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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.

Opinion

Wide Players Made the Difference in Victory Over Cavalry FC

Orlando’s fullbacks and wingers had great games against Cavalry, and it helped propel the Lions to victory.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City began its 2024 season with a resounding and confident 3-0 win over Cavalry FC on the road up in Canada. The Lions grabbed control of the game with an early goal and never let up, and now go into next week’s home leg in excellent position to advance to the next round. Everyone who played out wide for OCSC can and should take a well-earned bow for their performances, as it was their excellent games that pushed the Lions to a big advantage after the first leg.

The first goal looked easy enough, but it was a product of good vision and better execution. After collecting the ball near midfield, Wilder Cartagena turned into space and played a quick ball out to Ivan Angulo on the left wing. Martin Ojeda began his run in a fairly central position, but recognized that there was space behind fullback Shamit Shome, and immediately went to it. He was rewarded when Angulo took one touch to collect the ball, another to settle it, and used his third to play Ojeda into the space behind Shome, with defensive midfielder Jesse Daley coming back to cover. However, the pass from Angulo was perfectly weighted and Ojeda was able to use his first touch to play a cross into the box, preventing Daley from getting in the way of his delivery. Ojeda laid the ball on a plate, and Duncan McGuire made no mistake from close range.

The second goal also came as a result of play out wide, although it was more a goal of individual brilliance than team skill. Dagur Dan Thorhallsson drove at the heart of the retreating Cavalry defense, and pulled three players to him before releasing the ball at precisely the correct time to Facundo Torres on the right wing. Once there, the man defending Torres, William Akio, made the cardinal sin of allowing Facu to cut in on his left foot, and Orlando’s new no. 10 made the opposition pay with a shot to the near post that skipped off the turf and beat Marco Carducci, who admittedly maybe should have done better with it than he did.

The dagger came as a result of more excellent play down the left-hand side. Nicolas Lodeiro, Angulo, and Ramiro Enrique used some slick one-touch passing that resulted in Enrique sending Angulo in behind on the left. Enrique’s ball to free his fellow Colombian was perfectly weighted, and Angulo was able to use his first touch to play a perfect lofted cross to the back post, where Torres dispatched it with a beautiful diving header for his second of the match.

Numbers don’t lie, and they back up the assertion that the wide players had good games. Thorhallsson promptly picked up where he left off at right back, finishing with 81% passing accuracy, one key pass, one assist, one clearance, and one interception. If he keeps this up, then Mikey Halliday is going to have a fight on his hands when it comes to the starting job. Kyle Smith quietly had a good game on the opposite side of the defense, completing one dribble, winning a tackle, and recording four clearances, although his 72% passing accuracy could have been better.

Ivan Angulo was an absolute terror, and looked even more dangerous on the slick turf than he normally does on grass fields. He gave the Cavalry defense fits, and completed four dribbles, recording two key passes, a cross, two long balls, an interception, a tackle, and an assist while completing 84% of his passes. As in seasons past, the big question for him this year surrounds his decision-making in the final third and his finishing. If both of those attributes continue to improve, then he’ll be an almighty handful for opposing defenses.

Torres was, well, Torres. He’s been the straw that stirs Orlando City’s drink for two years now, and Wednesday night was no different. Facu took three shots and scored with the two he put on target, completed 86% of his passes, logging one key pass. He also completed a dribble and chipped in with a clearance and an interception on defense. Time will tell if he’s managed to add the use of his right foot to his game yet, but he was a pleasure to watch, as usual.

I also want to take a moment to shout-out Ojeda. While he was deployed through the middle in the no. 10 role, rather than out wide, where we’re used to seeing him, he was excellent. The Argentine repeatedly drifted into the half-spaces between center back and fullback and had a field day pulling the strings, as he finished with a whopping five key passes. If he can translate that sort of performance to MLS, then a lot of pressure will be taken off the aging legs of Nico Lodeiro.


In short, the Lions made their living on Wednesday by stretching the field, getting the ball to their dangerous players out wide, and then making and executing the correct decisions once it was there. There were a lot of things to like offensively about the performance, and it provided plenty to build on when OCSC opens MLS play against CF Montreal tomorrow. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links: 2/23/24

Orlando Pride’s Megan Montefusco placed on season-ending injury list, Orlando City’s chances to win it all, USWNT plays Argentina tonight, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! It’s the final Friday before we spend pretty much every weekend screaming our hearts out for Orlando’s soccer teams. Although I won’t be in Orlando for tomorrow’s game, I’ll be cheering along from Tampa and am looking forward to a strong start to the season from the Lions. Before we get into today’s links, let’s all wish a happy birthday to our favorite octopus, Pedro Gallese!

Megan Montefusco Placed On Season-Ending Injury List

The Orlando Pride suffered a blow to their defense as center back Megan Montefusco was placed on the season-ending injury list after undergoing surgery on her right foot. Montefusco joined the Pride through a trade before the 2022 season and did well coming off the bench last season to keep Orlando’s defense strong as the year wore on. The Pride have options to fill the void, as Carrie Lawrence is back in the fray after missing last season due to injury and Tori Hansen will be back once her time on loan in Australia is up. Orlando could also go out and bring in a veteran to replace Montefusco or sign Cori Dyke, who was drafted by the Pride in the second round. Regardless, losing Montefusco is rough, considering Rafaella will likely be with Brazil for the Olympics this summer.

Orlando City’s Championship Credentials

Joseph Lowery of MLSsoccer.com detailed the strengths and weaknesses of each MLS team in terms of having what it takes to win it all this year. Orlando City followed up a pretty stellar off-season with a nearly perfect preseason. Head Coach Oscar Pareja, winger Ivan Angulo, and midfielder Wilder Cartagena are all sticking around, while Robin Jansson, Facundo Torres, and the front office brain trust of Luiz Muzzi and Ricardo Moreira were locked down as well. Additions of David Brekalo, Luis Muriel, and Nico Lodeiro also ensured this team has few holes. There’s concern that there are too many mouths to feed though, and that no single player can take the reins of the offense. I disagree on that being much of an issue though, as the attack is fluid enough to beat different teams in different ways. The Lions may go without All-Star representation as a result, but they should rack up plenty of points spreading the wealth on offense.

USWNT Takes on Argentina Tonight

The United States Women’s National Team will face Argentina tonight at 10:15 p.m. in its second game of the inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup. The U.S. did well in its 5-0 win over the Dominican Republic, but there were opportunities to score even more. Since there will be reseeding for the knockout stages, scoring plenty of goals will benefit the USWNT. Midge Purce was excellent in the opener and the USWNT will need to be sharper at putting away good service from the wings. Argentina held Mexico to a scoreless draw in its opener and will likely be hungry to score its first goal of the tournament.

Keeping Up With the Europa League

The first round of the Europa League’s knockout stage came to a close after a drama-filled day of soccer. Only one game went to penalty kicks, as AS Roma beat Feyenoord after a 1-1 draw thanks to two saves from Mile Svilar in the shootout. There was a thriller in Azerbaijan as well. A red card reduced Qarabag FK to 10 men and Braga took full advantage, scoring twice to send the game into extra time. They then traded goals until 19-year-old winger Nariman Akhundzade gave Qarabag the winner in stoppage time. In Germany, SC Freiburg came back from a two-goal deficit to beat Lens in extra time as well.

Elsewhere, a red card doomed Galatasaray as Sparta Prague rallied late to win, and AC Milan survived a hat trick from Rennes midfielder Benjamin Bourigeaud to advance on aggregate. Sporting CP, Marseille, and Benfica all booked their spot in the round of 16 as well, with the draw set for today.

Free Kicks

  • New food vendors will be available for fans at Orlando City and Orlando Pride home games this year, with Flippers Pizzeria Company now a permanent addition. New options for the rotating carts include Pardon My Cheesesteak and Omusubee Japanese Rice Balls.
  • Congratulations to Pride defender Emily Madril on getting married!

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 vs. CF Montreal: Three Keys to Victory

What does Orlando City need to do to secure all three points in the home opener against CF Montreal?

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City will host CF Montreal in the club’s first match of the 2024 MLS regular season this Saturday night. The Lions are coming off the Concacaf Champions Cup match against Cavalry FC Wednesday night. Orlando City will want to get things started the right way as expectations and aspirations are higher than ever for the club.

What does Orlando City need to do to secure a victory in the home opener against their Canadian opponents?

Roster Management

Orlando City has four matches in 11 days — the previously mentioned Wednesday match against Cavalry in Canada, the match against Montreal on Saturday, the return match against Cavalry in Orlando next Tuesday, and then a trip to Ft. Lauderdale to take on Inter Miami. That is quite a start to competitive play in 2024.

Because of the schedule congestion, Oscar Pareja will need to rotate players. That means we’re not likely to have the preferred starting 11 as much as any of us will like. Kyle Smith, Michael Halliday, Jeorgio Kocevski, and others will likely see playing time. How well Pareja manages when to use which players, and for how long, will determine not just the result of this match against Montreal, but for each of the other matches as well.

Defensive Communication

Rodrigo Schlegel is serving a suspension in this first league match and will not be available. That means Orlando City’s newest center back, David Brekalo, will probably get the start alongside Robin “The Beefy Swede” Jansson. Having a good center back pairing is absolutely essential to the success of any defense. We know that because once Jansson and former Lion Antonio Carlos worked together for a while, they became an absolute fortress on the back line.

Now, Jansson will need to build the same chemistry with Brekalo if the Lions want to maintain their position as one of the best defenses in the league. With Schlegel unavailable, there is no question that Jansson and Brekalo will have the opportunity to start building that relationship. Hopefully, it will be good enough to keep Montreal — especially Josef Martinez — out of the goal.

Keep Torres Scoring

Facundo Torres had a great preseason. Orlando City’s new owner of the No. 10 shirt needs to keep doing the same. He’ll need to score goals, provide assists, and create problems for Montreal’s defense. Traditionally, Montreal has put out a three-man back line. While that means it’ll be a five-man back line when Orlando City has the ball, during changes of possession there should be space for Torres to get free and get scoring opportunities.

If Montreal smartly tried to contain Torres, then it will have to deal with Duncan McGuire, Nico Lodeiro, and Ivan Angulo. Orlando City’s offense has the potential to score quite a few more goals this season, and it all starts Saturday night against Montreal. Get two on the board and I think it will mean three points in the standings.


That is what I will be looking for Saturday night. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Vamos Orlando!

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