honestly that’s not exactly what he’s on the field to do and he did well to open up the defense a few times. This was a solid performance from DeZart, and hopefully its one that he can build on.
MF, Silvester van der Water, 7.5 — Van der Water carried the most threat for Orlando on the night and very nearly was involved in two goals. He was desperately unlucky to have his left-footed shot crash off the inside of the far post and stay out, but that chance was a definite sign that he was up for this one. Scarcely a minute later he chased a ball down the right hand side and put a cross into a fantastic area, but neither Tesho Akindele or Benji Michel could convert the chance. His influence waned a little after that, although to be fair it would have been quite a task of maintaining that degree of threat for the remainder of his time on the field. Still, he had three shots, two key passes, two successful dribbles, two interceptions and a tackle. Another impressive game from the Dutchman.
MF, Benji Michel, 7 — Benji made up for failing to take the aforementioned first half chances in the best way possible, by putting away the next chance the fell his way. It wasn’t as easy as it might have looked either, and he did very well to take his time, pick his head up, and absolutely smash his shot low and into the corner where Shuttleworth couldn’t reach it. He also completed a dribble that was a pretty fantastic sequence where he picked up the ball on the left side of midfield, brought the ball past a couple defenders and out to the right side of the field, picked his head up and played a great diagonal ball over the top to Junior Urso. It was good to see him get back among the goals after having some difficulty in front of net in recent games.
F, Nani, 6.5 — The captain’s night was cut short by some muscle tightness that he’s been dealing with lately and all-in-all that was probably a smart move with the MLS All-Star Game right around the corner, followed by a match against Inter Miami just two days later. In his 29 minutes on the field Nani completed two dribbles and passed at a 83% clip, but rather understandably, wasn’t able to make a particularly big impact on the game. However, he showed well enough in the short time he was on the field, and personally I’m hoping that he isn’t given too much to do out at the All-Star festivities.
F, Tesho Akindele, 7.5 — Tesho had himself a damn good game in this one. For one thing, he created the turnover that led to Benji’s goal and also got his career high fifth assist on it. Besides that though, he had two shots, two key passes, two dribbles, was fouled three times, made one tackle and had four clearances. Outside of the numbers though, his hold-up play was excellent and if anyone claims otherwise I’ll happily take you to task on that point. He did a great job of not only winning the balls that were sent up to him, but also finding his teammates once he had done so and bringing them into the game. He also made smart runs and all-around worked hard for the whole game. If not for Mason’s heroics as the game wound down, he would have been my choice for MotM.
MF, Chris Mueller (29’), 6.5 — Cash was brought into the game for Nani and had a bit of a tough task since he didn’t look to get much, if any warmup time. He didn’t play his best game in purple, but by no means was he bad either. He had one shot, one key pass and was fouled once, but didn’t have a ton of impact in the game. He maybe should have done better with his header in the first half, although to be fair to him he had to generate most of the power himself and the ball was slightly behind him. Still, he filled in well enough after being brought on cold, and was effective at holding the ball in the corner and helping the Lions chip away at the clock some.
D, Rodrigo Schlegel (79’), N/A — The man with the golden hands was brought on for goal-scorer Benji Michel to help shore things up defensively. He did just that with a blocked shot. An odd statistical quirk is that he apparently did not attempt a pass during the 17 minutes that he was on the field, which seems super weird, but there you go.
D, Emmanuel Mas (85’), N/A — Like Schlegel, Mas was subbed on for van der Water to help lock down the game defensively. He contributed one tackle to the cause and passed the ball at a 75% rate. He’s sneakily a pretty crafty fullback, and I’ve enjoyed watching him play so far.
MF, Raul Aguilera Jr. (85’), N/A — An MLS debut for the Homegrown Player! Aguilera came on for DeZart to help get the game over the finish line and succeeded with two clearances and some hard running in midfield. He didn’t have a ton of time to show what he can do, so he’ll be one to keep an eye out for going forward.
That’s how I saw the grades during this one. Feel free to share your own thoughts in the comments and don’t forget to vote for who you think should have been the Man of the Match.
Who was your Orlando City Man of the Match in the Lions’ 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire?
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