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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids: Final Score 2-1 as Lions Come Back Again

After falling behind, Cristian Higuita and Yoshimar Yotún bring the Cardiac Cats back with second-half goals.



Carlos Romero, The Mane Land

The large traveling contingent of Orlando City fans were treated to another Cardiac Cats performance with the Lions coming back to win 2-1 over the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The announced crowd of 15,702 saw the Rapids take a first-half lead on Dominique Badji’s goal, but Cristian Higuita’s rocket and Yoshimar Yotún’s penalty-kick goal turned the game around and the Lions held on after some nervy late moments.

Orlando City (5-2-1, 16 points) has won its fifth straight game for just the second time in its MLS existence — the league’s longest such streak this season. The Lions handed Colorado (2-3-2, 8 points) its first home loss and improved to 3-0-1 in the series, while winning consecutive road matches for the first time since September of 2015.

Jason Kreis made only one change from last weekend against San Jose, moving Justin Meram into the starting lineup for Stefano Pinho. On the bench, he swapped out former Rapids midfielder Dillon Powers for Richie Laryea.

The Lions started the match sluggishly, spending the first five minutes in their own end, as Colorado pressed high and Orlando failed to string accurate passes together. The Rapids worked for five corner kicks between the 16th and 25th minutes, and there were some nervy minutes as the Lions tried to clear the ball cleanly, but Colorado was unable to find the net with any of them, although Tommy Smith did head one off the post.

Enzo Martinez blasted one from 30 yards out that forced Joe Bendik to parry over the bar.

But the breakthrough started in Colorado’s own end. Badji made a run off the two center backs and Martinez found him over the top as both Lamine Sané and Amro Tarek raised their hands to appeal for offside. The flag stayed down and Bendik got himself caught in between, as he didn’t have enough time to come out but he tried to anyway. Meanwhile, Sané loafed back expecting the call that never came and Badji slotted the ball into the lower right corner. Badji’s score was the first for the Rapids in four meetings with Orlando City.

Whether the play was offside or not, referee José Carlos Rivero never went over to the monitor to review it.

The goal seemed to wake Orlando up, however. After Sané made a good 1-v-1 stop in his own penalty area on Joe Mason at the 32-minute mark, the Lions started to see more and more of the possession.

Chris Mueller started seeing more of the ball and his run forward in the 35th minute broke down when his give-and-go pass attempt to Dom Dwyer was just a tad off line. Two minutes later, Dwyer had a 2-v-1 but his cross for Justin Meram was blocked and Mueller subsequently won a corner. The Lions took it short and got no scoring chance out of their first set piece opportunity of the game. Sigh. #BanShortCorners

In the 39th minute, Meram took a pass at the top of the box and blasted a shot that Jack Price blocked. Yotún followed with a try from at least 35 yards out, but it was well off target. A minute later, Meram centered the ball for Sacha Kljestan, who missed the Lions’ best chance of the half, smashing the ball straight at goalkeeper Zac MacMath, when either side would have produced an equalizer.

Two minutes after that, Kljestan found Dwyer, but the ball wouldn’t settle for him as he tried to cut inside the defender on to his left foot. The ball deflected to Kljestan while bouncing and he couldn’t keep his half-volley attempt on frame. Orlando’s final opportunity of the half came in the 45th minute, when Mueller made a superb turn and crossed in for Dwyer. The ball cleared MacMath, but Dwyer was undercut by Deklan Wynne and he couldn’t get on top of the cross to head it on frame. No foul was given, but then no foul for handball was given on the other end when the ball inadvertently hit Sané’s hand.

The teams went to the break with Colorado leading. Each team had six shots (4-1 on target for the Rapids), Orlando held 56% possession.

Orlando City was the more aggressive and comfortable side through most of the second half. Will Johnson came forward and blasted a shot on goal four minutes after the restart but MacMath was able to save it off the bounce without spilling it. Two minutes later, Meram destroyed a ball that MacMath fought off the goal post to keep the snakebitten City winger off the score sheet.

But just one minute after that, the Lions equalized. Kljestan intercepted a clearance in space at the top of the area and dished off for Higuita, who blasted one into the upper right corner to knot the game at 1-1 in the 52nd minute. Higuita’s goal was Orlando’s first in Colorado since joining MLS, albeit in only two trips there.

Orlando nearly found a break to take the lead in the 55th minute when Mueller unlocked the defense with a pass for Dwyer, but it had just a bit too much mustard on it and Dom couldn’t run it down. Meram fired over the bar two minutes later, and Mueller’s ball for Dwyer was too high off the ground to be controlled in the 61st minute. By the time Dom settled it, the defense had made a sliding tackle to dispossess him as the striker was winding up for the shot.

From that point on, Colorado made a series of fouls in what had already been a physical game, with several Rapids booked. In the midst of that, Sané nearly gifted the Rapids a goal when he ignored an open Johnson and instead made an awful back pass intended for Bendik that was intercepted by Yannick Boli, forcing Joe to make a point-blank save.

In the 76th minute, it was one foul too many for Colorado as Dillon Serna clipped Yotún as Meram played him in with a back heel pass to set up a possible 2-v-1 with Dwyer. Before Yoshi could reach the ball, Serna clipped his leg and sent him to the turf for a penalty.

Yotún took the spot kick himself and sent MacMath the wrong way, but it’s doubtful the Rapids’ keeper could have stopped it if he guessed correctly, as the Peruvian blasted it confidently into the inside netting just inside the right post. The 77th-minute strike pushed Orlando into the lead for the first time.

Yotún’s goal served as a wake-up for Colorado, as the Rapids started threading in passes, finding heads with crosses, and just generally being extremely dangerous for the remainder of the match. Serna ripped a laser shot wide in the 80th minute and a minute later Bendik had to get off his line quickly to beat Boli to a ball over the top.

Mueller could have put the game out of reach in the 82nd, as Meram slipped him down the right side of the penalty area. The rookie’s first touch took him a bit wider and then he fired wide of the near post on what could have been the insurance marker.

The Rapids got the ball in behind in the 87th minute but it was knocked wide for a goal kick, then Serna sent another rocket over the bar on a Tarek turnover in the 88th. In the 92nd minute, Serna thought he’d tied the game when he slipped through the defense but Mohamed El-Munir came out of nowhere to make a sliding block of the shot with Bendik well beaten.

Two more glancing headers went wide in the 93rd and 96th minutes, and the whistle finally blew on Orlando City’s fifth consecutive victory.

The late flurry allowed the Rapids to out-shoot the Lions, 16-12 (and 6-5 on target). Orlando held 56% of the possession and completed 82% of its passes compared to Colorado’s 79%. The concerning thing would be the 11-1 advantage the Rapids enjoyed on corner kicks.

Still, it’s a road win in a difficult environment, and not a game previous Orlando City teams would have likely won. With tougher opponents on the horizon, any away win is a good one, and Orlando will need to continue to work on dead ball situations and fix a few things the Rapids were able to do before more talented teams start doing those things.

The Lions return to action next Sunday at home against Real Salt Lake at 5 p.m. ET.

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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