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Orlando City

Orlando City at Philadelphia Union: Final Score 2-0 as Dwyer, Mueller Score Again

Joe Bendik has his best game of the year and the Lions have won three straight.



Carlos Romero, The Mane Land

Orlando City did its scoring much earlier this time but got the same result for the third consecutive game. First half goals by Dom Dwyer and Chris Mueller gave the Lions an early lead, and Joe Bendik made those markers stand up with a six-save effort, leading Orlando to a 2-0 win in front of 16,032 at Talen Energy Stadium in Chester, PA.

The Lions (3-2-1, 10 points) improved to 3-3-2 (and 2-3-0 on the road) against the Union (1-2-2, 5 points) and picked up their first clean sheet since a 0-0 draw last September against FC Dallas.

In an interesting twist, Jason Kreis did not start Justin Meram for the first time and also sent Josué Colmán to the bench, opting to use the attacking midfield that finished the win over Portland, with forwards Stefano Pinho and Mueller playing wide on the left and right, respectively. We also got the first appearance in the 18 of Oriol “Uri” Rosell this season. With Scott Sutter (lower body injury) and Jonathan Spector (concussion protocol) day-to-day, RJ Allen started wide right, with Amro Tarek stepping back into the starting lineup next to Lamine Sané.

In the early going, Orlando City had trouble getting a hold of the game. Keegan Rosenberry’s weak long shot was really a shot across the bow, as the Union came out strong, while the Lions struggled to find a friendly face in the penalty area among the Philadelphia defenders.

David Accam’s speed gave Orlando its usual trouble, as he used both pace and strength to get around Allen in the fifth minute but he had no teammates in the area and his cross skipped harmlessly through.

Orlando nearly got the first goal against the run of play in the ninth minute. Off a short corner, a cross from Yoshimar Yotun found Tarek in the area. His shot beat Andre Blake but was blocked off the line by Jack Elliott.

Dwyer started to work the Union’s back line in the 10th minute, getting in behind but the flag was up.

Philadelphia tried a few corner kicks to get on the board, but the Lions did just enough to defend those early set pieces, including a clearance over the goal by Mohamed El-Munir. The Union had a great opportunity off a quick restart and Accam got down the left channel to fire a shot. Bendik went low and made a great reaction save to keep the game scoreless in the 16th.

Already down Sutter and Spector, Allen pulled up lame with an apparent hamstring issue in the 21st minute after making a long overlapping run and firing a cross into the box. Allen got his leg wrapped and tried to have a go but he quickly signaled to the bench for a substitution. Before that happened, the Union got the ball to Accam in behind the gimpy Allen but the speedy attacker’s near-post effort went wide of goal.

The reprieve allowed Kreis to send Cristian Higuita on in the 29th minute to occupy Will Johnson’s spot in the midfield and Johnson moved to right back. The Union kept trying to get in behind, with El-Munir making a great tackle to prevent Fafa Picault from doing so in the 33rd minute.

Dwyer made his patented run in the 39th minute, staying level with Matthew Real and taking a beautiful scoop pass from Kljestan, turning toward goal, and beating Blake with his right foot to make it 1-0. It was Dwyer’s fourth goal in his three games this season.

It was the first time in 2018 that the Lions scored the first goal in a game and the 99th goal of Dwyer’s professional career — including USMNT and Orlando City USL action.

Orlando seemed emboldened by the goal. Kljestan ruined a Philadelphia corner by rising above the scrum to head a Borek Dockal cross away. Moments later, Yotun got down the left and fired in a dangerous cross but it was cut out.

Mueller doubled the lead in the 45th minute, after dribbling into traffic at the top of the box. He lost the ball with a heavy touch, but took it back off the foot of Elliott, got in behind, and slotted into the lower left corner past Blake.

The Lions saw out the four minutes of stoppage time and took a 2-0 lead into the break.

Despite a lot of early Philadelphia possession, the Union held just 50.6% of it in the first half. Philadelphia did out-shoot the Lions, 10-6 (3-3 on target), but Orlando City passed better (81%-79%)

The Union tried to get on the front foot early in the second half and managed to maintain a good chunk of the possession while Orlando City sat back and stayed organized, looking for a way to put the game away on the counter. The Lions looked to spring Dwyer quickly when recovering the ball, but between offside calls and fouls on the Union defense, that didn’t really materialize.

Pinho finally got into a good spot in the 53rd minute, but with the defense closing he tried a pass through traffic rather than attempting to spin and get something on net. Two minutes later, Yotun got caught forward and the Union countered, getting Picault down the right channel, but again Bendik made a big one-handed save.

Dwyer’s one-timer in the 59th was blocked by Auston Trusty, keeping the Union in the game, and Philadelphia kept the pressure on. Alejandro Bedoya blasted a shot on target in the 62nd, but Bendik was there again, having his best night of the young season.

Second-half sub Meram got into the box in the 69th, but just as he wound up to shoot, he had the ball nicked from behind at the last second. Meram again nearly was in behind in the 83rd minute, when a ball over the top was pounced on by Blake, who came way off his line just inches ahead of Meram’s arrival. Then, in the 90th, Meram sent in a perfect cross for Dwyer, but Dom couldn’t keep his shot on target.

A final big save by Bendik in the 94th minute on Dockal’s attempt was the last bit of business on the night as the Lions kept the clean sheet and earned the win.

Philadelphia flipped the final possession number to 55.2% and out-shot the Lions, 20-8 (6-3 on target). Orlando’s passing accuracy slipped to 79% with the number of long ball attempts in the second period, and the Union improved to 80%.

But, in the end, the Union were not sharp in the final third — something we’ve often said about Orlando in the past — despite having Lion killers Accam and C.J. Sapong playing together. When Philadelphia did get shots on frame, Bendik was there.

The Lions return home for their next match, hosting the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday, April 21. Neither team has won in the previous three meetings, with all ending in draws.

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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