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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.

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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.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/12/24

Leagues Cup forgets Orlando’s U.S. Open Cup win, USMNT U-23 loses to Japan, NWSL expansion options, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Welcome to Wednesday, Mane Landers. The USMNT plays tonight in Orlando, and I hope that you have tickets. If not, we can still watch as we wait for the Orlando City and Orlando Pride matches this Saturday. On a personal note, this Friday will mark my ninth anniversary with The Mane Land. It’s been a heck of a ride, and I’m glad you’ve been there with us. Here’s to many more years to come. Let’s get to the links.

Leagues Cup Forgets Orlando’s U.S. Open Cup Win

Orlando City is playing in the Leagues Cup starting at the end of July and here’s a nice guide to Orlando’s group for the tournament. Of course, the Leagues Cup organizers want you to be pumped so that you watch and buy tickets. I think that is something we should do simply to support the club. However, I don’t think they went about promoting the competition in quite the right way. In a tweet that has since been deleted, the tournament’s social media team stated the Leagues Cup would be Orlando’s chance to win its first trophy. Did you catch the mistake? Taylor Twellman did.

Good on you, Taylor. Facundo Torres was indeed brilliant in that match, as was Benji Michel. Of course, there were others that caught the faux pas as well.

I think we should also be mentioning the USL Championships, but what do I know? Evidently, more than the Leagues Cup’s social media team.

USMNT to Honor Pulse Victims

There’s plenty of fake, corporate shows of support for Pride Month , but in general I think that the USMNT and USWNT have done a good job of being legitimate allies to the LGBTQIA+ community. Tonight, the USMNT will play a friendly against Brazil at Camping World Stadium on the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting. The players will be wearing Pride jerseys to honor those that lost their lives so senselessly eight years ago.

In terms of the game, the USMNT will be without Josh Sargent for the match, and Tyler Adams will only get limited minutes if he plays, as both are coming back from injuries. Get well before the Copa America, lads.

Lions on International Duty

The United States U-23 Men’s National Team lost 2-0 to Japan in its final friendly match before the Olympics. Orlando City’s Duncan McGuire found himself on a bit of an island up top as the U.S. had difficulty moving the ball through the midfield. Hopefully, the U.S. got such play out of their system heading into the Olympics.

OCB’s Wilfredo Rivera made the most of his time playing in Puerto Rico’s World Cup qualifier against Anguilla, scoring a brace in the 8-0 victory. This win comes after a scoreless draw with El Salvador last week and Puerto Rico’s remaining group games during this round of qualifying will be next June.

Exploring NWSL Expansion Options

The NWSL will be expanding to 16 teams in 2026 with many cities vying for the next franchise. The leaders include Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Minneapolis. Atlanta, Denver, and Jacksonville are potential choices as well. If it was to be given to either Atlanta or Jacksonville they would be regional rivals for the Orlando Pride. The league is expected to make a decision by the fourth quarter of 2024.

Free Kicks

  • Congratulations to the United States U-15 Women’s National Team, which won 4-0 over Germany.
  • Did you ever have one of those dreams that was a little scary, but also absolutely hilarious? This preview of Inter Miami’s new mascot is a bit like that. To misquote Jaws: “Ever seen an Inter Miami mascot’s eyes, Chief? He’s got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes.”
  • The Cayman Islands Men’s National Football Team forfeited its match against Cuba because many of its players are on visas in the United States. If those players were to travel to Cuba, the U.S. may have canceled those visas due to travel restrictions.
  • This is one of the most ridiculous no-calls I’ve ever seen. India got royally hosed.

That will do it for today. Check back as we get you ready for the Orlando City and Orlando Pride matches this Saturday night. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/11/24

Julie Doyle up for Goal of the Week, scouting Brazil ahead of USMNT match, Valencia fans convicted of racial abuse, and more.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Happy Tuesday, everyone. After a brief break, Orlando City will be back in action when it takes on LAFC at home on Saturday. The Orlando Pride will visit a struggling North Carolina Courage side on the same day, while Orlando City B will have an oddly placed Thursday match against Chattanooga FC. With such a busy week ahead of us, it’s little surprise that we have a lot to talk over this morning. Let’s get into it.

Julie Doyle Up for Goal of the Week

Pride forward Julie Doyle has been nominated for NWSL Goal of the Week for her strike against the San Diego Wave during Friday’s 1-1 draw. Doyle opened the scoring in the 36th minute with an extremely well taken goal that came from a Barbra Banda assist. The Zambian forward made a run down the right wing and crossed for Doyle, but the ball was a little behind her and the chance looked to have gone. It hadn’t though, because Doyle contorted her body, hung out a foot, and let the momentum from the ball carry it into the back of San Diego’s net. Make sure you go vote for her to win!

Brazil Scouting Report

The United States Men’s National Team will play its final friendly before Copa America tomorrow at Camping World Stadium, right here in Orlando. The idea of any USMNT game is slightly nauseating after the Yanks were throttled 5-1 by Colombia on Saturday, but the fact that they’ll square off against a loaded Brazil side means things aren’t going to be any easier. While Brazil has struggled early on in World Cup qualifying, it will likely run out a front three of Rodrygo, Vinicius Jr., and Raphina that’s capable of causing plenty of damage. Brazil prefers to control the ball and build from the back with short passing movements, but has no qualms about ceding possession and breaking on the counter, something that caused no shortage of issues for the U.S. against Colombia.

Valencia Fans Convicted of Racial Abuse

A trio of Valencia fans will serve eight months in prison after being convicted of racially abusing Vinicius Jr. Additionally, they are barred from entering soccer stadiums for two years and will pay for court proceedings. The convictions are the first for racism in professional soccer in Spain, and a case was opened after the fans made monkey noises and gestures during a game in May of 2023. The Brazilian forward in particular has faced racial abuse during his time playing in Spain, but he’s far from the only player, as the trial for a fan accused of abusing Inaki Williams during a match in 2020 has still yet to even begin.

The Soccer Tournament Concludes

The Soccer Tournament wrapped up last night with a pair of engrossing championship matches. In the women’s bracket, US Women defeated the North Carolina Courage by a score of 6-3, with Talia Dellapuerta scoring the winning goal. US Women featured United States Women’s National Team greats Heather O’Reilly and Ali Kreiger, and the team won the first women’s edition of the tournament and the $1 million prize that comes with it.

On the men’s side, former Orlando City player Nani and his team Nani FC fell to La Bombonera, which scored mere minutes into the match and never looked back on its way to a convincing 4-0 win. La Bombonera becomes the second team to win it all following Newtown Pride FC’s victory in last year’s inaugural tournament.

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That’s all I have for you this morning. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/10/24

Facundo Torres and Cesar Araujo won’t play for Uruguay in Copa America, Pride and OCB draw, USMNT drilled by Colombia, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Alex Corrie

Hello, Mane Landers! I hope all is well down in Florida. I was busy at Under Armour all weekend and managing the broadcast operations for the NISA league’s matches last night. The Lions were off this weekend, but we had the Orlando Pride and OCB in action. We’ve got plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links. 

Torres and Araujo Not On Uruguay Squad for Copa America

Uruguay National Team manager Marcelo Bielsa confirmed his roster for the 2024 Copa America over the weekend, and Orlando City’s Facundo Torres and Cesar Araujo didn’t make the final roster.

Torres and Araujo played briefly in the second half in Uruguay’s 4-0 win over Mexico in a friendly match last week. Uruguay will now prepare for its upcoming group stage matches in the Copa America against Panama, Bolivia, and the United States. Torres and Araujo will be back with Orlando City this week to get ready for their upcoming matchup against LAFC on Saturday.

Orlando Pride, San Diego Wave Play to 1-1 Draw

The Orlando Pride drew 1-1 Friday against the San Diego Wave at Snapdragon Stadium and saw their NWSL record win streak end at eight matches. Julie Doyle scored the opener for the Pride, but the Wave were able to grab an equalizer in the second half as both sides got a point. The Pride remains unbeaten this season in the NWSL. After this weekend’s results across the league, Orlando and the Kansas City Current are tied with 28 points, but Kansas City is in first on goal differential. The Pride will be on the road again this weekend to take on the North Carolina Courage Saturday.

OCB Draws at Home vs. Carolina Core FC, Snags Shootout Point

On Friday, Orlando City B drew 2-2 against Carolina Core FC at Osceola County Stadium. The Young Lions were off to a poor start early in the match, trailing 2-0 in the first half. In the second half, OCB got things back on track with goals from Alex Freeman and Imanol Almaguer to tie the match. It went to penalties after finishing tied. OCB won the extra point with a 6-5 shootout win over Carolina. That result puts the Young Lions back in the playoff hunt in seventh in the Eastern Conference with 18 points. OCB will be back in action Thursday at home against Chattanooga FC.

Colombia Dominates USMNT in Friendly Action

The U.S. Men’s National Team fell 5-1 to Colombia Saturday at FedEx Field and suffered its heaviest defeat under Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. It wasn’t good from the start as the USMNT conceded two goals in the first 19 minutes of the match in the first half. Tim Weah pulled one back for the U.S. before Colombia added three more goals towards the end of the second half to seal the win. Colombia is on a seven-match winning streak and is unbeaten in 22 matches. The last time the USMNT gave up this many goals was in the 2009 Gold Cup final in a 5-0 defeat to Mexico. The U.S. needs to improve fast with its Copa America opener less than two weeks from now. It will be a quick turnaround for the Americans as they take on Brazil Wednesday at Camping World Stadium in their final friendly match before Copa America starts.

Free Kicks

  • FC Dallas has announced the departure of Head Coach Nico Estevez. Assistant Coach Peter Luccin will lead the team on an interim basis while the club begins its search for a new head coach. FC Dallas is 13th in the Western Conference with 14 points.
  • The Chicago Red Stars broke an NWSL attendance record in their match over the weekend as 35,038 fans showed up at Wrigley Field, but the Red Stars lost 2-1 to Bay FC.
  • Wrexham co-owner Rob McElhenney is renewing his efforts to lure former Real Madrid star Gareth Bale out of retirement to join the club. He also stated that the club’s offer is still on the table.
  • In Jesse Marsch’s second match as Canada’s head coach, Canada held France to a scoreless draw in a friendly match on Sunday.

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Monday and I’ll see you next time.

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