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Orlando City

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



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

Orlando City Parts Ways with Captain Mauricio Pereyra

Orlando City and club captain Mauricio Pereyra have agreed to terminate his contract.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

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.

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Lion Links

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.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

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.

Free Kicks

  • 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.

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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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