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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Montreal Impact: Final Score 3-3 as Lions Salvage Point via Late Equalizer

The Lions left it late on Saturday night against Montreal, but a moment of Jonathan Spector brilliance in stoppage time secured a home point for City.



Nick Leyva, The Mane Land

Saturday night’s contest against the Montreal Impact was an especially important one for Orlando City. The Lions (7-5-4, 25 points) were coming off a listless showing in their mid-week U.S. Open Cup match, and that effort, combined with Cyle Larin’s DUI arrest the morning after, left a cloud hanging over the club for the past several days.

It wasn’t the full three-point outing that the club and its fans were hoping for, but it was entertaining and the Lions showed a lot more what-for — albeit against a ninth-place side — in a dramatic 3-3 draw vs. Montreal Impact (4-4-6, 18 points) capped by a Jonathan Spector goal in second-half stoppage time.

There were legitimate concerns about Orlando’s ability to score without its main man up top (Larin had scored 50% of the club’s goals this season entering the game), but those concerns were at least temporarily eased by a fast offensive start against the Impact.

Despite playing without its leading scorer, Orlando City didn’t waste much time getting things going on the offensive end. Kaká — making his first start since a May 21 calf injury vs. NYCFC — sent in a cross from the left wing that Will Johnson took a stab at with a volley, but the Canadian was unable to keep his effort down enough and sent it sailing over the bar. It didn’t take long for Orlando to open the scoring, however, as five minutes later Kaká managed more impressive work down the left side, getting past Hassoun Camara with ease and pulling back a cross that Matías Pérez García was able to adjust to — he found it about a half-yard behind him as his momentum took him toward goal — and finish left-footed for his first goal in an Orlando City shirt.

While well-worked, the goal was not without a bit of controversy, as the ball was very close to being over the end line when Kaká chased it down and sent it back to MPG. It was tough to tell live and from certain camera angles on replay, but it’s safe to say our Canadian counterparts at Mount Royal Soccer weren’t as pleased with the end result as we were.

Nevertheless, City found itself up a goal just seven minutes in.

Perhaps a bit of karmic retribution was repaid in minute 16 by Jose Aja, who, instead of clearing the danger while being closed down by Ignacio Piatti, decided to dance around and was subsequently stripped by the Argentinian, who took full advantage of the defender’s gaffe and found an open Blerim Dzemaili in the box, who confidently slotted home near-post to knot the game at 1-1.

Continuing the trend of an exciting first half, though, Orlando answered less than 10 minutes later.

Giles Barnes played MPG into the box nicely, and the Argentinian laid it back to Johnson, whose first-time shot was parried back by Evan Bush and into the legs of his own center back Laurent Ciman just off the goal line, but the deflection off the Belgian fell perfectly for Rivas to smash home a go-ahead goal and make it 2-1 in minute 23 for Orlando. While Ciman’s knees kept Johnson from getting credit for the score, the Colombian Rivas left no doubt with his rifle of a finish on the rebound.

All of a sudden, an Orlando team that had averaged fewer than 1.1 goals per match coming in had netted two in the opening 25 minutes, and without Larin.

After another series of chances that included a beautiful one-two combination play from the likes of Rivas and Barnes, as well as a backheel nutmeg of Camara by Kaká, Orlando City finished the first half with a 14-2 shot advantage and 60% of the possession, but the one-goal advantage felt like it could’ve, and perhaps should’ve, been greater.

The failure to capitalize on chances in the first half predictably came back to bite Orlando City, as Montreal’s dynamic midfielder Piatti sprung for two goals in a two-minute span, with Lions center back Spector being bested both times.

Piatti used a clever touch on the first goal to set himself up on his right leg, side-stepping Spector in the process before finishing with a low burner that made it through Joe Bendik’s legs. Piatti struck again almost instantly in minute 59 when he cut to the inside of Spector to the left this time and fired another shot at Bendik. This time the Lions’ keeper was able to make the save, but Piatti was the only man left standing among a pile of three Orlando City players who had gone to ground to try to defend the first shot, and he easily tapped home his eighth goal of the season to put the Impact ahead 3-2, just like that.

The flow of the game had suddenly been flipped, and the energetic attacking we saw from the Lions in the first half was dampened quite a bit. Lacking Larin up top, the Lions didn’t have too many options to go to for an offensive boost off the bench, but the attacking crew of Kaká, Rivas, Barnes, and Pérez García continued to fight to create chances to equalize.

After several more missed opportunities to produce chances — Barnes launched an awkward left-footed shot well wide despite having an open Johnson rushing down the middle, and played a through ball just too far for a charging Kaká minutes later, to name a couple — it seemed like hope was lost for Orlando.

One thing we’ve learned about these Lions, though, is that they’ll continue to fight until the last breath. That held true again, as Spector managed a bit of redemption in the fourth minute of second-half stoppage time, beautifully redirecting a header off an MPG corner across the face of Bush’s goal and into the top left corner to salvage a point and a 3-3 finish. The corner was one in a series that Orlando earned with its all-out siege of Montreal’s 18-yard box in search of an equalizer.

Despite the disappointing sequence where Piatti scored twice in as many minutes — something Orlando City Head Coach Jason Kreis described post-match as his team shooting itself in the foot — the late equalizer represented a silver lining and showed the resilience of this Lions side again.

“For me, a big, big positive was the guys continued to work really hard,” Kreis told the media. “On most nights with most teams, they would’ve packed it in [after two quick goals]. But our guys kept fighting and kept believing, so we get to walk out with at least a point.”

The Lions controlled 58% of the ball on the evening and generated 17 shots, not bad at all for a team that had struggled to score consistently even with Larin in the lineup. The back-to-back Piatti goals took a lot of luster off the final result, but the three goals scored were a big positive for City and the effort and fight until the end was a needed response following Wednesday’s result vs. Miami FC.

Lions fullback Donny Toia, who spent two seasons with Montreal, echoed his coach’s sentiments following the match, acknowledging the excitement of the finish while admitting he and his teammates could’ve sealed it much earlier.

“It’s one point versus zero, so we’re happy with one,” Toia said. “We had opportunities to make it 3-1 and we didn’t put it away and then we gave up those silly goals. So it’s definitely frustrating, but at the same time you’ve got to look at it as a positive because we didn’t lose, we came out with a point.”

The Lions, who remain in fourth place in the Eastern Conference behind New York City FC, are back to it on Wednesday in the Pacific Northwest as they travel for a 10:30 p.m. ET showdown with the Seattle Sounders.

Orlando City

Orlando City Parts Ways with Captain Mauricio Pereyra

Orlando City and club captain Mauricio Pereyra have agreed to terminate his contract.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Orlando City announced this afternoon that the club and captain Mauricio Pereyra have mutually agreed to terminate his contract. The Uruguayan midfielder leaves the club after four and a half years in purple and two seasons as captain.

“Mauricio has embodied Orlando City since the moment he arrived to the club, and we’re very thankful for everything he has given to us, our fans, and the community,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “His contributions and impact to our organization will be felt for years to come, and we wish him and his family the best of luck in this next chapter of their lives.” 

Pereyra originally joined the club on July 30, 2019 after his contract expired with Russian side FC Krasnodar. He made his debut on Aug. 17, 2019 against Minnesota United FC as a Designated Player, coming on at halftime for Robinho. He would go on to make 136 appearances in all competitions (122 starts) and record 10,027 minutes. The midfielder scored seven goals for the Lions and recorded a club record 47 assists.

His 136 appearances are third most in the club’s MLS era, his 121 starts are second, and his 10,027 minutes are third since the club jumped from USL Pro to MLS in 2015.

Following the departure of previous captain Nani after the 2021 MLS season, Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja named Pereyra the club captain. He led his team through an historic cup run in 2022, lifting the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup for the club’s first-ever major trophy. He captained the team again in 2023, leading the Lions to the MLS Cup playoffs for the fourth straight year and the Eastern Conference semifinals for the second time in that period.

The midfielder signed a new two-year contract on Nov. 23, 2022 that was supposed to keep him in Orlando through the 2024 MLS season. Muzzi used Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) to buy down his contract, opening a Designated Player spot for the 2023 season. However, this decision ends his contract a year before its expiration.

“Thank you to everyone for these four years together. It was a pleasure to belong to this family and I am so thankful to every person that works for this club and that has helped this team grow and win titles from their place,” Pereyra said in a club press release. “I was honored and proud to be given the captain’s armband and, of course, thanks to the technical staff and my teammates who helped me to become better as a player. But more so made me feel loved and made me a better person. I’ll miss you, but from this next season and beyond you’ll have one more fan that will wish nothing but the best for you. I love you and thank you.” 

The 33-year-old Uruguayan made 38 appearances in his final season for Orlando City, with 34 starts and 2,637 minutes across all competitions. He scored one goal and added 12 assists.

What It Means for Orlando

Pereyra is a significant player in Orlando City history. He was one of the first players signed by Muzzi after the GM’s arrival from FC Dallas and was a key part of the club’s turnaround from doormat to contender. The importance of his place in the team was shown when Pareja named him captain following the 2021 MLS season.

However, the 33-year-old has lost a step since arriving. It was visible as the past two seasons progressed and raised questions as to whether he was the right option in the starting lineup moving forward. The club’s sale of striker Ercan Kara to Turkish side Samsunspor opened up a Designated Player spot that could be used on that position if the club wishes.

While Pereyra was an essential part of the team during his time in Orlando, it seems impossible for him to stay without being in the starting lineup. As captain, he was never going to come off the bench, so leaving the lineup would inevitably mean his departure from the club.

Additionally, Pereyra moved forward this past season into a more unfamiliar role. He started as an eight when he arrived, but was forced into the attacking midfield when Junior Urso left. The club now has the option of moving Urso or Designated Player Martin Ojeda into the starting lineup, or using their now open DP spot on that position.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 12/6/23

Antonio Carlos linked with move to Fluminense, Emily Madril agrees to new contract with the Pride, USWNT beats China, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you down in Florida. There is not much new with me, I’ve just been staying busy working at Under Armour and covering high school basketball and wrestling lately. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Antonio Carlos Linked with Fluminense

Orlando City center back Antonio Carlos was linked with a move back to Brazil, with Fluminense reportedly close to finalizing a deal to sign him.

Carlos initially joined Orlando on loan from Palmeiras before the 2020 season. Following that season, the club signed him to a three-year contract with an option for an additional year. The 30-year-old has been a key part of Orlando’s defense under Head Coach Oscar Pareja, although Carlos missed some time this past season due to injury.

Emily Madril Agrees to New Contract With the Pride

The Orlando Pride announced that defender Emily Madril has reached an agreement with the club on a new three-year contract through the 2026 NWSL season. Madril just finished her first season with the Pride, making 27 appearances for the club across all competitions and leading all rookies with 1,977 minutes played in the NWSL regular season. She was already signed to a three-year deal through 2025, but the Pride were able to find a way to keep her with the club for another year. Now the club can work on retooling its roster with a back line anchored by Madril and Rafaelle.

MLS 2023 College Showcase Begins Today

Major League Soccer announced the 44 invitees for the 2023 MLS College Showcase. The event will kick off today through Dec. 9 in Phoenix. One local player to keep an eye on is defender Jahlane Forbes out of Wake Forest. Forbes is from Clermont, FL and joined Orlando City’s academy in 2016. He has also played for Orlando City B, making three appearances. Forbes made 19 appearances for Wake Forest in the 2023 season, recording five goals and seven assists. Other top prospects to watch include Louisville defender Josh Jones, High Point’s Jefferson Amaya, and Marshall forward Matthew Bell.

USWNT Beats China in Final Friendly of 2023

The U.S. Women’s National team defeated China 2-1 at Toyota Stadium in its final match of 2023. The USWNT trailed 1-0 at halftime, but bounced back in the second half thanks to a pair of goals and a solid defensive effort. Jaedyn Shaw gave the USWNT its winner in the 79th minute, scoring in her hometown in a memorable moment for the 19-year-old. It was the USWNT’s second win over China this month after winning the first match 3-0 this past Saturday in Fort Lauderdale.

Former Lion Daryl Dike Nears Return with West Brom

After being sidelined with an Achilles injury since March, former Lion Daryl Dike could make his return to West Brom this month. Dike has been back at training with the club since last month to work his way back to fitness, and West Brom’s manager, Carlos Corberan, stated that that he would be an option in the squad by the end of the December if he keeps progressing well. The 23-year-old joined West Brom in December of 2021, but injuries have limited his playing time while in England.

Free Kicks

  • The Orlando Pride had a message for former Pride goalkeeper Erin McLeod after her farewell ceremony with the Canadian Women’s National Team during its friendly against Australia on Tuesday.
  • The Chicago Fire have announced that Frank Klopas will return to the club to serve as head coach for the second time. Klopas was the head coach for the Fire from 2011 to 2013 and was the interim coach this past season after Ezra Hendrickson’s departure in May.
  • Minnesota United announced that Sean McAuley will remain with the club as its interim head coach going into the 2024 season.
  • Former Portland Timbers Head Coach Gio Savarese is reportedly in consideration for the open head coach position with the New England Revolution.
  • The Seattle Sounders have reached an agreement with goalkeeper Stefan Frei on a new two-year contract that will keep him at the club through the 2025 season.

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Wednesday and I’ll see you next time.

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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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