Orlando City became the first team in MLS history to open up a stadium 4-0-0 with a dramatic 2-1 victory, thanks to goals from Will Johnson in the first half and a stunning, 91st-minute winner from Cyle Larin off Johnson’s corner cross.
The LA Galaxy (2-4-0, 6 points) struggled through the first half with Orlando’s (4-1-0, 12 points) defense holding strong. The second half saw a much more open game between the two teams, but Orlando was able to pull away at the very end to salvage three points at home.
“It’s a lot of the same stuff,” Head Coach Jason Kreis said after the match. “Really really good, lot of positive things. Then some negative stuff that we have to improve on. I think we’re still a team that’s not quite figuring out how to manage a match and we need to do better with that. For me, a lot of that just comes with time together, a collective understanding, a little bit more communication, a little more urgency when we’re starting to give away chances, to recognize we’re in a bad moment and we need to do something to fix it.”
Orlando City once again came out in a 4-4-2 diamond after switching up the formation last match against New York. Antonio Nocerino was back from injury after straining a calf in the last match, while Giles Barnes came in for the suspended Matias Perez Garcia up top, beneath strikers Larin and Carlos Rivas.
The formation looked a bit more fluid in the early parts of the match, resulting in multiple chances for Orlando.
It began in the seventh minute, when Larin won a free kick from about 28 yards, Carlos Rivas whipped a ball into the box, taking a bounce and hitting the left post, then the right. The ball then leaked out to Giles Barnes in the box, but his shot was deflected away by the LA defense and out for a corner.
Just seconds later, off the ensuing cleared corner, Scott Sutter punted the ball back into the area while everyone was tracking back — all except Johnson. The captain worked hard to get back onside, managed to control Sutter’s long ball in the box off his chest and volleyed it into the back post corner of the net, for a beauty of a goal.
“When you take the set piece and the ball gets knocked out, a lot of time the guy who takes the set pieces isn’t accounted for,” Johnson said about his goal, “I just tried to time my run, stay onside and once it sat up on me from my first touch, I knew I could try to get it over him on the back post.”
Another good chance for Orlando to extend the lead came in the 14th minute, when Donny Toia played a ball down the line for Rivas, who crossed in a low ball for Larin in the box. Unfortunately, LA defender Jelle Van Damme was equal to it and managed to touch it out of play, almost putting it into his own net.
In the 18th minute, Rivas — celebrating his 23rd birthday — had the ball on the right wing. Cutting inside and on his preferred left foot, he curled a shot towards goal. LA keeper Clement Diop managed to get a fingertip to it and push it onto the post, where it pinged back out and away from goal.
The Galaxy had their best chance on goal in the first half in the 38th minute, when Ashley Cole served a ball into the box and met the head of Romain Alessandrini, but the ball sailed over Joe Bendik and out of play.
LA battled hard to get back into it, but always seemed just out of reach from equalizing. A lot of that comes due to Orlando’s defensive shape, shutting down passing lanes that the Galaxy like to utilize.
At the half, Orlando held 52% possession to LA’s 48%. The Galaxy had eight shots in the first half to the Lions’ three, but out of those eight, only two were on target. Orlando also managed two shots on target, with one obviously going in.
The game opened up to start the second half, with both teams getting some chances in the early part of the second period. Within two minutes of the restart, Rivas ran down a ball that looked to be going out of play, and crossed the ball in to a waiting Barnes, but the ensuing cross he put in was knocked out of play by the Galaxy defense.
One minute later, Rivas sent another cross into the box, but it was knocked out for a corner, which eventually was cleared away by Diop. Just a minute after that chance, Rivas was played in on goal by Nocerino and had a shot on target, but the shot was low and Diop was equal to it.
The game then calmed down a bit until the 52nd minute. Larin was sent by Sutter down the right wing and Van Damme came in with a challenge from behind, earning the Galaxy defender a yellow card.
In the 58th minute, an excellent individual effort from Rivas found him shrugging off four different defenders en route to a cross into the box, which was just out of reach for Larin to get a foot on.
Just two minutes later, LA had a chance of its own, with Alessandrini getting a deflection on his shot from just outside the box, which Bendik had to adjust to but was still able to get down to the ground and save it. On the ensuing attack on the other end, Rivas once again got into space and caused problems, meandering his way into the box and crossing a low ball in to Larin, which LA defender Daniel Steres was able to intercept and knock away.
Chance after chance came for Orlando but the Lions’ best opportunity of the half came in the 67th minute, when Rivas out-muscled Van Damme and broke with Barnes in front. A perfectly weighted through ball to Barnes found him one-on-one with Diop, who came up big with a save and also came away injured, staying down for a few minutes.
Subs then began to come into the game as Cristian Higuita made way for Luis Gil in the 72nd minute. Three minutes later, Rivas was subbed out after a fantastic outing, making way for Servando Carrasco and a more defensive mentality to close out the game.
After that, over the next six minutes, LA came knocking on the door a few times. In the 77th minute, LA earned a free kick as Toia stepped on Alessandrini’s foot. Gio Dos Santos took the free kick, trying to score it on the near post. The shot was palmed away for a moment by Bendik, then cleared off the line and out for a corner kick by Spector, after a secondary effort from Steres.
After coming so close, LA began to smell the equalizer. First, Alessandrini found himself free on the back post and 1-v-1 with Bendik, but he skied his effort over the bar. Bradford Jamieson tried a volley off a cross shortly thereafter, but his effort was just wide.
Then, in the 83rd minute, the dam finally broke. A through ball from Jermaine Jones to Alessandrini found him in the middle of the pitch, just at the top of the 18-yard box. He faked a shot, sending Spector past him, and drilled a goal with his right foot, barely beating Bendik and glancing it off the near post and in for the equalizer.
Orlando then tried to fight back into the lead. Off a throw-in with three minutes left, the ball got loose in the box and found Johnson’s foot, but his shot was weak and easily saved by Diop.
In the 89th minute, Barnes was subbed out for Hadji Barry to try to push for the winner.
As they pushed and pushed, the Lions finally found their winning goal in dramatic fashion. Off a corner in the 90th minute, Johnson served a ball into the box and Larin, who had struggled a lot of the game to make an impact, out-muscled Jones in the box and volleyed the ball into the top of the net to give Orlando the lead.
“I’ve been working the whole game and I was just waiting for my chance, for the ball to come to me, and I had a tough game,” Larin said. “Van Damme played very well against me and he’s a great defender and he was cutting a lot of passes and Carlos was trying to get me the ball. I was just happy. Happy I scored.”
With the goal, Larin has now become the all-time leading scorer in MLS history for a player under the age of 22, with his 35th goal in his career. His 22nd birthday is Monday.
Over the last few minutes of the game, LA pushed numbers forward to try for a last-gasp equalizer and, despite Orlando giving away some silly balls in the midfield, the Lions managed to hold on defensively for their fourth win at home.
“I think, for me, there are moments, tactical moments and things that you want to have happen to your team as you go through a season,” Kreis said, “One of them is to allow a goal late and see what the reaction is like. So, I’m really, really pleased, because if you went back and looked at it, immediately after they scored, we had a goal chance against them. So, that shows to me a really positive reaction and a belief within the team.”
LA finished with 50.9% possession and more shots (18-12), although Orlando had more shots on target (8-7). The Galaxy attempted 361 total passes to Orlando’s 345.
The Lions are back in action for their second away game on Sunday, April 23, in the Bronx against New York City FC at 1:30 p.m.
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!
Orlando Pride Sign Defender Emily Madril to New Contract
2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Junior Urso
Lion Links: 12/5/23
Lion Links: 12/1/23
Orlando Pride Sign Finnish Goalkeeper Sofia Manner
2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Abdi Salim
Orlando City1 week ago
Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Five Takeaways
Orlando City1 week ago
Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Final Score 2-0 as 10-Man Lions Fall at Home in Extra Time
Orlando City1 week ago
Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More
Orlando City2 weeks ago
Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew
Orlando City1 week ago
Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Player Grades and Man of the Match
Lion Links6 days ago
Lion Links: 11/29/23
Lion Links2 weeks ago
Lion Links: 11/22/23
Lion Links1 week ago
Lion Links: 11/25/23