Orlando City won 5-0 in a dominant performance at home against the San Jose Earthquakes Tuesday night. Nani got the scoring started from a penalty and then Benji Michel and Daryl Dike both had braces as the Lions have now scored the most goals of any team in the Eastern Conference, with 16.
The Lions are riding high after the win, but how did each player perform? Here are your player grades from the match, as well as who earned the title of Man of the Match.
GK, Brandon Austin, 6.5 — In his second start as a Lion, Austin didn’t have to make a save until first-half stoppage time. Javier Lopez fired a rocket from outside the box, but Austin managed to jump and make a great save to deny him. That was Austin’s only save of the match as San Jose didn’t manage to put any of its other 11 shots on target. With the result, Austin gets his first clean sheet as a Lion. He completed 81.3% of his passes and three of his six long balls and, importantly, didn’t spill the wet ball when handling San Jose’s crosses.
D, Joao Moutinho, 6 — Moutinho only played the first half and had 24 touches as Orlando’s wingers handled most of the work on the sides of the pitch. He made 17 passes at a 76% success rate and had a tackle and an interception. On short rest after playing 90 minutes Saturday, it made sense for Oscar Pareja to take Moutinho off and we may see more of him this Friday in Miami.
D, Robin Jansson, 7 — There was a bit of a scary moment in the 29th minute when Moutinho’s clearance smacked Jansson right in the head at close range. The medical staff came on to check him out and he went the distance without any issues. Jansson led the team with a whopping five clearances, putting an end to many of San Jose’s attempts to get back in the match. The Beefy Swede also had a tackle and an interception while tying Andres Perea for the most touches on the team with 59. He did well building out of the back with 50 total passes at a 92% success rate.
D, Antonio Carlos, 7 — It was Carlos’ ninth start this season and the fifth time he’s guided Orlando’s defense to a shutout in 2021. Carlos made three defensive blocks, including one early on that could’ve given Austin trouble and potentially change the momentum of the game. The Brazilian center back also had two tackles, two clearances, and an interception to help stop the Earthquakes right in their tracks. Carlos made a key pass in the 88th minute, sending Benji Michel down the field in transition. It was another solid night for Carlos and he finished third on the team with 55 touches and was successful on 89% of his 46 passes.
D, Kyle Smith, 6.5 — The fullback started on the right and then shifted to the left side for the second half as he continues to impress this season with his versatility. It was a quieter game than usual for Smith as he had just 36 touches, one tackle, and one cross that ended up unsuccessful. But a quiet night for a defender in a shutout win is hardly a bad thing and he completed 93% of his 28 passes. His ability to play on either side allowed Pareja to sub off Moutinho and he’s played every minute this season to help cover Orlando’s lack of depth at fullback.
MF, Junior Urso, 6 — It may have just been due to the rainy conditions at Exploria Stadium, but Urso was sloppy at times in the first half and had some miscues when passing. But in the 44th minute after the weather delay, he made a key pass in on goal that Dike shot just wide. Two of Urso’s three shots were deflected and the third was sent wide after he didn’t make clean contact. He was subbed off for Mauricio Pereyra in the 56th minute and ended the night with 35 touches, 29 passes at an 83% success rate, a tackle, and one successful dribble.
MF, Andres Perea, 6.5 — It was another full shift for Perea while filling in for Sebas Mendez in the midfield. The 20-year-old had two shots, sending one wide and the other right at goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski. He tied Jansson for a team-high in both touches (59) and passes (50), completing the latter at an 84% rate as he connected Orlando’s offense and defense. Defensively, Perea pitched in with two tackles, including a good one late in the match that ended a San Jose opportunity.
MF, Chris Mueller 7 — Although he is still on the hunt for his first goal of the season, Mueller had his fourth assist of the season. He played the ball into a dangerous area in the box for Michel to pounce on. He had just 32 touches and 26 passes at a 77% success rate over the course of 77 minutes of action, but he was still effective on offense and led the team with four key passes. His only attempted cross wasn’t successful and he had a good opportunity after a set piece from the training ground that sent the ball to him in front of goal, but nothing came of it. While he didn’t have a shot in this one as concerns grow over his scoring drought, Mueller is quietly tied with Tesho Akindele for most assists on the team this season, with four, and tied with Mauricio Pereyra for most key passes with 13.
MF, Benji Michel 9 (MotM) — It didn’t take long for Michel to make an impact in the match, using his speed and some silky footwork to breeze past Judson and draw a late tackle from Florian Jungwirth for a penalty in the sixth minute. Nani converted the penalty for an early lead and Michel scored one for himself in the 16th minute. Mueller played a ball in on goal and Michel surged past Paul Marie’s attempt to shield him and poked the ball past Marcinkowski before the goalkeeper could collect it.
In the 90th minute, with victory already assured, Michel was still hungry to score and got his brace after powering the ball into the bottom right corner from close range. Michel led the team with five shots, putting three on target, and was successful on three of his four attempted dribbles. While he was only dispossessed once, Michel did hold the ball too long at times as defenders clogged passing lanes and left him without options. The Homegrown Player also had a key pass, a clearance, 33 touches, and was successful on all but one of his 16 passes (94.4%). While most of the offense thrived in this one, Michel is our Man of the Match for setting the tone early on and directly contributing to three of Orlando’s five goals.
F, Nani, 8.5 — The captain was as cool as can be when scoring from the spot, cleanly tucking the ball into the bottom left corner. While it won’t be in a highlight reel like some of his other goals this season, it was great to see him convert after two post-season penalty misses in the recent past. Nani reveled in the open spaces the Earthquakes allowed, although their defense did well preventing him from cutting back in front of goal and blocked his only attempted cross in open play. Nani’s best moment of the match came on the team’s third goal when he sent a sublime ball through a tight window between defenders for Dike to put it away. In the second half, he got his second assist of the night from a free kick service for Dike’s second goal.
He played 71 minutes and ended the night with three key passes, a shot on target, and three successful dribbles. Nani finished fourth on the team in touches, with 43, and had 33 passes at a 73% success rate in another strong performance since his suspension.
F, Daryl Dike, 9 — Dike spoke with Pareja and Nani on the sideline while Jansson was receiving treatment and then the two players connected for a goal just a few minutes later. In the 31st minute, Dike made a strong run to reach a perfect pass from Nani and, after a great first touch that got him around Marcinkowski, he scored with his left foot from a tough angle for his first goal of the season. His second goal came in the 49th minute when he got his head on Nani’s cross off of a set piece and powered it home.
Dike honestly could have scored even more goals in this one as he looked lethal no matter how difficult the angle. He was subbed off in the 71st minute and finished with four shots, with only one off target. Dike was successful on eight of his 12 passes and had 24 touches as well in his first start of the season.
D, Michael Halliday (45’), 7 — The Homegrown Player came out of the gate in the second half like a man possessed. He sprinted down the field to earn a corner for the Lions and then won a foul that led to Orlando’s set piece goal. It was definitely his best game as a Lion so far and he led the team in tackles, with three, while adding two clearances as well. On offense, he attempted three crosses but none found their target and he’ll need to work on getting those past the first defender. He ended the game with 23 touches and completed seven of his nine passes. Cade Cowell beat him a few times, but it was a great outing for Halliday as he received important minutes.
MF, Mauricio Pereyra (55’), 7 — Coming off the bench for the first time this season, Pereyra nearly scored in stoppage time with a good look in front of goal, but his shot hit the woodwork. He had two key passes as well, but neither Perea nor Tesho Akindele could put their shots on frame. He managed a secondary assist on Michel’s second goal. Still, Pereyra did well to keep the Lions’ offense roaring until the final whistle. The Uruguayan finished with 31 touches and completed 22 of his 27 passes.
MF, Alexander Alvarado (71’), 6 — Alvarado had a nice cross that found Pereyra and then Akindele, but Alvarado otherwise didn’t make much of an impact in the match. He did deflect a shot from outside the box, but was also dispossessed twice. It was his longest appearance yet as a Lion and he had 17 touches and completed nine of his 10 passes.
F, Tesho Akindele (71’), 7 — Coming on to replace Dike, Akindele did well creating chances up top for the Lions. He got his fourth assist of the year by laying the ball off to Michel for the team’s final goal and nearly had another assist but Pereyra hit the post. Akindele’s only shot of the match was sent just over the bar and he finished with 11 touches and a 78% passing rate on nine total passes.
MF, Uri Rosell (77’), 6.5 — Rosell completed 12 of his 13 passes in his season debut, including a pair of long balls to help spark Orlando’s offense. He also had an interception and 15 touches as Pareja eases him back into action. It was nice seeing him back out there on the field to anchor Orlando’s central midfield.
That’s how I saw everyone’s performance, but what did you see in Orlando’s biggest win so far this season? Let us know in the comments below and make sure to vote for your Man of the Match as well.
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Orlando City Parts Ways with Captain Mauricio Pereyra
Orlando City and club captain Mauricio Pereyra have agreed to terminate his contract.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Junior Urso
The Bear returned unexpectedly in the middle of the season to bolster the Orlando midfield.
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.
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.
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.
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)
Orlando City Parts Ways with Captain Mauricio Pereyra
2023 Orlando Pride Season in Review: Emily Madril
PawedCast Episode 391: Orlando City Off-Season Roster Predictions
Lion Links: 12/5/23
Lion Links: 12/4/23
PawedCast Episode 391: Orlando City Off-Season Roster Predictions
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Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Five Takeaways
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Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Final Score 2-0 as 10-Man Lions Fall at Home in Extra Time
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Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More
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Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Player Grades and Man of the Match
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