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Orlando City vs. FC Cincinnati: Final Score 1-0 as Urso’s Early Goal Stands Up for Lions

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Junior Urso scored the game’s only goal and Pedro Gallese made three saves to keep a clean sheet as Orlando City beat FC Cincinnati 1-0 at TQL Stadium. The Lions (12-8-9, 45 points) are now unbeaten in three straight matches (2-0-1) and got a crucial three points against FC Cincinnati (4-17-8, 20 points), which lost its seventh consecutive game — and its fifth of those by a single goal.

The match had plenty of controversy at the end, with substitute Tesho Akindele seemingly scoring a golazo off the crossbar that was (apparently) never reviewed and a potential penalty review against Rodrigo Schlegel in stoppage time that was not given after referee Marcos de Oliveira went to the monitor.

The Lions remained in fourth place, closing to within a point of the Philadelphia Union, who drew against Montreal earlier today.

“A great result for us. We needed it,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “The boys came convinced about getting those three points. I think the effort on the field was great. They showed one more time their character during the whole game.”

Pareja’s lineup once again featured Gallese in net, but there was a change at left back as the questionable Joao Moutinho (lower body, naturally) was left home. Emmanuel Mas slotted in for Moutinho next to Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Andres Perea slotted into central midfield with Urso rather than Sebas Mendez, who was on the bench. Mauricio Pereyra and Chris Mueller were tasked with facilitating the attack to Nani and Daryl Dike. Alexandre Pato returned to the bench for the first time since opening day, although he didn’t get a runout.

Orlando controlled play in the opening minutes and Ruan had a lot of success getting down the right flank without Ronald Matarrita in the Cincinnati lineup. However, the Brazilian right back did not have a lot of success with his crossing, as time and again he put balls in areas without teammates or behind them. Still, he created the opening goal after peeling back to the top of the box and finding a trailing Urso, who sent a perfectly placed shot just inside the right post. The Bear’s fourth goal of the year had Orlando up 1-0 in the 13th minute.

“Sometimes I try to put power in my shot, but I saw one guy in front of the keeper too,” Urso said. “So I tried to make some curve to bend it and it was perfect. Important goal for City.”

Ruan got back in the box in the 16th minute and had his shot blocked. Pereyra’s follow-up was deflected out for a corner. Moments later, Ruan got loose again on the right and had a speeding Mueller to his left but played his pass behind the Lions’ winger.

Gallese made a huge save off a strange play in the 24th minute on Cincinnati’s best chance of the half. A corner kick to the back post came off Urso’s head and deflected back toward his own goal, falling at the feet of Cincinnati’s Geoff Cameron. The defender seemed sure to score but El Pulpo made a vital save to preserve the lead.

Orlando was wasteful with some good buildup play, either passing up potential shots or working the ball around until a poorly placed pass allowed the hosts to collect. As the first half wore on, Cincinnati got more of the ball but didn’t do much with it. Alvaro Barreal fired well over the bar from long range in the 34th minute.

Perea tried a shot from the right side in the 40th minute but hit his shot right at goalkeeper Przemysław Tyton. Nani tried to curl one inside the upper left corner from the right side in the 42nd minute but couldn’t get the shot to curl quite enough. Late in the half, Nani had his shot blocked and it fell to Pereyra on the left. The Uruguayan fired on target but Tyton got a hand to it.

Mueller got a late chance off a corner kick but didn’t hit his shot cleanly and it sailed high into the stands. The Lions took their 1-0 lead into the break.

The Lions dominated in shots (14-4) and had more shots on target (4-2). Orlando also earned more corners (5-2) and was slightly better passing (84.6%-84.5%). Cincinnati held a little more of the possession (50.2%-49.8%).

The hosts made a change at the break, bringing on Allan Cruz for Isaac Atanga and the switch gave Cincinnati a jolt of energy that pushed the Lions back on their heels. Orlando didn’t help matters by being a lot looser with the ball against the pressure.

Brenner thought he’d tied the match in the 48th minute when he fired a shot past Gallese but the whistle had blown for a foul on the entry ball as Perea was pushed to the ground to win the duel.

Orlando finally got a good buildup that led somewhere in the 60th minute when Perea sent Mueller down the right side, but his cross in front of goal was too close to Tyton, who smothered it.

Six minutes later, Perea made a mistake that will have ramifications for Wednesday’s match. Cutting in from the left to the middle of the field, he tried to send a pass across to Carlos, but he not only caught his teammate off guard, he also didn’t get enough on his pass. Carlos was late to the ball and his challenge resulted in a booking that will have him suspended for Wednesday’s game.

The service on the ensuing set piece found the foot of Tyler Blackett at the back post but the fullback could only get a toe on it and pop it straight to Gallese.

Pareja sent Akindele and Benji Michel on for Dike and Mueller, getting fresh legs into an attack that was just not able to get into gear in the second half. The move nearly paid dividends right away, as Michel got down the left side on a pass from Jansson and had Akindele lurking at the far post but Benji’s cross was way too far out in front of his teammate and went out for a goal kick.

Michel was robbed by Tyton in the 77th minute. Pereyra sent Mas down the left flank and the left back found Michel in front. Benji spun and fired a hard shot on target but Tyton was able to get an arm on it and Nick Hagglund sent it out of play a split second before Urso could get to the loose ball.

The Lions should have put the game away in the 84th minute. Akindele found himself in space and fired a cannon shot off the underside of the crossbar that appeared to land across the goal line before bouncing back into the field of play, where Tyton collected it. There was never a stoppage for a review and Pareja said he was never able to talk to the ref after the game about the play to get an explanation.

“I thought we could have that second goal of Tesho’s. I cannot understand why it wasn’t seen,” Pareja said.

The Lions went to five at the back in the 90th minute, sending Schlegel on for Pereyra with the final substitution. His first involvement nearly ended in disaster. A set piece was sent into the box and bodies got tangled. Cincinnati lobbied for a penalty but none was given during live play. However, de Oliveira went to the monitor to take a second look after consulting with VAR Fotis Bazakos. Schlegel’s arm clearly came up and hit the head and neck area of forward Brandon Vazquez on the play but Hagglund appeared to send Schlegel off balance with a foul prior to the play in question. The referee ended up seeing it that way and Gallese took a free kick instead of facing a penalty.

The Lions defended desperately as the game went through nine minutes of stoppage time before de Oliveira ended the proceedings.

Cincinnati finished with slight advantages in possession (52.5%-47.5%) and passing accuracy (83.2%-82.8%), but Orlando out-shot the hosts (18-9) and got more on target (5-3), while earning more corners (6-4).

“The second half was very choppy,” Pareja said. “The first half was much better for us.”

Gallese earned the team’s eighth clean sheet of the season and first since a 0-0 draw against Inter Miami in late August. El Pulpo now has six clean sheets on the season and nine in his Orlando City career, which pushed him past Brian Rowe and into sole possession of second on the club’s all-time list. He is four shy of Joe Bendik’s career club record of 13.

Pareja said that Gallese was adamant about playing in the match despite arriving in Cincinnati late the night before after playing for Peru in the international window.

“In our conversation this morning, the first thing that he said is that he wanted at any cost to play tonight and for us to give him the opportunity to be in the squad,” said Pareja. “That shows his commitment as a great professional. The team is first for him.”

Orlando snapped a six-match winless streak in road games (0-3-3) with the win.

“We’re very happy for those three points. It’s very necessary at this stage,” Pareja said.


The Lions have a quick turnaround with Montreal visiting Exploria Stadium on Wednesday.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/20/24

The Wall sells out, Robin Jansson earns recognition, Concacaf W Gold cup preview, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Tuesday, everyone! We’re now just one day away from the first competitive Orlando City game of the year, and it can’t get here fast enough. As usual, we have plenty to cover this morning, so let’s jump straight into it.

The Wall Sells Out for Orlando City’s Season Opener

The Wall, the supporters section of Orlando City’s stadium, has sold out of single-match tickets ahead of Saturday’s home opener against CF Montreal. Limited tickets for the match are still available for the rest of the stadium, and hopefully it will fully sell out for the first match of the season. This Saturday will be the 10th consecutive time in which the Lions start their MLS season at home. It should be a great match and a chance for Orlando to get its season off to a good start between Concacaf Champions Cup matches against Cavalry FC.

Robin Jansson Praised as a Top Defender in MLS

Orlando City center back Robin Jansson was recognized as one of the best center backs in MLS by MLSsoccer.com‘s Joseph Lowery. The 32-year-old has been an integral part of Orlando’s defense since joining the league in 2019 and should continue anchoring the team’s back line this season. Not only is he excellent in terms of defense, but the Beefy Swede can also make an impact on offense with his passing and surprising runs up the field. Jansson is one of the most consistent defenders in the league and agreed to a new contract with the club earlier this month.

MLS Transfer News Roundup

The 2024 Major League Soccer season might kick off tomorrow, but transfers are still flying thick and fast, which means we have things to catch up on. We start with one of the teams opening the season tomorrow, Inter Miami, which has officially transferred midfielder Gregore to Botafogo in the Brazilian top flight. We move on to NYCFC, which has completed the signing of striker Jovan Mijatović from Red Star Belgrade. The 18-year-old Serbian youth international has inked a deal that runs through the 2028 season, with an option year for 2029. We finish up with the Houston Dynamo, which have signed Coco Carasquilla to a contract extension. The Panamanian midfielder’s deal now runs through the 2025 season and has option years for 2026 and 2027.

Concacaf W Gold Cup Preview

The inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup kicks off later today, so make sure you get up to speed on everything you need to know about the competition. The United States Women’s National Team has been grouped with Argentina, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico, and will be looking for a strong showing following a disappointing campaign at last summer’s World Cup. The tournament will feature a total of 12 teams, with eight Concacaf representatives and four from CONMEBOL. The top two finishers in each of the three groups advance to the knockout round, along with the top two third-place finishers. The USWNT begin play tonight against the Dominican Republican at 10:15 p.m. from Dignity Health Sports Park.

Americans in Midweek Action

With a number of American players taking part in games during the working week, get everything marked down on your calendar so you don’t miss anything. Things get started this afternoon with a huge game, as Malik Tillman, Ricardo Pepi, Sergino Dest, and PSV Eindhoven take on Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League. European competition continues on Thursday as well, with Christian Pulisc, Yunus Musah, and AC Milan facing Rennes in the Europa League play. Things finish out on Friday as the red-hot Brandon Vazquez and Monterrey face Juarez in Liga MX competition.

Minnesota United Close to Coaching Hire

A coaching search that will surely go down as one of the most thorough in MLS history is nearing its conclusion, as Minnesota United is reportedly close to naming Manchester United assistant Eric Ramsay as the team’s new skipper. While nothing is official yet, Ramsay is said to be the leading candidate, and The Athletic‘s Tom Bogert says that the team is closing in on the hire. If he joins, Ramsay will become the youngest coach in league history at the tender age of 32, and he will also become Minnesota’s second coach following Adrian Heath’s departure in October of last year.

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

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Opinion

Orlando City’s 10th Anniversary is the Time to Remember the Club’s Originals

Orlando City’s 10th year in MLS should be used to honor the players who built the club.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

The 2024 season is Orlando City’s 10th in Major League Soccer. The club has scheduled several events throughout the year to celebrate having been in the country’s top division for a decade, but the season should also be a time for fans to reflect on the people who made it happen without getting to experience the result.

Orlando City arrived in Orlando in 2010 with the goal of reaching MLS. However, it was the first professional soccer team in the city since the 1990s and resides in a football hotbed, leaving many to wonder if the team would be successful. The most famous doubt came at the team’s inaugural media day, when longtime WESH 2 sportscaster Pat Clake told club founder Phil Rawlins and inaugural Head Coach Adrian Heath that, while he wished them luck, a professional soccer team in Orlando would never work.

The Orlando project got off to a much better start than the Austin Aztex, Rawlins’ former project. During the team’s first season in 2011, Orlando City substantially outdrew its predecessor, proving there was an appetite for soccer. But there was another factor to the team’s popularity. The Lions won…a lot.

The success of a team at home has a significant impact on the enjoyment of attending games. In four USL Pro seasons, Orlando City was 40-3-9 (W-L-D) at the Citrus Bowl (now Camping World Stadium) and Walt Disney World’s ESPN Wide World of Sports, winning three regular season titles and two USL Pro championships. Seeing the local team win and score frequently is much more likely to result in people returning for more games. That’s exactly what the Lions did, and it helped to create a following.

When MLS considered Orlando City for expansion, the league looked at average attendance, season ticket numbers, and community involvement. All of these factors were directly related to the team’s success on the field. For this reason, the key players on those teams are responsible for Orlando City being in MLS in the first place. 

In addition to their work on the field, the players from the USL Pro era worked in the community to build a following. They spoke with local groups and were active throughout Central Florida, convincing people to attend games. It was all about the effort of getting the team into MLS. Unfortunately, many of those players didn’t get to experience the results of their labor.

The core of Orlando City’s team from 2011 to 2013 remained the same, with Miguel Gallardo in goal, Luke Boden at left back, Rob Valentino at center back, Kevin Molino and Jamie Watson in the midfield, and Dennis Chin up top. The success they had resulted in the club being announced as the newest expansion side on Nov. 19, 2013. However, of those six stalwarts, only Boden and Molino continued with the team into MLS.

Over the past 10 years, Orlando City has had several star and fan favorite players come and go. As the club’s USL Pro era gets further in the rearview mirror, the players who built the organization are forgotten or unknown by a large portion of the fanbase that didn’t experience the early seasons.

To the club’s credit, Orlando City worked to keep the memory of the team’s foundation alive in recent years. This preseason, Chin, Lewis Neal (a 2011 original who returned to the team in MLS), and Dom Dwyer (who was on loan with the team in 2013 and returned in 2017) were involved in the popular away jersey unveiling. Additionally, Chin signed autographs and took part in a Q&A session during the Society XXI preseason game against the New England Revolution. They’ve had other events, like the 2022 U.S. Open Cup games against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, when former players have been invited back.

Additionally, the club raised banners last year for the 2011 and 2013 USL Pro championships and announced this year that it will display the trophies in a new permanent exhibit called “The Vault.” The club also released an updated version of the three-lion USL Pro logo from those first four seasons.

When people consider the factors that resulted in Orlando City joining MLS in 2015, the fan support during the USL Pro years is the first thing that comes to mind. But without the success of those teams and the work the players put into building the following, the club likely never would’ve made it to the top division. This 10th anniversary season is a good time to remember those club legends.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/19/24

Orlando City wins preseason finale, post-match concert artists named, U.S. Open Cup in jeopardy, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Merry Monday morning, Mane Landers. We’re about to get to see Orlando City play matches in both the MLS regular season and the Concacaf Champions Cup. Cavalry FC is up first on Wednesday and CF Montreal on Saturday. That’s a whole lot of Canada to start things off, eh? Before we get to the links, please join us in wishing a happy birthday to Orlando Pride star Marta, who turns 38 today.

Orlando City Defeats the Rapids in Preseason Finale

The Lions won their final preseason match against the Colorado Rapids 3-2 at Inter&Co Stadium on Saturday. Kyle Smith got the scoring going mere seconds into the match and Facundo Torres doubled the lead on a penalty kick before the end of the first half. The Rapids tied it up in the second half, but Orlando City rookie Jeorgio Kocevski scored a late winner in stoppage time to keep the Lions unbeaten in the preseason. Orlando ended the preseason schedule with a record of 4-0-1.

Orlando Postgame Concert Announced

As I get older, I see each decade get its time in the nostalgic spotlight. Evidently, it is the 1990s’ turn. Orlando City announced a concert that will follow the Austin FC match at Inter&Co Stadium on March 23. You didn’t ask for it — and neither did anyone else — but Vanilla Ice, Rob Base, and Montell Jordan are headlining an “I Love the 90s” post-match concert. I’m not entirely certain if everyone will be required to stop, collaborate, and listen, but it’s certainly a possibility.

PRO Referee Strike Looms

Normally, if I told you that Orlando City didn’t have to worry about the Professional Referees Organization (PRO), I’m willing to bet you’d be pretty happy. Now it’s a real possibility that the Lions’ first match will likely have stand-in referees. The Professional Soccer Referees Association rejected a new collective bargaining agreement with PRO, meaning that there will be a lockout. PRO has identified “qualified replacements” ready to make sure that matches will be able to be played.

Open Cup in Jeopardy

The start of the 2024 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup is only a month away, although that isn’t a certainty. U.S. Soccer and MLS are still not seeing eye to eye regarding how many of the senior squads will participate. On the other side of the equation, the USL is pushing back against the demands from MLS.

Ultimately, this is a power struggle between the upper levels of organized soccer in this country. If a compromise solution can’t be found, it could mean that the Open Cup won’t take place this year. If that happens, it won’t help any of the involved parties and it will be devastating to the supporters of all the clubs at every level.

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  • Thanks to Zakaria Taifi’s mother, Alyssa Taifi, we know that Orlando City B defeated Philadelphia Union II by a score of 4-0 in a preseason scrimmage, and that there was some chippiness in the match.
  • Inter Miami is under pressure to get roster compliant. As such, Federico Redondo will not be joining the Herons due to Miami’s inability to bring him in because of MLS regulations regarding payment methodology.
  • Inter Miami midfielder Victor Ulloa announced he is retiring, which will also help Miami’s roster cap problems.

That will do it for today. Check back for our coverage of Orlando City’s two matches this week. Vamos Orlando!

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