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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Toronto FC: Final Score 2-1 as Giovinco Brace Sinks Lions on the Road

The Lions actually played better than the hosts for the most part, but could not cash in on their scoring chances.



Carlos Romero, The Mane Land

Orlando City may have been the better side but the Lions failed to take advantage of their chances and, as a result, suffered their second loss of the season. Toronto FC got a pair of goals from Sebastian Giovinco on what were pretty much the only two chances the Reds got in the first half to win 2-1 at BMO Field.

The Lions (6-2-0, 18 points) held 56.9% of the possession, out-passed the hosts, and out-shot Toronto, 9-6 (3-3 on target), but could not finish a couple of golden chances in the second half. Toronto (4-1-4, 16 points) is now 5-1-1 in the all-time series against Orlando, including a 3-0-1 mark at BMO Field.

Jason Kreis reinserted Kaká into the starting lineup at the top of the diamond after his 30-minute return on Saturday off the bench. Carlos Rivas returned to the starting lineup up top next to Cyle Larin. Luis Gil started for an ill Will Johnson, and a decision to rest Antonio Nocerino’s sore calf saw Servando Carrasco man the bottom of the diamond.

Giovinco scored a pair of first-half goals to put the hosts well on top, 2-0, getting the first just nine minutes into the match. Raheem Edwards made a nice move to work inside of Scott Sutter on the flank and centered for Jozy Altidore. Carrasco came in to sweep the ball away but just as he arrived Altidore touched it back to Giovinco. The Italian faked to send Gil one way and then cut inside to shoot with his right, beating Joe Bendik to the near post.

Jozy nearly doubled the lead in the 24th minute, after Rivas was run over from behind but no foul was called. The result was a near breakaway for Altidore but Bendik came off his line to challenge the U.S. international and defuse the situation.

After a lot of possession but not much menace by Orlando City, the Reds did double the lead. It was Giovinco again. After Steven Beitashour found room down the right flank, he sent a ball across the top of the six that Bendik went down to parry away. The ball didn’t go far, but no Lion could get onto it before Victor Vazquez. The Spaniard quickly tapped a slick ball to Giovinco, who swept it home to make it 2-0.

Kaká pulled Orlando City back into the match in first-half stoppage time. Donny Toia worked his way up the left and earned a corner kick. Kaká took the set piece short to Gil, who sent the ball out top to Rivas, who curled in a back-post cross to Larin. The Canadian was well covered and nodded it back across the six-yard box, where the captain swooped in and pounced, roofing the ball into the top of the net to make it 2-1 at the break.

City owned 53.3% of the first-half possession but took only two shots — Kaká’s goal and a Rivas shot from outside the box that was over the bar. The Lions not only attempted more passes in the first half (284-251) but also were more accurate (85%-82%). Toronto took only three shots in the opening period but made two of them count.

After the intermission, the Lions came out hungry and controlled play, looking dangerous. Just five minutes in, Rivas released a forward ball down the left for Larin. The Canadian beat his defender then touched the ball past goalkeeper Alex Bono, who ignored the ball and knocked Larin down, resulting in a free kick. Carrasco took the set piece and whipped a low cross in that Kaká flicked just wide of the net.

Two minutes later, a long throw-in from Scott Sutter fell perfectly for Larin, but he lost the ball trying to turn. It was that kind of night for Cyle, and it only got worse.

In the 59th minute, Rivas curved in a dangerous cross for Larin who got a touch on it but it bounced up and hit Bono’s hand. The ball continued to skid toward the gaping goal mouth and Larin appeared content to shepherd it in but Bono made a diving swipe to clear it off the line at the last second.

Despite Orlando having a ton of possession to start the half, Toronto nearly got a third through Altidore on a counter. Giovinco gave Jozy a backheel pass and Gil came back to do just enough to throw off Altidore’s timing and his shot whistled just wide of the far post.

In the 65th minute, Toronto Head Coach Greg Vanney withdrew Vazquez, replacing him with Jonathan Osorio, at the same time that Kreis sacrificed Kaká for Matias Perez Garcia. Those two moves combined to settle the game down for the hosts, who stayed organized and defended in numbers as if they were the road team.

But before the game settled down, Larin again failed to finish a ball that Rivas put right on his foot just a few feet in front of goal. His touch let him down and the hometown boy’s second golden chance of the night went wanting again. He has yet to score in Toronto, near his hometown of Brampton, but he might not get two better opportunities than he had on this night.

That was the last good chance for Orlando City and the Reds were able to see out the game and stay undefeated at home in 2017.

It will be no consolation to Kreis or the players, but it’s noteworthy that, in such a tough environment, the Lions acquitted themselves well, actually outplaying their hosts for much of the contest.

The Lions have a quick turnaround, heading to Houston on Thursday ahead of Saturday night’s match against the Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium. That match takes place at 8:30 p.m. ET.

Orlando City

2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Junior Urso

The Bear returned unexpectedly in the middle of the season to bolster the Orlando midfield.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

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.

Statistical Breakdown

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.

Best Game

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.

2024 Outlook

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)

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Lion Links

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.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

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.

Free Kicks

  • 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.

That’s all that I have for today. Y’all stay safe out there.

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Lion Links

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.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

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 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.

Free Kicks

  • Check your pockets and secure your valuables when USMNT left back Antonee Robinson is on the field.

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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