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Orlando City vs. Nashville SC: Final Score 2-2 as Lions Roar Back from Two-Goal Deficit



Daryl Dike scored from the penalty spot in his first career attempt and an own goal in stoppage time helped Orlando City come from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 at Nissan Stadium. The Lions (10-8-9, 39 points) were moments from their fifth consecutive loss but got some of the breaks late that have been going against them in recent weeks to earn a much-needed point at second-place Nashville (11-3-13, 46 points).

After Orlando fell behind on a soft penalty, Nashville could play its preferred style of sitting back, staying organized, and looking for opportunities to transition. Orlando played well but struggled to break down that stingy defense until Dike earned, then converted, the penalty.

Hany Mukhtar scored off his own saved penalty and Randall Leal added a second to seemingly put the Lions away but Orlando showed mental toughness to make it a game and got the break it needed.

Orlando City is now 0-0-3 at Nissan Stadium, 1-1-3 overall against Nashville, and the team scoring first has never won in this series.

“Tonight we saw the heart of our players,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the game. “It is a very important point against a good rival, and we take it very proudly.”

Pareja’s starting lineup included Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Rodrigo Schlegel, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Carlos returned from his one-game suspension but Jansson’s yellow card accumulation kept him out of this one, leaving Schlegel in the starting XI. Junior Urso and Sebas Mendez patrolled the central midfield, with Alexander Alvarado — his second MLS start — and Mauricio Pereyra facilitating the attack to Silvester van der Water and Dike.

Nashville took the lead early in the aftermath of a penalty that should never have been given. After a Nashville player collided with Gallese on a corner kick cross from the goalkeeper’s left, the ball skipped out to the edge of the box where Anibal Godoy picked it up with his back to goal. Sebas Mendez tried to nick it away, which he didn’t need to do, but there was only minimal contact. Godoy went down, and referee Drew Fischer bought it, giving Nashville a spot kick after a lengthy delay for video review. Fischer never went to look at it himself and the call stood. Gallese made the save on Mukhtar’s penalty, but the striker got to the rebound first and slipped it through to give the hosts a 1-0 lead just 11 minutes in.

The first Orlando City shot came in the 18th minute on a try from distance by Dike, who smashed it on target but right at goalkeeper Joe Wilis, who fought it off and recovered it before any Lions could pounce.

Mukhtar got around Carlos in the 23rd minute on the left but Schlegel came over to force him to shoot from a tough angle and he hit only side netting.

Nashville was content to sit deep, press only at advantageous moments, and gum up the final third for Orlando. The Lions did well to connect some passes together but even the slightest of heavy touches or off-line passes were cut out by the defense.

Dike won a free kick straight out from goal about 25 yards out and Pereyra took the set piece in the 40th minute. Pereyra’s free kick took a slight deflection off the wall and fizzed just wide of the right post.

Urso had a go from distance but didn’t trouble Willis much in the 44th minute on the last look of the half.

Nashville SC led in shots (8-5), shots on goal (3-2), and corners (4-1), while Orlando City held more possession in the first half (61.6%-38.4%) and was the better passing side (85.9%-80.4%).

The first good chance of the second half fell Orlando’s way when Pereyra fired a shot from distance that was heading in but Willis made a good diving save to keep the game at 1-0.

(Note: Look how Fischer moves into the path of the ball, which could easily have distracted Pereyra from taking it cleanly. SMH)

But, unfortunately, a strange bounce allowed Nashville to double the lead just six minutes later. Pereyra sent a pass forward that hit Moutinho in the back and fell perfectly for Nashville to counter-attack. Leal came right down the middle and Moutinho couldn’t recover after being further upfield. Schlegel had to respect the run of CJ Sapong and was late to step up as a result. Leal fired a blast inside the right post to make it 2-0 in the 59th minute.

Things got worse moments later when Schlegel was booked for a foul on Mukhtar and now he’ll be suspended for Saturday’s match.

Walker Zimmerman should have put the game away in the 66th minute when he got free for an uncontested header on a corner kick but he hit his shot wide. Orlando took advantage of the mistake.

Pareja sent on Nani and Benji Michel on the ensuing stoppage and it nearly paid off right away. A ball forward nearly put Dike in and Zimmerman appeared to impede the forward’s progress by throwing an arm out across his chest. Dike stumbled but didn’t go down until he fell over Willis, who was collecting the ball, and it was Dike called for a foul.

Leal was left with too much space a minute later and fired just a little high and wide of the right post on a dangerous chance.

Nani got his first look at goal in the 69th minute, trying his luck from distance but hitting a shot just wide of the left post. Two minutes later, the captain sent an incredible ball over the top that fell perfectly for Ruan. The right back couldn’t get the ball through to a teammate but did win a corner. Just after the set piece, Nani cut in from the right to the top of the area and fired again but his shot was at Willis.

In the 74th minute, the Lions finally caught a break. Dike tried to bring down a ball in the box and Jack Maher was draped all over him. The touch was heavy and in no way was Dike going to get to the ball first, but Maher still didn’t let go and pulled the forward down. Fischer pointed to the spot immediately and after a short check by the VAR, the call stood.

Dike took the penalty himself and powered it just inside the left post to put Orlando City on the board in the 76th minute. It was Dike’s first career penalty kick goal and his fifth of the season.

“When the ref blew the whistle I just went up and grabbed the ball,” Dike said. “I was confident that I wanted to score the goal and help spark the comeback. I just wanted to put it in the back of the net.”

Nashville tried to pounce right after the restart and Mukhtar got in a decent position on the right, smashing a shot on goal that Gallese saved. A minute later, Nani fired just over the bar again on yet another effort that didn’t miss by much.

Moutinho sent in a long cross in the 83rd minute that Michel got his head on but he couldn’t get on top of it, popping it out of play. With that stoppage, Tesho Akindele checked in for Sebas Mendez to add another attacker.

Schlegel directed a harmless shot at Willis on a training ground set piece that ended up on his foot in the 86th as the Lions kept the pressure on. That pressure finally paid off in stoppage time.

Akindele won a corner kick in the 93rd minute and Nani sent a good cross out in front of the six-yard box. Michel was battling with Brian Anunga on the back post and the ball hit the Nashville player and bounced in to tie the match, although it appeared on first look that Benji knocked it in, especially when seeing his celebration.

“After you have the whole initiative just trying to break them down and then in that counter they punished us, and they overcome those two goals,” Pareja said of his team. “It’s amazing to see how important is the heart of the team, and they have a big one. They have a huge heart and I’m happy for the players. They deserve it.”

Akindele won another late corner in the 96th minute but Fischer called Orlando for a foul while the cross was in the air and that was it for the match.

Nashville finished the game with more shot attempts (15-12) but both teams put six on target. The hosts led in corners (5-4) but Orlando held more possession (63.2%-36.8%) and passed more accurately (86.8%-77.7%).

“We’ve left the field (after recent games) with a sour taste in our mouth and then, after the New England game, I think we competed very well,” Dike said. “And we walked out of the game, even though we had not gotten any points, thinking, ‘Okay, this is when we start changing.’ Even after going down, we still knew that we were going to get a result, that we were gonna change things.”

“I thought we had the initiative the whole game,” Pareja said. “We did not want to give it up. This is the way we do it. This is the way we play, and the boys were faithful to their ways. They defend very low and they’re very effective in the counters, and obviously we lost them in the second goal, but the whole game we had that initiative that just made me feel that the players are intact and that we will keep fighting.”

Orlando City returns home to face D.C. United — which has suddenly leapt into third place — Saturday night at Exploria Stadium.

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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