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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Toronto FC: Final Score 3-2 as Junior Urso Scores Late Winner for Lions

The Lions saw their early 2-0 lead evaporate but the Bear came to the rescue.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Junior Urso’s 84th-minute goal saved Orlando City the embarrassment of having thrown away an early two-goal lead. Tesho Akindele and Nani had staked the Lions (4-1-3, 15 points) to a 2-0 advantage in the first eight minutes, but Toronto FC (1-5-2, 5 points) — technically the home side in this match due to the COVID-19 situation — rallied to draw level at 2-2 before the first half ended. Ultimately, Orlando played a good second half and won 3-2 over the Reds in Exploria Stadium.

City improved to 2-0-0 against Toronto this season and 4-8-2 in the all-time series. Technically it would be the team’s first road win against the Reds, but obviously it’s not the same as winning at BMO Field. The Lions climbed into second in the Eastern Conference for the moment, pending the result of Sunday’s match between Philadelphia and Atlanta.

Head Coach Oscar Pareja dedicated the win to Rodrigo Schlegel, who lost his father recently.

“It was emotional day for us, and we want to share this joy that we have with Rodigo (and) his family,” Pareja said after the match. “We dedicate this to him and also to people who have been dealing with this COVID.

“Regarding the game, exceptional performance for us. It has been a challenge to be together again. The team has been separated in many ways. Today we played against a good team and especially in the second half we had the personality to resolve the game and we scored three goals today. Great victory. Great three points.”

Without Pedro Gallese and Sebas Mendez — both away with their national teams in Copa America — Pareja gave Brandon Austin his first start in goal behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Kyle Smith. Andres Perea slotted into central midfield with Urso, while Uri Rosell made the bench for the first time this season. Silvester van der Water and Mauricio Pereyra dropped into the attacking midfield with Nani roaming and Akindele up top.

The Lions wasted no time jumping on top. Pereyra slotted a gorgeous through ball between the Toronto defense to Akindele, who slipped the ball past Quentin Westberg in the first minute to put Orlando City on top.

“A soon as Mauricio gets the ball with space, I know he can make a pass forward, so my idea was just to take off as soon as Mauricio got the ball, I took off into space,” Akindele said. “He was able to turn quickly and find me.”

The team celebrated on the sideline with Schlegel’s jersey to let the defender know that he’s in his teammates’ thoughts.

“We talked a lot this week about Rodrigo, about his family,” Urso said. “So, I said to Nani, tell the guys when we score a goal, let’s keep Rodrigo’s jersey in your hand. Let’s try to (have) some celebration for him. It was an emotional time for all of us.”

Toronto jumped on Orlando after the early goal with a lot of possession in the attacking third. Orlando players were able to get into passing lanes but it seemed like every blocked pass found a random Toronto player anyway. Alejandro Pozuelo fired off target from just outside the box in the third minute.

Despite that, Orlando doubled the lead in the eighth minute. A promising buildup seemed to evaporate when a ball got in a bit too far and made its way to Westberg. Van der Water pressured the goalkeeper and took the ball away, passing back to Akindele. The Orlando striker sent the ball right to left where Nani headed home to make it 2-0.

“The assist — I think that goes to what Oscar has been drilling into me: What’s the right decision,” Akindele said. “Silvester passed me the ball back and the goalie was out, so I could have tried to shoot. But I didn’t because I didn’t think that was the best decision in that moment. I thought it was better for me to try to put in a cross and we scored. I think if I would have shot in that moment, it would have been blocked or gone over or something, but I kind of calmed myself down and sent a cross and Nani was able to score.”

Akindele’s goal and assist continued his great run of form.

“It is a good sign for the depth of the group, the complexion of the team,” Pareja said of Akindele’s form. “When you have some options there and all of them are very valued and natural. It just makes the team stronger. Tesho’s doing a great job of not just scoring goals but working so hard on the field.”

The Reds pulled a goal back almost immediately. A shot from former Lion Richie Laryea from the left was saved by Austin but the rebound went high in the air and Ayo Akinola out-jumped Jansson to head home in the 10th minute.

Van der Water nearly restored the two-goal cushion in the 15th minute, getting his left foot into a shot that Westberg was able to fight off. The Dutchman then served in a dangerous ball on the ensuing corner but no one from Orlando could get onto it and Westberg dove to keep it from sneaking in the back post.

Pereyra and Perea worked a perfect give-and-go in the 25th minute but the young Colombian-American was bodied cleanly off the ball in the box before he could fire a shot.

Three minutes later, Laryea darted in and fired from a tough angle but Austin kicked the shot away.

Toronto’s tying goal came off a quick free kick after Laryea went down far too easily for about the third time in the game. The AR took the bait and awarded a set piece. The Reds took it quickly and Orlando nearly defused a good passing sequence with a poke from behind, but it ended up falling right back onto a Toronto foot and Osorio finished to even things up in the 39th minute.

Toronto had a great opportunity to counter off an Orlando corner kick in the 44th minute, breaking in 5-on-3 on the Lions, but Smith dispossessed Laryea in space to thwart the chance. A minute later, Pereyra slipped another perfect through ball to van der Water, who scored but the flag came up. He was about half a yard offside, so the call was correct, if unsatisfying.

After three minutes of stoppage, that was it for the first half.

Toronto out-shot Orlando 10-6 in the opening half (4-3 on target) and had more corners (6-4). Possession was nearly dead even, with Orlando holding a slim edge (50.2%-49.8%) and the Reds holding a tiny edge in passing accuracy (87.5%-87.2%).

Pareja said the team’s defending block was too low in the first half and made an adjustment to start the second.

“We made a mistake in letting them play in between the lines. I think more as a look of the defense, it was a collective difficulty that we had,” Pareja said. “We gave them a lot of space and then we started defending too low. They’re good. They have good players in that phase of the game. When they put you inside of your box, they have people who have a solution and good passers.”

The adjustments worked well, as the Lions looked the more dangerous team for the most part in the second period. Orlando buzzed around the Toronto penalty area in the opening minutes of the second half but couldn’t quite connect that final ball.

With the defensive block positioned higher, Toronto appeared to get more frustrated. Laryea forced a shot from distance in the 51st minute but the attempt was always going high.

Nani sent several good crosses into the area in the second half but either his teammates couldn’t quite get to them or Toronto did a good job of defending. Chris Mavinga in particular played well for the Reds to break up what could have been several dangerous opportunities. The Lions won a few set pieces but, again, couldn’t quite do anything with them.

Shortly after a decent free kick opportunity for Orlando, the Reds got possession and Laryea again went down easily and it nearly gave Toronto the lead. The free kick went short to Laryea on a darting run toward the end line. The former Lion crossed and the ball deflected toward goal already behind Austin. But Smith swept the ball off the line with a timely defensive play to keep the game level.

Carlos got a header on a corner kick in the 59th minute but his shot hit Omar Gonzalez in the back. Gonzalez was turned and knew nothing about it, and Westberg was fortunate to watch that one go off his defender before eventually being cleared.

Daryl Dike checked in for Akindele in the 64th minute and was a menace. He won a few free kicks in good spots and drew a yellow card on Gonzalez, but he didn’t make the score sheet.

Toronto again nearly made something out of nothing in the 72nd minute when a wayward pass was picked off and sent immediately into the area. Patrick Mullins stuck out a foot and the redirection went just over the bar.

Second-half sub Chris Mueller had a mixed outing, badly missing Dike alone in the box and a couple other passes, but he also showed his typical hustle. He tried a curling shot in the 83rd minute but couldn’t get the bend on it and it went wide. But a minute later he set up the game winner.

Auro Jr. sent a terrible pass across the field in his own half and Urso picked it off. He played a quick one-two with Mueller and slotted home past Westberg to restore Orlando’s lead in the 84th minute.

“The last 15 minutes we tried to push to score the goal because if we score it’s done — the game,” Urso said. “So Oscar put Benji on the field and (we) tried to make some long balls to Benji. We waited for some mistake from Toronto and I want to say thank you to Chris (for giving me) a good ball to score the goal.”

Former Lion Dom Dwyer subbed in late and nearly tied the game in stoppage time. In what appeared to be a miscommunication, Jansson let a cross go and Dwyer came flying in to try to get onto it, but he couldn’t quite get good contact on it.

From there, the Lions saw out the final moments of stoppage, including a key clearance on a late Toronto corner.

Toronto ended up out-shooting Orlando, 15-12, but both teams had four on target over the 90-plus minutes. The Reds also held slight advantages in corners (8-6), possession (52.3%-47.7%) and passing accuracy (88.1%-87.6%).

“I thought we showed a lot of mental toughness, just to stay in the game (when Toronto tied it),” Akindele said. “We didn’t just lose our heads. We kept grinding and I thought we grew into the game more and more. Especially in the second half, I thought we looked good and deserved the win.” 

The Lions are right back in action at home on Tuesday night as the San Jose Earthquakes come to town.

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Photo Gallery

An album of images from Orlando City’s hard-fought draw at home against the Herons.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

The Lions brought much more roar on Sunday night to face their southern rivals but had trouble finding the net, allowing the Herons to nick a point even while short staffed. None of Miami’s high-priced talent traveled for the match after facing Toronto midweek, and physicality ensued, firing up the sold-out crowd at Exploria Stadium.

Talking with some of the other photographers on the sideline who had flown in for this match, they rated the Orlando atmosphere top-notch; in their experience, other cities don’t compare to the in-stadium fan enthusiasm.

The Lions were in “the net is lava” mode, with Duncan McGuire and Iván Angulo each missing prime one-on-one chances with Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender in each half, McGuire leaving it straight at Callendar, and Angulo badly missing the net after a missed first touch. So of course Miami struck first, with David Ruíz scoring early in the second half.

This fired the Lions up even more and Martín Ojeda pinballed McGuire in behind the Miami back line, allowing Duncan to do what Duncan does to draw the score level. The Lions generally looked the more dangerous team for most (but not all) of the night. However, it is scorin ggoals that actually counts, leaving both teams unchanged in their respective Eastern Conference standings. Orlando remains second at 14-7-9, while Miami stays in 14th at 9-15-5.

The Lions continue to control their own destiny in terms of getting a top-four finish as they look to lock up home field advantage for a best-of-three matchup in the MLS Cup playoffs.

With home dates left against Montreal and a sputtering-but-dangerous New England remaining, there’s still plenty of time to be part of that world-class gameday atmosphere by going out to support the team as they push for a strong finish.

We hope that you enjoy these images from a hard-fought, come-from-behind draw against Inter Miami at Exploria Stadium.

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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Inter Miami: Five Takeaways

Here’s what we learned from Orlando City’s 1-1 draw at home against Inter Miami.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City returned to Exploria Stadium after a midweek loss to New York City FC and had to settle for a 1-1 draw with Inter Miami. The Lions did well to equalize after conceding first, but will likely feel that they left opportunity knocking as the Eastern Conference remains tight near the top. Here are my five takeaways from the third Tropic Thunder clash this year.

Lack of Execution Plagues the Lions

Orlando’s offense struggled to put the ball in the back of the net in this match. That’s not to say they didn’t create quality chances, as the Lions served up good crosses and dangerous long balls throughout the match. Only three of Orlando’s 16 crosses found their mark in the end. The execution just wasn’t there when it came to finishing attacks, whether it be poor decision-making when the time came to play the final ball or just missing the target completely. Of Orlando’s 13 shots, six were on target and only a couple of those gave Miami goalkeeper Drake Callender much difficulty. Ivan Angulo missing the goal entirely after Dagur Dan Thorhallsson picked out a perfect pass for him stands out. Expecting every promising attack to end with a goal is unfair, but weak finishing cost the Lions from claiming a big win at home.

Corner Kicks Gave the Lions Headaches

While the Lions didn’t have any corner kicks in the match, Inter Miami had seven and created some of its best chances with them. In the 61st minute, a corner kick taken by Robert Taylor found Leonardo Campana all alone in the center of the box. The Ecuadorian forward’s header mercifully went wide, but it was indicative of how Orlando had its hands full on set pieces. Pedro Gallese had to come up with a remarkable save in the first half as well after Campana barreled through Cartagena to head the ball at goal. Even though the Lions didn’t concede from a set piece, I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s something focused on this week just to ensure the team is organized enough to overcome uncalled fouls without needing its star goalkeeper or some luck.

Plenty of Physicality in Rivalry Match

It was easy to tell these two teams didn’t care much for each other, as they both fought hard on and off the ball. There were 27 fouls and seven yellow cards handed out by referee Armando Villarreal. Miami committed 16 of those fouls and received five of the yellow cards as they did whatever it took to slow down Orlando’s progress. Facundo Torres suffered the brunt of it and was fouled four times so that he couldn’t work his magic against Miami’s defense. It was the kind of physical match that can be expected of two rivals and made for an intense match that will likely have players from both sides seeking an ice bath. The Lions did well to stay composed for a majority of a very chippy match.

Duncan McGuire Shakes Off the Rust

Forward Duncan McGuire got back to his scoring ways with a crucial equalizer for his ninth goal of the MLS season. It was an important goal for reasons beyond the scoreline as well, as McGuire had squandered a golden opportunity to score earlier in the match by not being able to get his shot past Callender. He was also kicking himself for not getting on the end of a few other chances as well. His 84 minutes on the field were the most from him in one game this season, and the Lions will need him more often now that Ercan Kara is in Turkey. It was the rookie’s first goal since July and, although not perfect, the kind of performance to build upon moving forward.

Orlando Showcased Its Depth and Versatility

Head Coach Oscar Pareja switched things up at halftime, replacing Cesar Araujo with Martin Ojeda and having Mauricio Pereyra sit a bit deeper in the midfield to potentially create chances on the break a bit quicker using his service. Although Ojeda didn’t get a goal or an assist, his presence was notable on both sides of the ball and he played a key role in Orlando’s goal. Having a player of his caliber able to come off the bench has been a boon for Orlando this season, letting Pareja really kickstart the changes he wants to make to the team. Similar things could be said about Orlando’s other substitutes: Junior Urso, Ramiro Enrique, Gaston Gonzalez, and Michael Halliday. Their energy and skill kept Orlando pushing for more and gave the sense that a winner would have come had the game lasted a bit longer.

That’s what I took away from Orlando’s 1-1 draw with Inter Miami. Let me know what you gathered from the match in the comments below

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 9/25/23

Orlando City draws with Inter Miami, Viviana Villacorta out for the season, OCB wins last game of the regular season, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Last night’s Orlando City match wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t the worst either. It’s a pretty fitting feeling on a Monday, as we all get back into the swing of the work week after a nice weekend of soccer. There are plenty of ups and downs from a rollercoaster Sunday, so let’s dive right into today’s links!

Orlando City Draws With Inter Miami

In the latest edition of the Tropic Thunder rivalry, Orlando City and Inter Miami split the points at Exploria Stadium in a 1-1 result. Miami struck first, but the Lions did well to find an equalizer, even though they couldn’t find a winner in the end. It wasn’t Orlando’s best game by any means, but it was a decent response to a 2-0 loss on the road to New York City FC. Orlando now has 51 points, tying its club record for the most points in a season, set in 2021. The Lions will have a chance to break that record on Saturday when they host CF Montreal.

Viviana Villacorta Out for the Season

Orlando Pride midfielder Viviana Villacorta will miss the remainder of the NWSL season after suffering an ACL tear in her left knee during training. The 24-year-old was selected with the ninth overall pick in the 2021 NWSL Draft, but was not able to make her debut until 2022 due to sustained an ACL tear in her right knee that kept her out for all of the 2021 season. This year, she has 21 appearances across all competitions for the Pride and notched the first assist of her career in a big road win against the San Diego Wave on April 29. This is a tough blow to the Pride’s midfield with just three games remaining as she has ended her season early due to injury for the third straight year. The Pride are only a point out of a playoff spot and are back in action on Oct. 2 against Angel City FC.

Orlando City B Wins On Decision Day

On the final day of the MLS NEXT Pro regular season, Orlando City B won 2-1 at home over FC Cincinnati 2. The Young Lions had already clinched a spot in the postseason heading into this match, but the win secured their spot as the fifth seed. Jack Lynn briefly held the Golden Boot lead after scoring, but ended up tied at 19 goals with New York City FC II’s Matt Myers and Colorado Rapids 2’s Remi Cabral. The trio ended in a three-way tie for the league’s Golden Boot honors. OCB will hit the road for its first MLS NEXT Pro playoff game, although the opponent is not yet known thanks to the new rule where higher seeds choose which team they want to face.

USWNT Wins in Megan Rapinoe’s Final Match

The United States Women’s National Team beat South Africa in a 2-0 win at Soldier Field. Trinity Rodman and Emily Sonnett scored and the defense did well to secure its second shutout against South Africa after a 3-0 win this past Thursday. This game also marked forward Megan Rapinoe’s final game with the USWNT, with the 38-year-old subbed off for the last time in the 54th minute. These were solid wins from the USWNT following the World Cup and it will aim to keep the momentum rolling next month in a pair of friendlies against Colombia.

Free Kicks

  • Three Orlando City academy sides came up with shutout victories this weekend.
  • Before the USWNT’s friendly with South Africa, U.S. Soccer Sporting Director Matt Crocker stated that plans remain in place for a new head coach to be at the helm in time for the training camp in December
  • American midfielder Yunus Musah did well in his AC Milan debut, playing all 90 minutes in a 1-0 win over Verona.
  • A match in the Netherlands between Ajax and Feyenoord had to be abandoned due to fans throwing fireworks onto the field while Feyenoord led 3-0. According to police, tear gas had to be used to stop unrest outside the stadium after the match, and Ajax later fired Sven Mislintat, its director of soccer.
  • Newcastle became the first English Premier League team to have eight different players score in a match after crushing Sheffield United, 8-0.
  • Atletico Madrid ended Real Madrid’s perfect start to the season by beating its rival 3-1, with Alvaro Morata bagging a brace.

That’s all I have for you today, Mane Landers. I hope you all have an easy Monday and rest of your week!

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