Orlando City remained unbeaten on the road this season after winning 2-0 against the Columbus Crew. Rodrigo Schlegel scored in the first half and Ercan Kara added another in the second, as the Lions held on for a shutout victory. It was a strong defensive performance from the team as a whole as the Lions covered for one another and applied constant pressure.
Here’s how I saw the individual performances of each Lion on the pitch.
GK, Pedro Gallese, 6 — His first save didn’t come until the second half and it was an awkward one as he had to quickly drop and parry a low shot from distance from sharpshooter Lucas Zelarayan that took a deflection through traffic. His other two saves weren’t too difficult as he collected a weak header from Gyasi Zardes and saved another low effort from Zelarayan that was going out regardless. He was accurate on eight of a whopping 17 long balls, as the Lions were content with heaving the ball up the field late in the match and he also completed 61% of his 23 passes. The Peruvian should buy his defenders whatever airline food they desire on the trip back home as he only had to face three shots on target for his fifth clean sheet of the year.
D, Joao Moutinho, 6.5 — It was another busy night defensively for Moutinho. The left back led the team with seven tackles and had three interceptions and four clearances as well. There were times where he had to defend on his back foot after a nice through ball from the opposition or a quick restart, but he did well tracking back and not making it easy for the Crew in the final third. His 78 touches were the most by a Lion — as were his four unstable touches — and he had 46 passes at a 76% success rate. His lone cross was unsuccessful and only one of his six long balls found its target. As the game plan shifted after Orlando’s second goal, Moutinho hung back to ensure numbers defensively and did well to stop Columbus.
D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 7.5 (MotM) — His positioning was excellent throughout the match, both offensively and defensively. He scored his first professional goal by hustling to get right in front of goal during a recycled set piece and not making a meal of a deceptively simple tap-in. On defense, Schlegel was adept at being in the right place at the right time to clog passing lanes and put out fires when Crew players had chances to shoot. He led the team with five interceptions and added three tackles, four clearances, and two blocks for one of his strongest defensive performances as a Lion. He had 21 passes at a 71% success rate and was successful on one of his five long balls. His yellow card was for a professional foul to slow down a surging Zelarayan on a counter. Schlegel is our Man of the Match for giving Orlando a lead on the road and doing everything he could on defense to keep it.
D, Robin Jansson, 7 — Jansson had three clearances and blocked a shot as he played his part in Orlando’s clean sheet. The statistics won’t show how the Crew often had to work around him as he applied pressure any time they neared the box. The Beefy Swede had two shots, sending a header off target and having an attempt from range blocked. He connected on two of his three long balls and completed a strong 84% of his 26 passes. As usual, he was a force in the air and won three of his five aerial duels.
D, Kyle Smith, 6.5 — In his first start of the season, Smith gave the Lions some defensive fortitude at right back. He was just as solid defending at the start of the match as he was near its end, making safe decisions to clear out the danger. Smith had four clearances and a tackle and did well lending help to his center backs to make sure Crew players didn’t have much room to work with. He was accurate on just one of his three crosses and only one of his eight long balls, but he did have a key pass to set up a shot for Facundo Torres and had a shot that went high and wide of goal. Smith had 32 passes at a subpar 65% success rate but did enough on defense to keep Pedro Santos fairly quiet and help Orlando secure the win.
MF, Cesar Araujo, 7 — The Uruguayan had to deal with Lucas Zelarayan’s bag of tricks throughout the night and proved up to the task. He’s learning how to ride the edge of fouling without being carded while winning fouls and frustrating opponents. Araujo played every minute of the match and helped defensively with two tackles, two interceptions, a clearance, and a blocked shot. His best moment of the match came late in the 79th minute as he matched Gyasi Zardes stride for stride down the field to eventually win a goal kick. Araujo had 37 passes at a solid 84% success rate and was accurate on one of his three long balls. He just turned 21 this month but has performed at a consistent level in his first year with Orlando.
MF, Junior Urso, 6.5 — The Bear recorded his second assist of the year after the ball pinged off him in the box to Schlegel. Whether he intended to pass or shoot doesn’t matter too much as he put the ball in a threatening position from a cross zipped into the box by Torres. While Pereyra stirred the offense, Urso kept things stable across the field with 50 passes at a great 88% success rate. His one cross may have been unsuccessful, but all four of his long balls found their mark. Urso chipped in on defense with three tackles, three clearances, and a block.
MF, Benji Michel, 6 — Michel didn’t make too much noise on offense, playing nearly every minute of the match without registering a shot or key pass. But his speed allowed him to race up and down the wing to help swarm opposing players on defense and win corners on offense. He sat back more as Orlando aimed to see out the match in the second half and did well defending Columbus’ crosses, finishing with four clearances. The Homegrown Player also chipped in with two tackles and an interception while winning two of his three aerial duels. Michel completed 76% of his 21 passes and was unsuccessful on his one attempted cross and his one long ball. Orlando’s other creative players stepping up and a solid defensive effort from Michel takes some of the sting out of a fairly lackluster offensive performance.
MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 6.5 — Pereyra led the Lions with 53 passes, completing them at an impressive 85% success rate to keep Orlando’s offense fluid against the Crew. He did well on Orlando’s second goal, sneaking into an open area near the top of the box after a pass and then getting the ball to Kara to set up a give-and-go with Facundo Torres. Pereyra was accurate on two of his seven crosses, connected on three of his five long balls, and also had a key pass. From start to finish, he hustled on defense and had four interceptions and two tackles. The 32-year-old may not have been the fastest player on the pitch, but he proved his value late in the match by making smart and composed passes to give Orlando some time to breathe before the next onslaught of Columbus attacking.
MF, Facundo Torres, 7.5 — Torres played a critical role in both of Orlando’s goals. His cross following a set piece was dangerous and led to Schlegel’s goal and he assisted on Kara’s goal after a series of tight passes. His defensive pressure was also great, as he chased down Crew players and finished the game with three tackles after 70 minutes of action. Torres may have only been accurate on one of his four attempted crosses, but most were still dangerous balls that dipped into the center of goal for good chances and he had two key passes. Neither of his long balls found their target and he had 32 passes at a 78% success rate. He also had two shots, putting one on target that Room saved while sending the other into the stands. El Cuervo loves to play with the ball at his feet and flew all over the field to make himself an outlet for passes and find open spaces to infiltrate the Crew’s defense. This match was a testament to how well Torres is gelling with his teammates in his first year in MLS.
F, Ercan Kara , 7 — Kara’s goal was a work of art, working alongside Pereyra and Torres to give himself a small window to shoot and bury the ball past Room. It was his only shot of the match and he made it count from a tight angle while the ball was bouncing. Kara had an otherwise quiet night as he played 69 minutes and had just eight passes, completing five for a 63% success rate. That being said, he helped out with Orlando’s press and had a key pass of his own. He’s scored in two consecutive matches and may continue to do so if the players around him keep generating great service. Kara’s finishing touch and killer instinct was the difference between a 2-0 win and a struggle to grind out a 1-0 win on the road.
F, Tesho Akindele (69’), 5.5 — The Canadian striker came on for Kara and used his height to make three clearances. He also had a pair of tackles to help limit the Crew’s chances and won two of his three aerial duels. Three unstable touches aren’t what you want from a substitute when trying to see out a win, but Akindele did well off the ball as he drifted into open spaces for passes and added pressure. He had 17 touches and completed six of his seven passes.
MF, Andres Perea (70’), 5.5 — It was off the bench and into the fire for Perea, who picked up a yellow card just a minute after coming on the field on a needless foul against Pedro Santos, who had his back to goal on the wing. He settled in a bit after that, making nine touches and completing all seven of his passes. Perea gave the Lions some fresh legs, nice passes, and a block.
MF, Sebas Mendez (88’), N/A — We didn’t see enough from Mendez to grade him as he only had four touches and four passes at a 75% completion rate. His inclusion late in the match gave Orlando some more defensive presence and stability in the center of the field.
D, Thomas Williams (91’), N/A — The Homegrown Player made his MLS debut, coming on late to fortify Orlando’s defense (but mostly to waste time). There wasn’t enough to grade him on as he didn’t have any touches, but it’s nice to see him get some minutes. With Antonio Carlos injured, we may see more of him in the future late in matches.
That’s how I saw each individual performance in Orlando City’s 2-0 win on the road against the Columbus Crew. It was a strong defensive effort across the board from the Lions and the offense seems to be finding its footing as well.
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