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Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Final Score 1-0 as Lions get Road Win on Mauricio Pereyra’s Goal

It’s another shutout for Pedro Gallese as the Lions win in D.C. for only the second time ever and the first time at Audi Field.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Mauricio Pereyra’s goal just seven minutes into the match propelled Orlando City to a 1-0 win over D.C. United at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. The Lions (2-0-3, 9 points) are unbeaten in five matches to start the season, which is the team’s best run since joining MLS. It was also just the team’s second road win over D.C. United (2-4-0, 6 points) and first at Audi Field.

Orlando City is now 5-6-1 in the all-time series against D.C. in league play and 5-6-2 in all competitions. On the road, the Lions improved to 2-4-0 on the road against United in league games and 2-4-1 in all competitions. It wasn’t pretty, but the Lions were able to grind out a game in which they were under pressure much of the night.

“I’m very happy, very proud about the effort of the players,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I think today we needed much more than football, and the boys did it. They defended well.”

Pareja made a couple changes to the lineup in front of goalkeeper Pedro Gallese. Ruan didn’t make the lineup after picking up a knock last Saturday. Despite assurances that he was available in Friday’s press conference, he made the trip and was seen with an ice pack on his leg on the broadcast. Kyle Smith switched to his natural right side and Joao Moutinho started on the left side of center backs Antonio Carlos and Rodrigo Schlegel. Junior Urso and Sebas Mendez manned the central midfield, with Benji Michel taking Chris Mueller’s spot in the starting XI on the right and Pereyra pulling the midfield strings, as usual. Nani and Tesho Akindele were the attacking force again.

Orlando got a chance early with Nani heading wide on a cross from the right. Then D.C. was able to ugly up the game for a bit.

The Lions then decided to go route 1 to play over the press and it paid off in the opening goal. Smith sent a long ball forward for Pereyra and the Uruguayan chested it down to Akindele. Tesho gave it back to Pereyra, who fought off a defender and fired past Jon Kempin for the opener in the seventh minute.

Pereyra celebrated afterwards by pulling up his jersey to reveal a t-shirt with a photo of a close friend he lost this past February. He had been waiting to honor Santiago García with a goal and the moment was a bittersweet one for him.

“It was a happy and a difficult moment for me,” he said. “I was really waiting for this moment because I lost a really good friend in February. He was a soccer player and we grew up together. We played together since like we were 10-11 years old and then we played in Nacional and we were champions there. So, I have a lot of moments with him and the honor was for him.”

Just moments after what turned out to be the game’s only goal, United nearly pulled it right back. D.C. worked the ball in through the defense to Adrien Perez, but Gallese got there first. The ball got through and was cleared off the line by the defense but Perez had fouled Gallese anyway on the shot attempt.

D.C. started throwing more numbers forward and pressing higher all across the pitch, with the forwards pressuring Schlegel and Carlos and the wingbacks pinching up to press the fullbacks. This forced the Lions to have to be quick, decisive, and accurate with their passes out of the back and they just weren’t on this night. Even a ball only slightly off line was quickly taken away from its intended target.

Gallese made a leaping stop on a headed ball by Drew Skundrich in the 21st minute as the hosts kept attacking, but it wasn’t ruled a save.

Orlando did fashion a few opportunities to double the lead. One of those came in the 22nd minute when Nani shook free on the left side of the box but fired over the net.

D.C. came right back down the pitch and forced a good Gallese save — his only one of the match — on an Edison Flores shot that was smashed toward the near post in the 23rd minute. Seconds later, Perez fired a volley shot over the bar. D.C. quickly regained possession on the ensuing goal kick and Perez’s shot was deflected out for a corner.

Nani fired just over the bar in the 31st minute off a well-worked short corner and I can’t believe I’m typing the phrase “well-worked short corner,” because for years the Lions have made an absolute mess of those plays.

D.C.’s most dangerous chance came off an Orlando set piece. The Lions worked a free kick to the right but Smith’s cross in was short and D.C. quickly cleared and countered with speed. Moutinho ended up with a vital blocked shot on a Paul Arriola attempt to prevent a goal.

As the half wound down, it looked like only a matter of time before Orlando unlocked D.C. with a counterattack. Michel’s heavy touch, however, spoiled two such chances. Just a couple moments from halftime Michel got to a deflected cross first and turned toward goal but let the ball run too far out in front of him and the defense closed and cleared. Then in first-half stoppage time, Michel was in the clear and about to be behind the defense when he took a touch so heavy the ball ran about 25 yards out in front of him and went out harmlessly for a goal kick.

D.C. out-shot Orlando City 6-4 in the first half, with each team getting one shot on target. The hosts also led in corners (4-2). The Lions held more possession (53.6%-46.4%).

“I think in the first half we were able to find our spaces and still play our game,” Moutinho said. “But then in the second half they made it harder for us. I think we were also a little bit tired. But yeah, we stayed together. Didn’t concede that that many chances.”

Out of the break, Arriola nearly equalized for D.C., sending a shot from the right just inches wide of the left post. That was a warning of things to come as Orlando City white-knuckled its way through the second 45 minutes.

Just 11 minutes after the restart Pareja subbed Michel off for Robin Jansson, who made his season debut. The Beefy Swede’s introduction was part of a tactical change that Pareja said was designed to ease the pressure from D.C.’s two pressing forwards and to give some help to Moutinho, who was thrust into a full 90-minute shift for the first time since last summer.

“Joao is coming from a long period with no activity. We didn’t have Ruan neither today. It just gave me a feeling that we were going to need help in the back,” Pareja said. “Because Flores and Perez were very active in the first half. And Antonio and Rodrigo were coming man-to-man with them, and they have ability. So I wanted to add one more player there.

“I did not do it when the half ended, because I wanted to wait at least 10 minutes to see if we could have a couple more rushes from Benji. But when they brought (Julian) Gressel fresh (on Moutinho’s side), we decided just to make the sub and bring in Robin. I thought it was a move that helped us a lot to conquer the three points. They looked stronger. Joao needed help and then they looked more solid.”

It was Moutinho’s foul that set up an opportunity for D.C., but Fredric Brillant headed wide on a near-post header. It looked like Gallese had that post covered anyway.

Moments later, Nani sent a shot on the left side into the side netting from a tight angle.

Still, the hosts kept the pressure on for almost the entire second half, turning the possession advantage in their favor. Despite their possession advantage and an inordinate number of free kicks and corner kicks, the Lions didn’t allow many shot opportunities, and even fewer in good positions.

Perhaps the most dangerous chance came on a free kick in the 72nd minute when a curving, in-swinging cross short-hopped in front of Gallese, but El Pulpo managed to fight it off into the air and then catch it before a D.C. attacker could arrive.

The Lions were able to battle through all of the set pieces and see the game out in the end, capturing that elusive second win of the season and the first on the road.

D.C. ended up with more possession (55%-45%), and more shots (13-6), but neither team put a shot on frame in the second 45 minutes. United also had far more corners (10-2) and was slightly better in passing on a night when neither team really shone in that area (74.7%-72.8%).

Gallese kept his third clean sheet of the season and his sixth as a Lion, moving past Tally Hall into third place behind Joe Bendik (13) and Brian Rowe (8).

“Today the maturity of the team is strong,” Pareja said. “I think we’re getting better defensively. We’re stronger. Offensively we need to get better too.”

“Since the first day that (Pareja) came in, he really taught us that defensive-minded side of the game,” Moutinho said. “He always reinforces that idea, that first we have to defend well, not concede goals, and then, going forward, the things will appear. So I think that the defensive consistency is one of our main focuses. And I think that’s been showing.” 

Pareja mentioned the same-day travel taking its toll on the team and said he’d rather have played a mid-week game like D.C. did and have a normal travel schedule than fly on game day.

“This morning we flew two hours and a half, and then we came to the hotel and we ate. And then we have to come to the stadium,” he said. “So that was, for me, more challenging than others. Today was difficult and that’s why I respect their performance today.”

“Those are the conditions and we didn’t complain and this is a good thing that this team has,” Pereyra said. “Nobody’s complaining. Nobody’s looking at these small things. And now we are having a really good moment. We are happy with the winning. And I think we deserved the win.”

The Lions return home Saturday night when Toronto FC “visits” Exploria Stadium. The Reds have been training and playing in Orlando so they won’t have far to go.

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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