Connect with us

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire: Final Score 2-1 as Alan Gordon’s Strike Sinks Lions

The Lions may have been the better side for most of the game but wasted opportunities cost Orlando again.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City dominated the play but was beaten on the scoreboard, losing 2-1 to the Chicago Fire on a rainy night in front of 25,288 at Orlando City Stadium. Alan Gordon’s blast from distance in the 82nd minute gave Joe Bendik no chance to stop it and the Fire will leave Florida after a smash-and-grab job to keep all the points.

Cristian Higuita scored for the second consecutive game — this time pulling the Lions level after an early free kick goal by Aleksander Katai. Orlando City (6-5-1, 19 points) is now just 0-1-3 at home against the Fire (4-6-2, 14 points).

“I think the players know in their hearts that we were by far the better team,” said Orlando Head Coach Jason Kreis after the match. “And you won’t hear me say that very often but tonight I will tell you there was only one team that was pushing things and the other one was just trying to pick up the draw or catch something on the break.”

“At the end of the day, we left them hanging around and we got punished for it,” RJ Allen said. “We definitely need to learn from it and move forward.”

Due to players already missing with injuries or off on international duty, coupled with the unexpected absences of center back Lamine Sané (leg injury) and midfielder/right back Will Johnson (illness), Kreis was forced into a makeshift lineup. He started Allen at right back and slotted Tony Rocha next to Chris Schuler in central defense. Josué Colmán started up top in place of the injured Dom Dwyer, with Stefano Pinho returning to the bench. The squad was so thin that both backup goalkeepers made the 18.

Orlando City started the game more or less holding possession but taking shots from outside the penalty area. Unfortunately, the Lions couldn’t get any of them on target, shooting way wide or over the bar. That inability to threaten goalkeeper Patrick McLain allowed the Fire to get on the board first.

Chicago struck in the 13th minute off a set piece. Mohamed El-Munir was booked after contact with Diego Campos above the penalty area, setting the Fire up with a free kick in a dangerous spot. Katai stepped into the set piece and beat Bendik with a shot into the upper 90 on the left side. Bendik appeared to be caught mid-hop as he prepared, possibly thinking Bastian Schweinsteiger would take the kick after a Katai dummy. Bendik was so off-balance on the save attempt that he reached across his body with his trailing hand to try to stop the shot.

“Very disappointing. The first decision that awards them the free kick they score off of was ludicrous. Absolutely ludicrous. Never a foul,” Kreis said. “And so we shouldn’t be behind in that game.”

Orlando City responded well to the Fire’s early goal.

The Lions’ first good opportunity came in the 18th minute on the counterattack after a Fire free kick. The Lions broke and Chris Mueller ended up with the ball but he was forced onto his weaker left foot by the defense and he fired over the bar. Two minutes later, Colmán fired over the bar from the left side.

Orlando continued to push forward. Sacha Kljestan’s header went over the bar in the 25th minute off a great back-post ball by Allen. A minute later, Justin Meram was nearly sent in but McLain came off his line to smother the shot right off his foot.

But the Lions scored soon after that. Mueller took a pass from Colmán and sent Higuita in on the right side. The Colombian fired his third goal of the season into the net to tie things up at 1-1.

“For me it’s been important to score the goals [the last two games] but I would have liked a lot better to have scored and to win,” a dejected Higuita said through a translator after the match. “For me, I prefer the group objectives instead of my personal objectives.”

The rest of the first half was a probing affair, with both teams playing a bit more cautiously as the rain increased. The Fire nearly regained the lead on another dangerous set piece opportunity, but this time Schweinsteiger did take the kick after a Katai dummy run, and his low drive was just wide of the left post.

As time wound down in the first half, Colmán earned a free kick just wide of the penalty area. The delivery from Kljestan found Uri Rosell, who nodded it on frame, but McLain made a big reaction save to keep the game level.

Orlando City held 59% of the possession in the first period, out-shooting the Fire, 10-5, but the teams were even at 2-2 getting them on frame. The Lions passed at a 90% rate in the opening 45 minutes, compared to Chicago’s 84%.

Somewhere along the way, Schuler broke his arm in the first half. However, he came out of the locker room with a sleeve on and played through it.

The Lions looked better after the break, playing much of the second period in the attacking half. The hosts produced many scoring opportunities but couldn’t seem to break through and penalty shouts from both Higuita and Mueller going down in the box went unheeded by referee Nima Saghafi, although the latter went to video review.

Orlando forced two outstanding saves from McLain in the early minutes of the second half. El-Munir cut in on his right foot and smashed one that forced a diving save in the 49th minute.

Two minutes later, Meram curled one that was headed just inside the far post but McLain got over just in time to keep it out.

In the 55th, a terrific give-and-go play between Kljestan and Colmán sent Sacha in on McLain, but he tried to chip the keeper on the half volley and hit it too hard, sending it over the net. A minute later, Colmán fired over the bar after another good exchange above the box.

Mueller went down after contact in the box in the 60th minute and after about a minute of review, Saghafi determined no foul had occurred. He initially not only didn’t see a foul, but also ran into the box to stare down Mueller in a bizarre moment. There was no yellow for simulation so it’s unclear why he made that run toward the Orlando rookie.

Chicago got a bit more of the game for the next 10 minutes, with Daniel Johnson forcing a Bendik save in the 68th minute and Katai firing over the bar in the 71st.

The Lions then got back on the front foot. Meram volleyed a low drive off a corner kick cross but it hit a defender and deflected out for a corner. Kljestan then nearly got in all alone on a gorgeous ball over the top from Allen, but he couldn’t quite control the wet ball and it skipped away in the 73rd minute. In the 79th, a buildup ended up in front of Higuita, but the Colombian, who seemed to tire late in the game, couldn’t dig it out of his feet to take a shot.

Three minutes later, disaster struck.

Second-half sub Gordon, who came on at the break for Nemanja Nikolic, got the ball in space about 30 yards out and sent a rocket into the upper 90 to Bendik’s left. It was an unstoppable shot and very much against the run of play but that didn’t matter, as it allowed Chicago to win the game. It was the perfect storm, with a wounded and nearly immobile Schuler and the inexperienced Rocha defending, neither stepped up to close down Gordon and he made the Lions pay.

Needing a goal, and with some players tiring, Kreis sent on PC and Richie Laryea for Colmán and Higuita.

Meram nearly got through on goal in the 87th minute but there was too much traffic and he couldn’t get a clean shot away.

Two minutes later came one of the bigger talking points of the match as Kljestan tangled with Mo Adams at the top of the penalty area. It appeared that Sacha dragged Adams down but then the Fire midfielder brought his boot down on Kljestan’s face. Saghafi immediately showed a red card to Adams and after a few moments he booked Kljestan.

Kreis was incensed that no penalty was given, after the initial action resulted in a dead ball and the foul on Adams that earned the red took place in the area. He cited a conversation with the technical committee about a year ago on red card calls.

“Maybe I misremembered but I think it was specifically told to me that any red card that happens during a dead ball situation — where that red card violation is, that’s where the foul is awarded. So in my point of view, if there’s an ejectionable offense that happens in the penalty box, it’s a penalty.

“The explanation was that because Sacha fouled him first and received a yellow card, that was it. The player at that point can do whatever he wants to Sacha, pick up a red card, and then they get the ball back. Seems odd to me.”

Orlando got only one good look at goal in the five minutes of stoppage time, with Schuler playing up and getting a shot but it was blocked by the defense.

The whistle finally blew on Orlando’s third consecutive 2-1 defeat.

The Lions held 60% of the possession, passed at a 90% rate, and out-shot Chicago, 20-10 (5-4 on target) but had nothing to show for the match.

“I certainly can’t remember a night where I felt like we were more dominant with this club and maybe with any club,” said Kreis. “So you walk out of this night thinking how cruel this game can be, how cruel this job can be, and trying to grasp at the positives, for sure.”

“Soccer is about goals,” Higuita said. “We have to be more efficient.”

The Lions will find it difficult to stop the bleeding, as the next match is on the road at New York City FC next Saturday night in the baseball stadium.

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.

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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)

Continue Reading