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



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.

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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