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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. New York City FC: Final Score 1-1 as Shorthanded Lions Look Out of Sync

Chris Mueller’s goal was enough to keep the unbeaten streak going but it wasn’t a good-looking game from Orlando.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City played well enough for the opening 30 minutes to extend its unbeaten streak to 11 games (6-0-5) but looked completely out of sync for the last hour in a 1-1 draw vs. New York City FC at Exploria Stadium. Chris Mueller provided the opening goal for the Lions (8-2-7, 31 points) but a mistake at the back allowed Keaton Parks to equalize for New York City FC (8-7-3, 27 points).

Although the Lions have gone 11 matches without a loss, the team has only won one of its last four (1-0-3) and in this game looked disjointed against an NYCFC team that played just four days ago and traveled on match day. Orlando City is now 6-5-5 in the all-time series against New York City FC and 3-2-3 at home.

“It was a hard game and a hard rival too, but today, listen, we’ll take the point,” said Head Coach Oscar Pareja after the match. “(The players) had been consistent on results and today we wanted so bad the three points but we couldn’t (get them) and we didn’t deserve it either.”

The Lions kicked off the match missing a huge chunk of their roster, including:

  • Dom Dwyer (knee)
  • Joao Moutinho (groin)
  • Uri Rosell (not medically cleared)
  • Tesho Akindele (not medically cleared)
  • Mauricio Pereyra (not medically cleared)
  • Benji Michel (not medically cleared)
  • Pedro Gallese (international duty)
  • Sebas Mendez (international duty)
  • Kyle Smith (not on the injury report but also not on the match day roster)

With so many players unavailable, Pareja went with Brian Rowe in goal — his 100th career MLS start — behind a back line of Kamal Miller, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan, who made his return from injury. Junior Urso and rookie Joey DeZart started in the central midfield behind an attacking midfield of Nani, Andres Perea, and Mueller, with Daryl Dike up top.

Orlando City started the match on the front foot. Nani sent Perea down the left in the first minute but the young midfielder missed just wide of the near post.

Three minutes later, Nani practically put a curling cross on a plate for Mueller, but Cash couldn’t make good contact with his head and his shot was well off target from right in front.

In the 14th minute it was Dike’s turn to waste an opportunity. Ruan sent in a nice cross but the big striker hit his shot just wide of the right post.

The Lions finally broke through in the 18th minute. Ruan knocked the ball past Gudmundur Thorarinsson and then raced by him to keep it from going over the end line. Then he sent in a perfect cross to Mueller, who guided his header inside the back post to make it 1-0. It was Mueller’s team-leading eighth goal of the season.

Orlando nearly made it 2-0 on a set piece a few minutes later when the ball pinged around the box and fell to Dike, who passed to Urso for an easy finish. Unfortunately, Dike lined up offside on the set piece and did not establish himself on before playing the ball.

New York City started to grow in the game, largely due to Orlando tailing off. The Lions started to get a bit sloppy with their pass placement, misjudging where their teammates would be, and could never quite get back to playing the free-flowing way they did in the first half hour. The visitors fired their first shot at Rowe in the 25th minute for an easy save and Jesus Medina fired right at Rowe again a minute later from the top of the area and after that, NYCFC controlled much of the match.

The Pigeons finally got their equalizer off a sloppy turnover from Carlos, who took a back pass from Mueller but then tried to play around a New York City player and got his pass attempt blocked. The visitors made the most of the sudden change of possession and worked the ball in behind to Parks, who had his initial shot deflected by Rowe. As the ball headed toward the end line for a corner kick it slowed to a crawl, allowing Parks to reach it first and slot it home to make it 1-1 in the 43rd minute.

After several more Orlando turnovers and six minutes of first-half stoppage time, the teams went to the break even at 1-1. New York City led in shots (9-7), shots on goal (4-1), and corners (3-1). The Lions held more possession (51%-49%) and were more accurate overall in the passing game (85%-80%) despite their nervy last 10 minutes of the opening period.

“Thirty very good minutes for us in the first half,” Pareja said. “After that, New York started just getting the ball. We couldn’t get the ball back as we used to do and they started creating some actions there, including the goal.”

The entirety of the second half looked like the last 20 minutes of the first half, with the visitors on the front foot and Orlando struggling to string passes together or win 50/50 balls. DeZart and Perea swapped positions at times but neither was effective in the attack. Rowe, meanwhile, came up with several big saves to prevent New York City from leaving Orlando with all three points.

“I’m very happy for Brian and I think we can thank him a lot today for one point,” Jansson said.

Nani forced Sean Johnson into his only save of the game in the 62nd minute, lining up a free kick from straight out in front of goal and firing a shot that was headed inside the right post if not for a diving save.

That was about it for Orlando City’s scoring chances in this game. From that point it was all about Rowe keeping NYCFC out at the other end, and the veteran goalkeeper had an outstanding night, finishing with seven saves, including several big ones down the stretch.

The first of his impressive saves came on a drive by Gary Makay-Steven in the 63rd minute and then he denied a Valentin Castellanos header in the 64th minute on the ensuing corner.

Rowe made another important stop in the 83rd minute on Ismael Tajouri-Shradi to keep things level.

Orlando’s last opportunity for a winner came in the 88th minute when Urso sent a beautiful diagonal ball to spring Ruan but the right back never looked at the goal in front of him and instead tried crossing back through traffic, wasting the opportunity.

Pareja gave Homegrown midfielder Jordan Bender his MLS debut in stoppage time. After about 10 minutes of added time, the teams had to be satisfied with the 1-1 draw.

New York City dominated the stat sheet, leading in shots (18-9), shots on goal (8-2), corners (8-1), possession (55.3%-44.7%), and passing accuracy (82%-80%).

“We are disappointed, but it’s a tight schedule and we just need to prepare for the next one,” Jansson said.

“It’s definitely a special evening for me,” Rowe said of his 100th MLS start. “A little bit bittersweet. I would have loved to have gotten the shutout and the win. It would have been great to get the three points, but I think we’re okay escaping with the draw after that performance tonight and it looks like the other results around the league went our way. So, we’ll get through this one and set our sights on this weekend, and kind of correcting course, and getting back to the football and the quality that we know we can play.”

Orlando City hits the road for a Sunday evening rematch against the New York Red Bulls at 7 p.m. at Red Bull Arena.

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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