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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. LA Galaxy: Final Score 4-3 as Lions Can’t Handle Zlatan

Orlando City blew three separate leads and Zlatan Ibrahimović’s hat trick brought the Galaxy from behind.



Nick Leyva, The Mane Land

Orlando City just did not have the firepower to outscore the LA Galaxy. In a game that saw a total of 42 shots, with 15 of those shots hitting the target, the Galaxy powered from behind past the Lions, 4-3 at the StubHub Center. Orlando led three times, including a 2-1 advantage at halftime, but could not keep Zlatan Ibrahimović at bay.

The loss was the eighth in a row away from home for the Lions (7-14-1, 22 points) and a tough pill to swallow despite playing so well offensively. Ibrahimović scored his first MLS hat trick and added an assist for the hosts while Cristian Higuita and Dom Dwyer saw themselves on the score sheet for the Lions.

James O’Connor sent out this group of lads in the losing effort.

Giovani Dos Santos nearly scored in the second minute on a beautiful pass from Ibrahimović, but Mohamed El-Munir deflected his shot away from goal. The Galaxy (10-7-5, 35 points) dominated possession in the opening minutes, pressing the Orlando defense.

Earl Edwards Jr. made his first save in the eighth minute against Ibrahimović. Yoshimar Yotún fed El-Munir a great through ball in the ninth minute as that forced David Bingham to make a beautiful save. Kljestan took an unmarked header on the ensuing corner but couldn’t punish LA for its poor defense in the box just moments later.

Ola Kamara snuck behind the Orlando defense in the 13th minute but sent his shot well wide of the right post as the Lions dodged another bullet early on.

Kljestan again set up an attacking chance in the 15th minute with Yotún sending a powerful shot well over the crossbar from distance. Kljestan, along with the rest of the midfield, began to dictate the tempo of the match and limit the Galaxy’s chances.

Orlando took the lead in the 19th minute as Kljestan held the ball in front of the Galaxy defense and sent Higuita into the box to put Orlando up 1-0. The goal was Higuita’s fourth goal of the season and his sixth over his MLS career.

Ibrahimović tried to answer just two minutes later but Edwards Jr. made a solid play and got some help from Chris Schuler to shut down the attack.

The Lions continuously stole possession from the Galaxy in the midfield and final third throughout the first 25 minutes, as the opposition rarely saw good chances after the early pressure. PC got a nice ball from Yotún on the wing and sent El-Munir into a nice position but his shot was deflected to force a corner in the 30th minute. Dwyer nearly got open following the corner but the Galaxy defense managed to escape the danger.

Kamara decided to not go to goal as he sent a ball out of play just out of the reach of Ibrahimović to force a goal kick in the 31st minute. The Swedish striker even pointed to Kamara on where exactly he wanted the ball. Kamara followed up with a solid header near the far post on a corner but it flew just outside to force a goal kick.

Again Yotún and El-Munir connected on the wing in the 36th minute as the Libyan international sent his shot wide with Dwyer in the box. El-Munir again worked the wing well against David Romney and put another shot on goal that was easily saved by Bingham.

LA brought the game level as Ibrahimović outplayed Schuler in the box to head the ball to dos Santos, who worked his way past the Orlando defense and fired his shot into the bottom corner past Edwards. The play all started on a beautiful service to Ibrahimović and Tony Rocha’s poor defense led to dos Santos creating the space he needed to level the match in the 39th minute at a goal apiece.

Edwards Jr. made a beautiful one-handed save on Kamara’s shot in the 43rd minute to keep the game level.

Orlando regained the lead on a beautiful counter-attack as Kljestan worked himself into the box again. His pass for Yotún forced Michael Ciani into an own goal against the hosts.

The Lions took their 2-1 lead into the break. Orlando held the advantage in shots, 9-7 (but LA got more on target, 3-2), and possession (53%) over the Galaxy through 45 minutes. El-Munir took four shots, while Kljestan picked up and assist and forced the own goal.

As the second half began, Orlando immediately put the pressure back on the LA Galaxy defense as Yotún tried to find the corner on another shot outside of the box but just missed. It was a costly miss, as LA responded immediately, with Ibrahimović scoring his 13th goal of the season in the 47th minute on a cross from dos Santos. Edwards Jr. decided to not come off of his spot and it cost him, as the big striker was marked by much smaller defenders on the far post.

The Galaxy nearly took the lead in the 49th minute as Chris Pontius saw dos Santos on a trailing run. The Mexican international blasted his shot off the crossbar as the Galaxy created chance after chance to start the second half.

Bingham was forced to make a save against Dwyer on a counterattack as Orlando looked for an answer to its slow start in the second half. LA answered with a counterattack of its own as Rocha had to force a corner that was shut down by the Lions’ defense.

Kljestan fired a shot from distance right at Bingham when no one closed him down in the 54th minute. Moments later, El-Munir sent in a beautiful cross after a great individual effort and found Dwyer, who made a difficult header look easy as Orlando regained the lead in the 54th minute, 3-2. It was Dwyer’s 70th career MLS goal.

Amro Tarek‘s poor clearance led to a Galaxy chance, but Jonathan Dos Santos sent his shot well over the crossbar. Orlando was visibly starting to tire and had trouble keeping the ball at this point in the game.

Higuita’s poor tackle gave the Galaxy a free kick in dangerous territory just outside of the penalty area in the 64th minute. Ibrahimović blasted his shot into the stands. He nearly scored moments later but Edwards made the save.

Orlando was caught sleeping on defense as Kamara and Ibrahimović found themselves in a two-on-two situation against the Lions’ center backs. Ibrahimović easily won a header from Tarek, then beat the center back into the area and scored a header on the service from Kamara to pick up his second goal of the match and level things at 3-3 in the 67th minute.

Tarek made another vital mistake as his attempted clearance went directly to an unmarked Ibrahimović and Edwards had no chance on the blast. PC was out of position, which allowed Ibrahimović to be so open in the penalty area. He completed his hat trick in the 71st minute and gave LA a 4-3 lead with less than 20 minutes to play.

The defense began to seem lost for Orlando as Ibrahimović forced Edwards into another good save. The Swedish striker stole the ball from Schuler and almost scored again but Tarek finally cleared the ball out of the defensive third.

El-Munir, who caused problems on the wing was subbed off for Stéfano Pinho in the 80th minute as the Lions looked for some offense to find an equalizer. Following the substitution, LA continued to press the tired and confused Orlando defense, but again the Lions managed to keep the game in reach with 10 minutes to play.

Pinho found himself in a wonderful spot in the 88th minute but sent his free header over the bar. Bingham then made an easy save on Josué Colmán in the 89th minute as the LA defense gave him way too much space.

In the 93rd minute, Kljestan sent a cross to the far post but Colmán could do nothing with it as he couldn’t place the ball into a dangerous area.

After four minutes of stoppage time, the final whistle blew on Orlando’s 12th loss in 13 MLS matches. LA turned around the possession in the second half, finishing with 55%, and out-shot the Lions, 23-19 (10-5 on target). LA had a slight advantage in passing accuracy (86%-83%).

Orlando is back in action next Saturday against the New England Revolution at Orlando City Stadium.

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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