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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire: Final Score 0-0 as Junior Urso’s Winner Overturned

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Junior Urso thought he’d scored a goal late in the second half, but a lengthy video replay took it off the board and Orlando City was forced to settle for a 0-0 draw against the Fire at Soldier Field in Chicago. No replay shown on the Chicago Fire local broadcast showed any evidence of wrongdoing in the buildup but the goal was disallowed and the game ended in a draw.

The Lions (1-0-1, 4 points) have not won in Chicago since 2015, and now have a 4-5-6 record in the all-time series against the Fire (0-0-2, 2 points) and are just 2-3-3 in Chicago since entering MLS. That should have changed with Urso’s strike but once again the Lions were left wondering why a goal was pulled back.

“So disappointing with that decision from the referee,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I can’t understand at the end what is clear and obvious. We’re not happy with it. I guess we have to deal with it like always and understand this is a game. It may happen to anyone. I liked our intentions. I liked much better our second half in terms of how we used the spaces and how we created some collective plays there in a very physical match.”

“We are a little bit frustrated about the result today,” Urso said.

Pareja’s lineup was the same as last Sunday with two exceptions. Pedro Gallese was in net behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Rodrigo Schlegel (in for the suspended Robin Jansson), Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Urso took Andres Perea’s spot in the central midfield alongside Cesar Araujo. The attacking four remained the same: Benji Michel, Mauricio Pereyra, and Facundo Torres underneath forward Alexandre Pato.

Orlando City came out pressing high and creating issues for the Fire but the Lions did nothing with the turnovers they created.

“The first four or five minutes of this game, I don’t know how to explain but (we were) like nervous, not scared but nervous in the game,” Urso said.

The Lions’ first shot came 14 minutes in and it was sent way off target by Torres from well outside the area. The best buildup for Orlando came at the 18-minute mark when Ruan found a diagonal run by Pato but the pass was a bit behind the forward and the spin took it off his foot and allowed the defense to clear.

Gallese made his first save in the 19th minute off a corner kick that was cleared out of the box. A long-range shot came fizzing back in on goal but El Pulpo tipped it over the bar.

The Lions survived a flurry of corner kicks and settled back into the game. Fabian Herbers took Ruan down hard in transition on one of them and received only a yellow for a cynical and intentional foul.

Pato had a chance to get in on goal in the 25th minute but took a heavy touch just outside the area and tried to corral it at the goal line but lost it out for a goal kick.

Orlando City struggled to connect in the attacking half. Ruan ignored multiple runs by Torres and sent balls to areas he expected the Uruguayan to run into but a different run was made. Several attempts to get balls over the top were hit too hard in the gusting wind and skipped harmlessly out of play.

Xherdan Shaqiri sent a ball in from way outside the box on the right but it was right at Gallese. The Orlando keeper made a save on Herbers in the 41st minute when he collected the ball just inside the top of the area, turned, and sent a soft shot on goal. It was the last look at goal for either side in the half.

Chicago finished the half with more shots (4-2), shots on goal (2-0), corners (4-2), and possession (56.1%-43.9%), and the higher passing accuracy (72.1%-69.4%). Neither of the Lions’ shots were from inside the area and only a Herbers effort for Chicago was from within the penalty box.

Just after the break, Pereyra and Gaston Gimenez traded shots from distance that were well off target, as the gusty night continued to give both teams issues.

Pareja sent Akindele on for Michel in the 52nd as his first sub. Michel had been doing well defensively but his passing and hold-up play all evening was lacking.

Schlegel conceded a set piece in the 53rd minute and Shaqiri’s delivery was blocked by Akindele. The ball bounced back to the Chicago Designated Player but his heavy touch prevented him from creating anything off of the block.

Ruan sent in a dangerous cross in the 55th minute that Fire goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina had trouble with and nearly bounced to Urso for an easy tap in. Slonina was able to re-gather the aerial ball before it got through.

Ercan Kara replaced Pato in the 72nd minute and played a key role in Urso’s would-be game-winner a minute later. The Austrian chested an aerial ball in the box down to Akindele, who sent the ball left to Torres at the top of the area. Torres laid the ball off for the onrushing Urso, who fired a shot headed toward goal. The ball deflected off a defender, leaving Slonina going the wrong way.

The goal looked to have no issues, but then referee Ismir Pekmic went to the monitor to take a look. Pekmic took a long time looking at the video, which appeared on the broadcast to be the same footage the viewers at home were getting. Neither angle showed any clear evidence that the goal shouldn’t have counted.

“Yeah, that for us is really strange,” Urso said of the overturned goal. “It’s different for us because we know the rules. We have to cancel the goal if you are sure. If the image of the VAR is clean. I think the referee was there a long time to watch what happened but (it wasn’t) clear. And then he was reviewing for like three minutes, I don’t know, four minutes. And then he said, ‘No goal,’ but I think he can’t do that because the rule is that it has to be clear to cancel the goal. So, for us that’s not good. We are frustrated about that, but we can’t do anything. We have to respect the referee and MLS, so let’s try to do our best next time.”

Six minutes later, Araujo appeared to be elbowed in the head and Jhon Duran was shown a yellow card. Pekmic seemed fine with allowing Video Assistant Referee Sorin Stoica to handle that call rather than looking at the monitor himself as he had done a few minutes earlier. The yellow card stood.

The last several minutes, Pekmic, who had let a lot of fouls go both ways, despite still calling a lot in this physical match, got card happy and started giving out bookings left and right.

Disaster nearly struck in the 85th minute as Shaqiri was able to pick out striker Kacper Przybylko in the box but the Designated Player was flat footed and his header didn’t have the power or placement to beat Gallese.

After a soft yellow on Araujo and one on Gallese for time wasting — while Orlando was the team more on the front foot — the game went to six minutes of stoppage time. Second-half sub Brian Gutierrez nearly stole the game in the 92nd when he went up over Ruan to head a Shaqiri cross toward goal. His shot sailed mercifully over the bar.

A late set piece delivery was headed wide by Carlos and the match ended at 0-0.

Chicago finished with more shots (9-5), shots on goal (4-0), corners (5-3), and possession (51.6%-48.4%), while Orlando finished with more passing accuracy (72.8%-71.7%).

“That control that we had in the second half allowed us to get closer to our goal and actually score one,” Pareja said. “So we’re going to take this point as a part of our process. I’m proud of the players that came in a difficult field and difficult match, and had a good performance.”

With his clean sheet, Gallese moved to within one of Joe Bendik’s regular-season club career record of 13, but he tied Bendik in all competitions, posting his 13th shutout across all matches.

The teams combined for 35 fouls — 21 by Chicago — and those numbers should have been much higher.

“We tried in the second half just to create more sequences but the game became very choppy for both teams and physical,” Pareja said. “I’m proud of the players because it’s not easy to go away in a difficult environment and match that physicality that Chicago brought to the game.”

“It was a really physical game,” Urso said. “We train a lot to play like 100% every ball. So, I think Chicago did the same today. They were like fighting for every chance. And I think it was like a crazy game for me, because we were more fighting than playing.”


The Lions return home next Saturday to host FC Cincinnati at 7:30 p.m. at Exploria Stadium.

Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. New York City FC

Get all the information you need on NYCFC, courtesy of someone who knows them best.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Another Orlando City match is right around the corner, and the Lions will try to keep the good vibes going during what has been a productive July. It won’t be easy though, as they welcome New York City FC to the familiar confines of the purple palace.

A date with the Pigeons means I caught up with Matthew Mangam, of the excellent Hudson River Blue. As always, he was very helpful in bringing us up to speed on New York City.

When last we talked, you said that this team needed to find its offensive spark again. It certainly managed to do that when it put four past Orlando City. Has that trend continued in the games since then?

Matthew Mangam: It definitely did not happen in the two matches after the win against Orlando. NYCFC did score first against Austin but ultimately lost, and couldn’t even manage two shots on goal against Chicago, drawing 0-0. Last game, NYCFC came back from 2-0 down to tie 2-2 with Atlanta United. The goals came from unusual scorers, Mounsef Bakrar and Talles Magno. So, the offense hasn’t been great recently but with the return of Magno, it can only get better. Players like Hannes Wolf and Santi Rodríguez have slowed down as of recently, resulting in guys like Alonso Martínez to see less of the ball and get fewer scoring chances.

With 29 goals conceded, NYCFC has one of the stingiest defenses in the league, what has made that unit so good?

MM:  NYCFC’s defense is solid, but it wouldn’t be complete without Matt Freese. The All-Star snub has made tons of amazing saves this season to earn NYCFC results and he seems to get better and better as time goes on. Also, the back line of Birk Risa and Thiago Martins has been consistent throughout the season, allowing for the two to get comfortable playing together. Although the right back spot has changed every so often, Kevin O’Toole has stayed as the starting left back. James Sands as the defensive midfielder does a great job in winning the ball back and protecting Martins and Risa. The defensive unit is the same from last season, so it’s only getting stronger with every game played.

It’s always fun to check in on former Lions, so tell me a bit about Andres Perea. How has he performed this season?

MM: Andrés Perea has been good this season, but not as good as he was last season during his loan spell. Perea does have two goals this season and one assist, but he’s given the ball away more than last season. He’s also not been as accurate passing-wise but I am still a huge advocate for him. He just suffered an injury against Chicago and may be out for some time, but I have no doubt that when he returns he’ll be back to his usual self. We’ve seen Nick Cushing use Perea in a three-man midfield with Keaton Parks and Sands as well. He doesn’t seem to be a certain starter, but he’s one of the few midfield depth pieces NYCFC has.

Will anyone be absent due to injuries, suspensions, call-ups, etc.? What is your projected starting XI and score prediction?

MM: NYCFC had five players out against Atlanta. The only set returner is Sands, who is back from yellow card suspension. I’m not sure if Cushing will want to rush back players such as Tayvon Gray, O’Toole, and Perea with such a quick turnaround. Malachi Jones had surgery after the injury he suffered against Orlando and will be out for several months. So, to guess a starting XI that I don’t think will be right, this is definitely the hardest one to predict yet this season.

4-2-3-1: Matt Freese, Christian McFarlane or Kevin O’Toole, Birk Risa, Thiago Martins, Ilenič or Tayvon Gray, James Sands, Keaton Parks, Agustin Ojeda, Santi Rodríguez, Hannes Wolf, Alonso Martínez.

I think the final score will be 2-2, it’ll be an entertaining game.


Thank you to Matthew for the information on NYCFC. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 7/19/24

Dagur Dan Thorhallsson signs new contract, Orlando Pride sign National Team Replacement Players, MLS roster rules change, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! I’ll be spending a majority of the day traveling, as I have a flight to Boston this morning and then a drive up to Maine. It should be a nice weekend with friends, and I’m planning on consuming as much lobster as possible while I’m up there. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Dagur Dan Signs New Contract

Orlando City has signed Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to a new contract that will keep him in the City Beautiful through 2026, with an option for 2027 as well. The versatile player joined Orlando before the 2023 season and has flourished at right back since moving there. He’s locked down the position, so it makes all the sense in the world that Orlando would want to keep him around. Thorhallsson has two goals and three assists to his name so far this season and is a key part of the team’s game plan when attacking.

Ramiro Enrique Makes Team of the Matchday Bench

Forward Ramiro Enrique earned a spot on the bench of the latest Team of the Matchday for his efforts in Orlando’s 3-0 win over Nashville SC on Wednesday. Enrique’s rocketed strike capped off a solid performance, as he was also a force in the air and looked dangerous at the top of Orlando’s offense. The 23-year-old forward was also selected as Man of the Match in our Nic Josey’s player grades for the game. Enrique now has three goals in his past three games, so it’s nice to see him get some deserved recognition.

Orlando Pride Sign National Team Replacement Players

Midfielder Claire Winter and goalkeeper Kenna Caldwell were signed by the Pride as National Team Replacement Players for this international break. The Pride are without seven players due to the Olympics and Winter and Caldwell are available for selection for the upcoming  NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup. Caldwell was a non-roster invitee to the Pride’s preseason and has been training with the team since. Winter has played in Denmark, Spain, Ireland, and Puerto Rico over the course of her career, and she was also a National Team Replacement Player for NJ/NY Gotham FC back in 2021.

MLS Makes Changes to Roster Rules

MLS clubs will have a bit more flexibility in terms of roster construction after the league announced changes that go into effect now that the secondary transfer window is open. Teams can now use all three Designated Player slots and all three U22 Initiative slots, eliminating the limitations that hamstrung some of those slots in the past. There’s also now an option for teams to build their roster with two DP slots, four U22 Initiative slots, and $2 million more in General Allocation Money. Speaking of GAM, up to $3 million of total transfer revenues can be converted into it, which is more than double the amount that it was before.

Only time will tell if these changes are enough to make the league more competitive with others, both on the field and in the transfer market. I feel like the increased flexibility is a positive, and I suspect savvy general managers will find ways to optimize their rosters fairly quickly. Let’s hope Luiz Muzzi can work some magic this transfer window.

USMNT Falls in Latest FIFA Rankings

After a disappointing Copa America that included a group stage exit, the United States fell five spots to 16th in the latest men’s FIFA rankings. While the U.S. underperformed, I do think it’s worth noting that strong tournaments from Uruguay, Germany, and Switzerland also played a part in them rising above the U.S. in the rankings. Mexico dropped two spots to 17th, while Panama and Canada both jumped up eight spots to 35th and 40th, respectively.

Spain moved up five places to third in the rankings following its dominant Euro 2024 run, while Argentina remained at the top after winning Copa America. Colombia jumped up three spots to claim ninth place, while Croatia fell out of the top 10 and is now in 12th.

Free Kicks

  • Former Lion Benji Michel will reportedly sign with Real Salt Lake. The Homegrown Player left Orlando on a free transfer to join FC Arouca in Portugal in January of 2023. It’s definitely going to be weird seeing him play for another MLS team if this comes to pass.
  • The Houston Dynamo made a splash by signing German winger Lawrence Ennali as a U22 Initiative Player. The 22-year-old joins from Polish club Gornik Zabrze for a reported transfer fee of $3 million and should give the Dynamo some needed firepower to compete in the Western Conference.
  • The Philadelphia Union traded away $150,000 in 2024 GAM to St. Louis City in exchange for Samuel Adeniran. The 25-year-old forward scored eight goals for St. Louis last season and the club can receive another $300,000 in GAM if conditions are met as well.
  • Toronto FC added American defender Henry Wingo as a free agent. although it gave $75,000 in 2025 GAM to D.C. United for his discovery rights. The 28-year-old has spent the past four years with Ferencvárosi and has MLS experience due to his time as a Homegrown Player with the Seattle Sounders.
  • The three divisions of the English Football League can be watched through CBS Sports this upcoming season. It’s notable news for those who want to watch Wrexham AFC or Americans like former Lion Daryl Dike.
  • Manchester United has officially signed 18-year-old defender Leny Yoro from Lille. Yoro started in 30 games for Lille last season and United reportedly paid a $67.6 million transfer fee for his services.
  • Patrick Vieira and Strasbourg have parted ways, leaving the French club without a manager just a month before the Ligue 1 season starts. Strasbourg finished 13th in the standings in Vieira’s first year with the club last season.
  • Borussia Dortmund has signed Serhou Guirassy, who scored a whopping 28 Bundesliga goals for Stuttgart last season.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!

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Orlando City

Orlando City Signs Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to New Contract

The Icelandic midfielder-turned-fullback extends his deal to stay in Orlando through at least 2026.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City announced this afternoon that the club has re-signed Icelandic midfielder/fullback Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to a new contract. The new deal will keep the 24-year-old in purple through the 2026 MLS season with a club option for 2027.

“Since Dagur has arrived at the club, he has proven himself to be someone who is adaptive and versatile in all situations, showing a willingness to do whatever the team requires of him in any scenario,” Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “His dedication to hard work and to his teammates is visible every day. He’s a consummate professional, both on and off the pitch, and we’re excited to have him representing our club for the foreseeable future.”

The Lions signed Thorhallsson on Jan. 31, 2023 to a two-year contract with a pair of option years. He joined OCSC from Breidablik in Iceland’s top flight and made his first appearance for the club less than a month later, coming off the bench in Orlando City’s 1-0 opening day win over the New York Red Bulls on Feb. 25, 2023, coming on in the 78th minute to replace Martin Ojeda. After spot duty to start his Orlando career, Thorhallsson converted to fullback and has developed his game and has become a regular starter.

In his career with Orlando City, Thorhallsson has made 54 appearances (34 starts), playing 2,998 minutes. He’s scored four goals and added six assists, passing at an 85.7% rate. He was a part of one of the league’s best defenses in 2023 and has been a key part of a recent improvement by the Lions in their own end. Counting all competitions, Thorhallsson has participated in 65 games (40 starts), adding an assist in non-MLS games to go along with the numbers above. After his first season with Orlando City, The Mane Land staff gave Thorhallsson a solid grade of 6.5 out of 10 for the 2023 season.

“I am so happy to have extended my contract with this amazing club,” Thorhallsson said in the club’s release. “Since I came to Orlando, it has felt like home, and I will be forever grateful for the opportunity I have gotten to play for the best fans in the country. There’s nothing better than a warm, Orlando night at Inter&Co Stadium, so I can’t wait for many more to come. The fans deserve the best, and that is what I will continue to try to give while I am here in Orlando.”

Prior to joining Orlando City, the native of Hafnarfjörður, Iceland native scored 11 goals and added seven assists in 40 appearances with Breidablik, helping the club win the Icelandic championship in 2022. He has appeared in four matches with Iceland’s national team and represented Iceland previously at the U-16, U-17, U-18, U-19, and U-21 levels, scoring two goals at the youth international level.

Thorhallson spent his youth career with Icelandic clubs Fylkir and Haukar, as well as Belgian side Gent from 2013-2018. He began his senior career with six appearances at Haukar in 2016 in his mid-teens. He returned to Iceland from Belgium and appeared in 16 matches with Keflavik, scoring one goal during the 2018-2019 season and appeared in one league match and four cup matches on loan with Norwegian side Mjøndalen IF. He signed with that club in 2019 and made 12 appearances in league play over two seasons from 2019-2021. During that time, he also played 12 games on loan with Kvik Halden FK in 2019, scoring five goals, and played in 20 matches on loan with Fylkir, scoring once.

What It Means for Orlando City

Thorhallsson arrived as a potential midfield replacement for Junior Urso at the beginning of 2023, but with his versatility and willingness to play anywhere, he cemented himself into the right back position around the Leagues Cup break in 2023, helping the Lions go on a successful final run that lifted the club to second in the Supporters’ Shield standings. While he is still developing at the position, and is sometimes still prone to errors, he’s only 24 and has plenty of upside.

Able to tuck inside and help in the midfield, play on the wing, and serve as a wingback or a fullback, Thorhallsson can plug into a lot of spots across multiple formations. He provides Oscar Pareja with some tactical options on how to use him. Thorhallsson has already equaled his goal (2) and assist (3) totals from 2023 in fewer games (albeit more minutes). He has a good rapport with winger Facundo Torres on the right side of Orlando City’s attack and possesses good instincts about when to overlap and when to cut inside.

The signing extends a promising Orlando City career. He should be in the midst of his prime years over the next two seasons, and provides a solid and dependable player.

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