Connect with us

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Nashville SC: Final Score 1-1 as Lions Finish Road Trip with a Result

Benji Michel’s goal was canceled out by Randall Leal as the teams split the points in Tennessee.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Benji Michel scored a stunning goal-of-the-year candidate in the first half, but another early goal conceded in the second half cost Orlando City two points in a 1-1 draw against Nashville SC at Nissan Stadium. The Lions (4-2-3, 15 points) had a two-game winning streak snapped by Nashville (2-4-2, 8 points) but are now unbeaten in three, finishing a two-game road swing with four out of six possible points.

“The first half was very good,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “The second half, when we started the first 10-15 minutes I think they were more aggressive. That was a mistake that kept us out of getting the three points but we’ll take it. This is a long journey, I’ve said many times, and the boys are proud and they will keep going and prepare for the next one.”

Pareja’s starting lineup surprisingly included several players who have played every match or nearly each one. Pedro Gallese took his usual spot in goal behind the usual center back pairing of Robin Jansson and Antonio Carlos, with Ruan at right back and Kamal Miller stepping in for Joao Moutinho. Junior Urso joined Uri Rosell in central midfield, with an attacking midfield of Robinho, Mauricio Pereyra, and Michel. Daryl Dike started his fourth consecutive game — all in a 12-day stretch — up top. Tesho Akindele returned to the game day lineup on the bench, while Nani was left off the team sheet completely.

The first half hour was dominated by Orlando City in terms of possession, but Nashville controlled the ball for most of the first half’s final 15 minutes. The Lions didn’t allow many good looks at goal and Carlos and Jansson did a good job of vacuuming up balls that were intended for striker Dominique Badji.

On the other end, the absence of Moutinho was noticeable as the bulk of the dangerous play came from Ruan and Michel on the right side. Robinho did what he could on the left but he didn’t have the fullback support on his side that Orlando City is used to. Still, the Lions looked like they were getting closer and closer to creating something and finally broke through in the 17th minute.

The play started with Ruan throwing it in from the right. Pereyra got a foot on the throw-in and popped it up over Dax McCarty, playing it forward. Michel muscled Anibal Godoy out of his way. He took possession, found himself in space, then unleashed a blast from outside the box that Joe Willis had no chance of stopping.

“I received the ball and I turned in the pocket,” Michel said of the buildup to his goal. “I tried to look for a pass but I saw no one, so, might as well just shoot it and see what happens. Finally I was able to score my first goal this year, so you know that takes a lot of pressure off my shoulders.”

“Benji has energy, desire, commitment. Benji’s willing to learn a new position where he’s feeling more comfortable playing between the lines in tight spaces,” Pareja said.

Pereyra nearly sent Michel into the area in the 24th minute, but his first touch was heavy and Nashville’s defense was able to clear. Urso then sent a great seeing-eye ball through for Ruan racing into the area, but the Brazilian fullback couldn’t control the pass.

The hosts finally got some possession time late in the half but didn’t generate too much, sending in a few crosses and winning a couple of set pieces. Gallese stopped Randall Leal’s shot in the 42nd minute and Carlos made a vital stop to deny a cross getting in a minute later, and the opening half faded to an end.

Nashville led in shots (4-2), with each team getting one on target. The Lions held 56% of the possession in the opening half and out-passed Nashville, 88%-85%.

The hosts knotted the game at 1-1 just after the break. Miller strayed inside and then got beat for pace on a quick one-two, with Leal getting in behind the Canadian, taking a pass from Hany Mukhtar, and beating Gallese from point-blank range.

“I think Nashville had a good energy in those first 10 minutes or so,” Pareja said.

“I think as a team we were caught off guard a little bit and they just took advantage,” Miller said. “I was there. I felt like I could have done better to have my man on that one-two there. We’ll go back to training and look at the video and fix that next week.”

Nashville kept coming, earning a couple of quick corners and a free kick in succession, and Pareja went to his bench for some fresh troops, bringing on Chris Mueller, Andres Perea, and Akindele. Although the subs helped to even out the possession a bit, it took a few minutes for them to settle in and Badji forced Gallese to make a save in the 57th minute.

Orlando started getting back on the ball and in the attacking third after that, winning a series of corners. But Nashville’s tall center backs cleaned up anything dangerous. The Lions nearly got a fortuitous bounce for all their hard work in the 65th minute, when McCarty blocked a cross, sending it toward goal. However, the ball hit off the outside of the post and skipped out for a corner.

Akindele got to a long ball over the top in the 70th and sent a back-heel to a wide open Michel but the second-year player had a moment of indecision instead of firing a shot and the Nashville defense closed him down and dispossessed him.

Second-half sub Kyle Smith got in down the left side in the 74th minute and fired a shot but it was right at Willis. David Accam followed by sending a shot right at Gallese in the 76th minute.

The Lions continued to seem the more likely team to score as time wound down. A cross from Smith into the box in the 84th minute deflected and fell for Urso, who fired a shot at point-blank range but for the third time in two weeks, Willis robbed the Bear from in close.

That was the last good opportunity of the match and after three minutes of stoppage time, each team took home a point. The hosts led in shots (8-7) and shots on goal (4-3), but Orlando held more possession (58.4%) and passed better (90%-86%), winning more corners (10-5) as well.

“A point on the road is never easy and we got a point from it so you can’t complain,” Michel said. “We wanted three points but we were able to dig out one point.”

“We always talk about walking away from every game with a result, so we’re happy to get a result,” Miller said. “But overall, we feel like we had the better of the game and some points were probably left here. So, overall it’s mixed feelings after the game.”

Orlando City is right back in action Saturday night when the Lions host Atlanta United at 8 p.m. It will be Orlando’s fifth match in 15 days.

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