Can’t we just play New York City FC all the time? By beating our fellow 2015 MLS expansion club 2-1 tonight, the Lions got their first win since July 31, snapping a four-game winless streak (0-2-2) and a two-game home losing streak. It’ll definitely make Monday feel better, as Orlando City is improbably still in the playoff race in the Eastern Conference.
New York City entered as the fresher and much hotter team, but the visitors failed to get much of a toehold on the game until the waning minutes when the Lions parked the bus a bit down the stretch. Orlando finished 2-0-1 against NYCFC this season and is 3-1-2 against the soccer Yankees in the all-time series.
Now, let’s get on with the individual performances.
GK, Joe Bendik, 6.5 – New York didn’t trouble Joe much until the second half. Neither of NYCFC’s two first-half shots were on target, but the Baby Blues were sharper in the attack after the break. Bendik’s three saves in the second half were all quite good he had to be quick off his line to beat David Villa to a late through ball, and he made two vital punches and caught one cross. However, he put his team in a bad spot on the goal by Steven Mendoza by deflecting the ball out in front rather than out to the side.
D, Luke Boden, 5.5 – Bodz started a bit slowly but seemed to get stronger as the game wore on, despite this being the third game in nine days. His passing stat line looks a bit pedestrian, at 72.2% accuracy, with only one of four accurate crosses and one of four accurate long balls, but he played a sound defensive game and got forward when he could to win corners and trouble New York City’s wide players. He finished with two tackles, an interception, and a clearance. He had one key pass, created one chance, and took a shot, but it was off target. Limited New York City’s effectiveness down the right offensive channel.
D, David Mateos, 7 – I thought this was a strong game from the Spaniard, like his game at Colorado. Defensively, he finished with one tackle, three interceptions, a clearance, and a blocked shot, but he did commit three fouls. He broke up a developing two-on-one break in the box in the 78th minute to preserve Orlando’s lead. Offensively, he completed 92.1% of his passes and nine of his 12 long balls were accurate. He even made a heads-up play to get forward to create a three-on-two counter attack off a set piece, although it eventually broke down. He tied Boden for the team’s most touches on the night (67), and rarely put a foot wrong.
D, Jose Aja, 7 – In only his second MLS start, the Uruguayan put in a solid shift against an outstanding offensive team. He led the back line with 93.3% passing, four interceptions, and six clearances. He also won two aerials, had one tackle, and blocked a shot. Nine of his 11 long balls were accurate. Most importantly, he and Mateos did a good job of not only cutting off the first New York attacker – usually David Villa, Tommy McNamara, and Steven Mendoza, but the duo also seemed aware of guys like Frank Lampard, making secondary runs into the area.
D, Tommy Redding, 6 – In a bit of an experiment, Redding started at right back, spelling Kevin Alston, who has rarely got a minute off in months. Redding was solid, if unspectacular, offering very little going forward, but helping keep the New York attack quiet. He completed 92.6% of his passes and two of his long balls were accuate. Defensively, he finished with two tackles, two interceptions, and two clearances. After halftime, NYCFC made more of an effort to attack his side of the field and found a bit more success crossing in from their attacking left side, prompting Jason Kreis to bring Alston on.
MF, Servando Carrasco, 5 – In my opinion, Serva was a bit off in this game – not terribly, but a bit. He offered little moving forward and failed to join the attack as expected a few times, leading to errant passes into areas in which his teammates expected him to run. His 85.4% passing accuracy was decent, but only three of his seven long balls were accurate, he created no real chances, and took no shots. Defensively, he posted one clearance, one interception, and one tackle. He did make one fantastic play on a takeaway from Ronald Matarrita at the corner of the penalty area and jump-started an Orlando City counter. Maybe his most important contribution was getting to a corner kick first and drawing a foul to alleviate pressure on the Orlando goal. Aside from those two plays, I didn't see as much from Servando tonight as I'm used to.
MF, Antonio Nocerino, 6.5 – The Italian continues to blossom under Jason Kreis, leading the club with a passing accuracy of 94.9% (OK, Brek Shea had 100% accuracy but he only passed it twice). Nocerino did a good job of jumping into passing lanes, forcing attackers back or to the sideline, and linking the back line with the attacking midfield. He had one key pass to create a chance, played a pivotal role in the first Orlando City goal, and racked up four interceptions, a clearance, and a tackle. He even took one for the team when he was booked for standing over the ball to prevent a quick restart on a free kick.
MF, Kaká, 7.5 (MOTM) – I’ll be honest. Without the two goals, the captain’s score wouldn’t be this high. He started the game slowly, dribbling into trouble a few times and giving the ball away with poorly weighted passes. But his determination on the first goal was vintage Kaká. He wouldn’t be denied in rounding Jefferson Mena and firing on goal from a tight angle, following his shot to score on his own rebound. He led Orlando City in shots (4) and shots on target (3), and not only scored the penalty kick, but also drew the foul that set it up. His passing (84.1%) was a bit better than it’s been in recent games. He had no accurate crosses on two attempts, registered no defensive stats whatsoever, and had no key passes. Still, he put the ball in the back of the net, and that’s what wins games.
MF, Matias Perez Garcia, 7.5 – MPG was the best man on the pitch most of the night. Without his defensive play and his pass wide to Kaká, the first goal would never have happened. He was superb at winning back possession on the night, with a team-high three tackles and an interception. He created two chances, completed 83.9% of his passes, took one shot, and drew two fouls. Moreover, his hustle and tenacity was contagious and he continues to combine better and better with his teammates.
MF, Kevin Molino, 5.5 – It pains me not to be able to put a higher score here. The Original had chances for heroics and to put the game out of reach. At 75.6%, he had the lowest midfield passing accuracy and had no accurate crosses on the night. He muffed a chance to get onto a Boden cross and the deflection took the ball out of reach for Cyle Larin as well. Later, he worked his way past goalkeeper Josh Saunders, then sent a soft shot at the empty net that allowed Ronald Matarrita to make a sliding save on. He was dispossessed three times but he also made three tackles to tie MPG for the most on the team.
F, Cyle Larin, 4.5 – I’ll take the heat for this grade again. The Canadian international is showing signs of fatigue after all the minutes he’s racking up, but to his credit, he worked hard to get into dangerous spots. Things just aren’t falling for him and his teammates seem unable to get him the ball, either through poor crossing or expecting the wrong run. Larin failed to register a shot and was dispossessed a game-high seven times, managing only 31 touches. He had the ball taken off his foot by Matarrita on a clear breakaway in the 86th minute. His passing accuracy was just 64.3%. Defensively, he chipped in two clearances and an interception.
D, Kevin Alston (56’), 6.5 – Kevin got a rest tonight and man did he look fresh in the second half . He earned his team a corner in the 60th minute with a hustle play on a nice forward run. His passing accuracy (60%) looks ba until you consider he only had five attempts. Finished with two tackles and blocked a Jack Harrison cross in the 92nd minute.
MF, Tony Rocha (68’), 5.5 – Tony came on to provide more defensive help for the final 22 minutes and didn’t get too much accomplished. He had one interception and completed four of his five passes with 11 total touches. It may have been confusing to come on for an offensive player, entering the game for Matias Perez Garcia.
MF, Brek Shea (74’), 3.5 – It’s very difficult to grade Brek for this game. He came on early enough that I can’t give him an N/A score, yet he managed only two touches of the ball in his 16 minutes. He completed both of his passes, which is good, I guess. But he registered zero stats of any kind, aside from one foul committed. He came on for Kaká, which may be one of the more bizarre substitutions we’ve seen in the team’s first two years, but Orlando City held on, so I guess you’d say it was more successful than not. Still, two touches in 16 minutes? Woof.
That’s how I saw tonight’s performances. Let us know what you thought below and be sure to vote for your Orlando City Man of the Match.
|Matias Perez Garcia||91|
2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Junior Urso
The Bear returned unexpectedly in the middle of the season to bolster the Orlando midfield.
Midfielder Junior Urso joined Orlando City on Jan. 13, 2020 from Brazilian giants Corinthians on a multi-year deal. The Bear spent three years in purple before he and the club mutually agreed to part ways, terminating his contract for personal reasons on Nov. 10, 2022. Upon his return to Brazil, Urso joined Coritiba, but injuries limited him to just seven appearances. In a surprise move, Urso rejoined Orlando City on July 19, returning to the City Beautiful and accepting a backup role behind the Lions’ double pivot of Wilder Cartagena and Cesar Araujo.
Let’s take a look back at Urso’s 2023 campaign.
Urso made his return to the pitch for Orlando City on Aug. 20, following the club’s run in Leagues Cup. In the MLS regular season, Urso made nine appearances (two starts), logging 250 minutes. Urso did not score a goal or assist on one, attempting just three shots, none of which found the target. The Bear completed 78.3% of his 115 total pass attempts but did not record a key pass or a successful cross. Defensively, Urso tallied two interceptions, five tackles, and five clearances. He committed two fouls, drew two on the opposition, and was booked just once.
The Brazilian also appeared in all three of Orlando City’s playoff matches, all off the bench, totaling 98 minutes. He did not score a goal or assist on one, attempting three shots, one of which was on target. He completed 86.4% of his passes, including three key passes, but did not connect on a cross. Urso chipped in one tackle defensively, committed two fouls, suffered three, and was not booked in the postseason.
With a little less than a third of a season in purple and gold and serving primarily as a reserve player, Urso’s best match was his regular-season appearance on the road against Nashville SC on Oct. 4. The Bear came on for Facundo Torres in the 72nd minute and did what fans have always expected of him, which is to frustrate the living hell out of the opponent. Urso made sure that Nashville knew that he had entered the game, winning countless throw-ins, allowing Orlando to walk away with its first road victory at Nashville. Urso also recorded a shot in the match, which was the Lions’ only attempt other than Duncan McGuire’s goal, although it was perhaps a bit generous to call it a shot attempt. He passed at a 72.2% rate and recorded a tackle and a clearance and did his job helping the Lions see out a tight victory.
2023 Final Grade
As Urso came up short of the minimum total of 450 minutes played to receive a rating on our 1-10 scale, The Mane Land has no choice but to mark his grade as incomplete for the 2023 season. While it was a surreal experience just to see the Bear back on the pitch for Orlando City after his sudden departure, a delayed return to the pitch due to a lingering knock and the play of the midfielders in front of him on the depth chart limited his ability to leave his mark on the season. However, it’s difficult to put a grade on the experience he brought to the squad.
Orlando City has yet to announce its end-of-season roster decisions as of this writing, but with Wilder Cartagena’s loan spell expired, the Lions would be wise to pick up Urso’s contract option for the 2024 season. If that happens, he would likely take up the No. 8 role with Araujo playing the No. 6 in Orlando’s double pivot (assuming Oscar Pareja also returns). Urso could split time at the No. 8 if Orlando adds a new starting No. 10, because in that case, Mauricio Pereyra might see some time in that spot. If a permanent transfer or loan extension for Cartagena is secured, Urso provides value off the bench, although he’s a bit pricey for a backup at $360,000.
Previous Season in Review Articles (Date Posted)
Lion Links: 12/5/23
Exploria Stadium will host Copa America games, Pride reportedly make offer for Crystal Dunn, Americans in midweek action, and more.
Good morning, everyone. I’m still dragging a little bit after having a shortened weekend due to work, but I hope all of you were able to hit the ground running yesterday and started your weeks off on the right note. As usual, there’s a lot of interesting things to discuss today, so let’s get after it.
Exploria Stadium Picked as Copa America Venue
The host cities and venues for next summer’s Copa America tournament were revealed and Orlando City’s Exploria Stadium has been chosen. The Lions’ home will have games on June 29 and July 1, and both games could be very important ones as they will take place during the final day of play for Groups A and C. We also know that the USMNT will play its group stage games in Atlanta, Dallas, and Kansas City. The semifinal matches will be held at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey and at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, with Charlotte also hosting the third-place game. We’ll know very soon which teams will be playing in Orlando, as the draw will take place on Thursday.
Orlando Pride Reportedly Make an Offer for Crystal Dunn
The Orlando Pride have reportedly made a large offer to bring Crystal Dunn to Orlando, with CBS Sports reporting the amount prepared by the Pride to be more than $400,000. However, negotiations between the Pride and Dunn are reportedly no longer ongoing.
The 31-year-old is a free agent after announcing that she was not returning to the Portland Thorns after three seasons there. She is one of the more notable free agents this off-season and the Washington Spirit and NJ/NY Gotham FC are also interested in signing her ahead of the 2024 season.
Americans in Midweek Action
There are a number of American players who will be playing games this week, so make sure you have some of these marked down on your calendar. First up is a match that could feature up to three players currently in the USMNT pool, as Jordan Pefok, Joe Scally, and Borussia Monchengladbach will face Kevin Paredes and Wolfsburg in the DFB Pokal. Tomorrow sees Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson, and Fulham playing Matt Turner’s Nottingham Forest, although the USMNT’s starting goalkeeper is not likely to play. The week finishes with Juventus and Weston McKennie facing Napoli in league play, although Tim Weah is still an injury doubt.
USWNT Aims for Change in Mentality
The 2024 calendar year is going to be an important one for the United States Women’s National Team, and the team wants to start it off on the right foot. Interim head coach Twila Kilgore is viewing today’s match against China as a chance for the team to continue building a new identity and to keep developing tactically after a disappointing early exit from this summer’s World Cup. While Emma Hayes has been named the team’s new head coach, she won’t officially join up until Chelsea’s club season ends in May. Until that happens, there’s plenty of work to be done with the Gold Cup just around the corner in March, followed by the Olympics in Paris in July.
The Soccer Tournament Adds Women’s Competition
Following the success of last year’s first edition of The Soccer Tournament, the organizers have added a women’s competition for next summer’s event. The seven-a-side tournament will now also feature an eight-team women’s bracket which will also have a $1 million prize up for grabs. The decision was made after an all-women’s team led by Heather O’Reilly drew significant support when it competed last year, despite not picking up a win. The men’s tournament will also be expanding to 48 teams for this year’s competition, after featuring 32 participants during the summer.
- Ramiro Enrique has been called up to Argentina’s training camp for its 2024 Olympic team.
- Orlando City’s documentary about the 2022 U.S. Open Cup victory has won a Suncoast Emmy.
- In the 2023 Women’s College Cup final, Florida State beat Stanford 5-1 to win its fourth national championship.
- David de Gea is reportedly open to signing for Newcastle United following Nick Pope’s shoulder dislocation.
- The English FA has charged Manchester City with failing to control its players, following Erling Haaland’s reaction on social media to a decision made by referee Simon Hooper.
That’s all that I have for today. Y’all stay safe out there.
Lion Links: 12/4/23
Crew to host MLS Cup final, LAFC returns to MLS Cup, Tim Howard to be inducted into National Soccer Hall of Fame, and more.
Good Monday morning, Mane Landers. The weekend brought us some drama-filled conference final action, and we now know who will play for the MLS Cup. But before I dive into that, I just want to take a quick minute to say with mixed emotions that this will be my final Lion Links here, but don’t be sad, because the rest of the boys will still be bringing your daily content needs and coverage. I’ll be stepping away as my wife and I are soon to be first-time parents, and I’m looking forward to all that entails. I appreciate each and every one of you readers for taking the time to scroll through my articles each week. If you’re interested in writing for TML, we could definitely use the help so please reach out. Now, let’s get into the links!
Columbus Crew Claim Hell Is Real Comeback
After a rocky start, the Columbus Crew became the first team to overcome a two-goal deficit on the road and advance in a single-leg round in the history of the MLS Cup playoffs. FC Cincinnati got off to a great start behind USMNT striker Brandon Vasquez, who opened the scoring, but it was captain Luciano Acosta’s sublime free kick finish that stole the show in the first half.
It took trusting the process and the tactics of their first-year manager Wilfried Nancy, but the Columbus Crew fought back with late match heroics to seal the victory. Forward Christian Ramirez bagged the game-winning goal in extra time in the 115th minute.
“You can only fight for someone like that,” said Ramirez. “So many times you can feel that you’re getting the bad end of the stick at certain moments, but I haven’t felt that. I think numerous guys understand how he sees the game now, and we respect that. We talk about writing our story in the Columbus Crew history; this chapter wasn’t done. We got one more week, one more game.”
LAFC Returns to MLS Cup
The league’s defending champion, LAFC, will once again be playing in the final match of the postseason. After frustrating the Houston Dynamo throughout the Western Conference final, LAFC won 2-0. Houston might have dominated the stat sheet in possession, passes, and passing accuracy, but really it was just playing into the gameplan of LAFC.
“We knew that’s what they wanted. They wanted the ball,” said LAFC right back Ryan Hollingshead. “They like to play this little tiki-taka in the middle of the field, these little movements, little one-twos, three of their guys just kind of pass the ball, but they’re going nowhere. And so we just said, do whatever you got, have the ball as long as you want. They created zero dangerous chances. They had a half-chance in the first half on a cross to Baird and that was it. And so a lot of these teams, it’s like, yeah, they’ve got possession, they may be moving the ball. But if they’re not creating dangerous chances, who cares?”
MLS Cup Final Preview
The Eastern Conference champion Columbus Crew will host Western Conference champion LAFC at Lower.com Field on Dec. 9 at 4 p.m for the MLS Cup. The match will be No. 53 across all competitions this campaign for LAFC, and a victory would make the club the first repeat winners since the 2011-2012 LA Galaxy. The storylines leading to the match will likely center around the possibility of it being Carlos Vela’s final game for LAFC, but for the Crew, the bench players will be the ones to watch. In the 65th minute of the Eastern Conference final, Head Coach Wilfried Nancy brought in Julian Gressel and Christian Ramirez, who both played a pivotal role in two of the three Columbus goals in the comeback victory. The Crew last lifted the MLS Cup in 2020, defeating Seattle Sounders 3-0 at Historic Crew Stadium.
2024 National Soccer Hall of Fame
On May 4, the National Soccer Hall of Fame will induct its 2024 class. Most notable will be long-time USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard, who played 121 matches for the United States and had a successful career in the English Premier League. Other inductees will be USWNT World Cup winner Tisha Venturini-Hoch, 1996 Paralympic captain Josh McKinney, and USL founder Francisco Marcos.
Orlando Reportedly Set to Host USMNT-Brazil Friendly
The United States Men’s National Team is reportedly far along in negotiations to face Brazil in Orlando for a friendly leading to next year’s Copa America. The Yanks and Brazil last met in September 2018 in a friendly match in East Rutherford, NJ. The United States will host the Copa America from June 19 to July 14 as one of six invited teams to the South American competition. Brazil enter as the defending champion and should prove a worthy test for the Stars & Stripes to tune up for the Southern American title.
- Check your pockets and secure your valuables when USMNT left back Antonee Robinson is on the field.
- Liverpool scored in the 87th and 88th minutes to win 4-3 and climb to second in the EPL standings on 31 points.
- Manchester City and Tottenham played to a thrilling 3-3 draw that might find Erling Haaland charged by the English Football Association for criticizing the performance of the referees.
- Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen saw an eight-game winning run in the league come to an end with a 1-1 draw.
- Inter Milan secured a 3-0 victory at Napoli to reach the top of the Serie A table.
- Arsenal will face Liverpool in a massive FA Cup third-round clash in January.
- Wrexham reached the third round of FA Cup after defeating Yeovil Town 3-0.
That’s a wrap for my personal writing here for a while. It has been a pleasure to bring some coverage to you all for the past couple seasons. It’s not goodbye. It’s see you later. Vamos Orlando!
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