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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.

Orlando City

Orlando City Signs First-Round Draft Pick Jeorgio Kocevski

Orlando City signs its first-round draft pick Jeorgio Kocevski to a one-year deal with three option years.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City SC announced the signing of first-round 2024 MLS SuperDraft pick Jeorgio Kocevski today. The deal is through the upcoming 2024 season with club options for 2025, 2026, and 2027. The Lions selected the Syracuse midfielder with the 21st overall pick in the draft in December.

“Jeorgio has had a really strong preseason camp with us, demonstrating everything we saw in him when we were scouting him and analyzing his game in college,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “He’s done well working his way into the group, even starting in our friendly against Flamengo and holding his own against some of the best in Brazil, and we’re excited to have him with us this season.”

The box-to-box midfielder made three appearances this preseason, starting against Brazilian club Flamengo and the following scrimmage against USL Championship side Rhode Island FC. He came on at halftime against the Colorado Rapids last weekend, scoring the winning goal in the 90th minute.

Prior to being selected by the Lions, the Liverpool, NY, native made 71 appearances with 65 starts and logged 5,599 minutes for Syracuse in four years. He scored seven goals and recorded 18 assists, putting 33 of his 93 shots on frame. Additionally, he was part of Syracuse’s 2022 NCAA national championship team, playing 90 minutes in the 2-2 draw, but missing in the team’s victorious shootout over Indiana.

Kocevski had a breakout junior year, being named to the United Soccer Coaches’ All-South Region third team, All-ACC third team, NCAA All-Tournament team, and ACC All-Tournament team. During his senior year, he wore the armband for the Orange and was named All-ACC first team and ACC Co-Midfielder of the Year.

What It Means for Orlando City

Kocevski was the most likely pick from this most recent draft to be signed by Orlando City. The departure of club captain Mauricio Pereyra left a spot in the midfield and Head Coach Oscar Pareja seemed to feel the rookie could fill it from early on. His start against Flamengo was in the place of regular starter Cesar Araujo, who was on international duty with the Uruguay U-23 national team. He played against Flamengo’s best lineup and did quite well in almost an hour on the field in his first minutes of play at the professional level.

While a spot was open for the signing of Kocevski, he likely won’t see much of the field for the first team this season. In addition to being behind starters Araujo and Wilder Cartagena, the defensive midfielder will be behind Felipe on the depth chart. In all likelihood, the rookie will slot in with Orlando City B in MLS NEXT Pro to get some minutes, but there is room for him to start regularly with that team.

Kocevski is currently the only player signed by the club from the Lions’ 2024 draft class. West Virginia midfielder Yutaro Tsukada, Pittsburgh midfielder Filip Mirkovic, and Charlotte midfielder Riyon Tori remained unsigned, with the latter opting to return to school for his senior season.

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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.

Free Kicks


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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