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Orlando City vs. Sporting Kansas City: Final Score 1-1 as Lions Fight Back for Road Point

The Lions had two goals called back before finally netting Nani’s equalizer.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Orlando City paid for a late first-half mistake, but Nani’s cheeky backheel flick helped the Lions salvage a 1-1 draw against Sporting Kansas City at Children’s Mercy Park. Orlando (0 W-0 L-2 D, 2 points) had two goals waved off for offside after video review and SKC (1-0-1, 4 points) had one called back as well. In the end, the result was probably a fair one, but a poor exchange between Pedro Gallese and Antonio Carlos kept the Lions from taking all three points.

City is unbeaten in its last three against Sporting, winning the last two before tonight’s draw. The Lions are now 3-2-2 in the all-time series and 1-2-1 at Children’s Mercy Park.

“I think it was a great performance for our team,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “The personality and, and the consistency in our sequences today was very good and was the highlight of our team, so I’m very pleased.”

Pareja made one expected change and one surprise change from Saturday’s lineup, replacing the injured Alexandre Pato (lower body injury) with Andres Perea and inserting Benji Michel at wing for Chris Mueller, who started on the bench. Gallese manned the net behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Rodrigo Schlegel, Carlos, and Ruan. Perea slotted into the midfield with Junior Urso, Sebas Mendez, and Michel, with Nani pushing up into the attack with Tesho Akindele.

Graphic by

The game began rather sloppily with both teams turning it over often in the opening 15 minutes, but the Lions nearly scored in the opening seconds. Michel got onto a Nani cross but fired it way off target from in front of goal.

Daniel Salloi got the game’s first shot on target with a slow roller at Gallese in the sixth minute. Ruan then got down the right a few times but struggled with his crossing accuracy.

Sporting had a good opportunity early when Smith was booked for a foul just outside the area on a ball he obviously felt he won fairly. The hosts appeared to cash in on the training ground set piece, as a shot was fired off of Akindele, forcing Gallese to change directions to make a good save. However, he couldn’t control the rebound, and Nicolas Isimat-Mirin got there first to slot it home in the 13th minute. After a video review, the goal was correctly overturned as Isimat-Mirin was well offside when the initial shot was taken.

Ruan was set up at the top of the box in the 17th minute but his shot was headed way wide of goal when it was deflected out for a corner. Nani played the ensuing corner short for Mendez, who shot it way over the bar. Moments later, Perea got in behind and was in the act of shooting when Roger Espinoza stuck a leg in from behind and got both man and ball. The weak shot was easy for John Pulskamp to collect and the tackle was ruled a fair one.

The Lions continued to grow in confidence throughout the half and started controlling play. Nani fizzed a cross through the six in the 26th minute and Michel was inches from giving it the touch it needed to go in.

Michel thought he’d given the Lions the lead in the 36th minute, but again the goal was overturned. Nani had smashed a shot in that Pulskamp couldn’t handle and Michel got to the rebound first, finessed it over the goalkeeper and scored calmly, but he was a foot or so offside on the initial shot attempt.

Schlegel got in behind on a set piece in the 40th minute but Pulskamp came off his line and got a piece of it before he could pull the trigger. Minutes later, the game turned in Sporting’s favor.

The hosts took the lead in the 45th minute but didn’t have to put in much work for it. Carlos mishandled a pass from Gallese, allowing Salloi to take it away. The winger fed Gianluca Busio, who fired near side past El Pulpo to give his team a 1-0 advantage.

“Unfortunately we made a mistake in the first half. We conceded a goal and made our game more complicated but I think we reacted very well,” Nani said. “I think we deserve the point and could do better. Could deserve three points but one point is not bad after we conceded that first goal.”

Pareja said the goal Orlando gave up was a product of the way they like to play.

“We made some mistakes due to the risks that we play, but we committed with this way to play, and the players came back as a group,” he said.

Sporting Kansas City took its 1-0 lead against the run of play into the locker room at the break. Orlando City had more shots (6-3) but SKC got all three on target to Orlando’s two. The Lions held more possession (60.5%-39.5%), had more corners (1-0) and were the more accurate passing team (85.6%-82.1%).

Shortly after the restart, it appeared that Perea had tied it with his first career goal. But the play again went to review and the goal was disallowed. Nani’s corner kick cross was cleared but Smith picked it up and cycled it left to right for Nani again. The captain’s second cross skipped off a defender and found its way through traffic to Perea, who smashed a shot off the crossbar and in. Perea was onside when Nani delivered the cross but Carlos got a foot on it and that’s what put Perea just offside.

“I was really happy with my goal,” Perea said of that moment before it was ruled off. “I was really unlucky, but maybe the next one counts. I’m going to work to to score again and make opportunities for my team and do whatever the team needs to win. But I was really happy.” 

Alan Pulido nearly doubled the lead for SKC in the 54th minute. Ruan gave the ball away in his own defensive corner and it found its way to Sporting’s Designated Player, who fizzed a shot inches wide of the right post.

Moments after Chris Mueller subbed on for Michel, the Money Badger nearly had an assist, heading a cross back across the box. Akindele saw Pulskamp deny him from point-blank range but he was offside on the play anyway.

Gallese made a great save on a long-range effort in the 59th minute when the center back stepped up and no one closed him down.

Urso fired just wide of goal in the 67th minute as the Lions continued to press for an equalizer. Akindele got down the left and earned a corner in the 75th but may have had an opportunity to shoot rather than trying to thread a pass to Perea that was knocked out of play. On the ensuing set piece, the ball was played short to Smith, who had his initial shot blocked and didn’t make good contact on the second, sending an easy one right at Pulskamp.

Johnny Russell forced Gallese into another save at the other end on a set piece in the 78th minute. Then Orlando tied it at the other end.

A long ball from Mendez picked out Smith, who made a great run forward from his left back position. Smith did well to bring the ball quickly under control and tried to cross through the box, but the pass hit the trailing foot of defender Roberto Puncec. Mueller was first to the ball and fired, but his shot was blocked. The rebound bounced to Nani, who had his back to goal, but the captain nonchalantly flicked it softly backward and into the net to tie the match at 1-1 in the 79th minute.

The flag came up after the play but again it went to video review and the replay showed no Orlando players were offside. The goal was awarded. It was Nani’s 19th since joining the Lions in 2019.

“It was good because we deserved to score a goal,” Nani said. “I don’t remember (the last time I) scored a goal like that. It’s always nice to score goals like that because it’s like a release of a lot of stress, you know. We were in a situation in the game where we needed to score.”

The Lions withstood a couple of late corners and held on for the 1-1 draw to stay unbeaten, but also winless. Orlando out-shot the hosts (11-9), but Sporting KC got more on frame (5-4). The Lions held advantages in possession (59.9%-40.1%), corners (4-3), and passing accuracy (84%-83%).

“We had more possession. We controlled the game,” Nani said. “Especially in the first half, we dominated all game. And that’s the key. When you have more of the ball. We have players in the final third who can create chances.”

“Obviously, you wanted to walk (away) with three points after that many chances that we created, especially in the first half when we had the goal in front of us a few times,” Pareja said. “But we’re happy. We’re excited to play and to have this performance and so, we look forward to the next one.”

The Lions return home for their next match against FC Cincinnati at 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 1.

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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