Orlando City’s trip to Los Angeles took on added importance after fumbling away points at home to FC Cincinnati a week ago. The Lions have historically done poorly on the west coast, especially in the state of California, so I wasn’t too optimistic about them bringing points home, let alone three. Yet the team dug in and kept concentration throughout a tight, nervy affair, playing much of it in their own third. Orlando City’s 1-0 win over the Galaxy can be seen as a “makeup win” of sorts after the Cincinnati game, because fans may have expected those results to be reversed when looking ahead at the schedule.
Let’s get to the individual performances in a vital road victory.
GK, Pedro Gallese, 8 — Thanks to the team in front of him, El Pulpo wasn’t called on that often to make big saves, but he did so when needed. Much like the Lions at home against Cincy, the Galaxy weren’t sharp in the final third. Credit some of that to the defense, of course. Gallese finished with three saves. One was a good one on a shot through traffic by Chicharito. He couldn’t control the rebound, but it luckily was a bit out of Kevin Cabral’s reach for the put-back. He did well on a smashed shot/cross at the near post by Efrain Alvarez in the second half, sacrificing a sensitive part of his body to smother a dangerous ball in that could have gone anywhere. It wasn’t the Octopus’ best passing game at just 53.6% (and just 8/20 on long balls) but it was often a case of “anywhere will do,” and you don’t take chances on the road — especially with Chicharito on the field.
D, Joao Moutinho, 6 — This wasn’t the Portuguese left back’s strongest game, but he was asked to do a lot, leading the team in touches (68 — 11 more than the next closest Lion, Cesar Araujo) and being tasked with watching Douglas Costa and Alvarez. He had a couple of bad giveaways that led to chances, and he was roasted by Alvarez on the play mentioned above. Moutinho was dispossessed twice and had three bad touches. I didn’t like the yellow card, which came on a ball he won cleanly and his opponent got there late and got himself clipped on the follow through when he wasn’t abnormally extended. Some of his missteps come down to volume due to being on the ball so often. That doesn’t excuse his lack of connectivity in the final third — on one occasion he was indecisive about getting to the end line and got his cross blocked out for a corner. Still, Joao had two tackles, an interception, two clearances, and a blocked shot. He had one dribble and passed at an 85% rate, but was just 1-for-4 on long balls and 0-for-2 on crosses.
D, Robin Jansson, 6.5 — The Beefy Swede had a workmanlike effort, helping keep Chicharito and Cabral quiet in front. It wasn’t a perfect game, with Jansson passing at just 82.6%, which was the lowest on the back line. He was 2/4 on long balls but didn’t realease those really killer line-breaking passes we’re used to seeing and he was conservative about jumping into the play, which was probably by design. He blocked three shots and had three clearances to go with his two interceptions. He had the fewest touches of the back line players with a quietly solid performance.
D, Antonio Carlos, 8.5 (MotM) — The Brazilian defender had a monster game as the most active member of Orlando’s back line. He led all players with 14 clearances, winning vital balls in the air on a huge number of LA set pieces throughout the match. AC chipped in two tackles, an interception, and a blocked shot. His 50 touches were fourth most on the team, behind Moutinho and the double-pivot players — Araujo and Sebas Mendez. He had a great passing rate of 89.3%, with a lot of pressure in his face, and completed five of his eight long balls. He also attempted one of Orlando’s six shots, although the corner kick cross was behind him so he was unable to put it anywhere near the target.
D, Ruan, 6 — One of these days, Ruan’s going to have a fantastic day crossing the ball and it will be glorious. That wasn’t Saturday. Two extremely wasteful crosses perhaps cost the Lions a chance to put the game away. One was way behind his teammates and the other was too far in front. The speedy Brazilian was accurate on one of his three crosses and two were just awful, including one directly at the keeper with Facundo Torres and Ercan Kara in the process of beating their defenders in the box. That said, his passing rate was good (90%) and he did have the secondary assist on Torres’ goal with the pass to Kara. He had one tackle and one clearance but struggled to keep Cabral quiet or close down Victor Vazquez at times, and he gave up a dangerous set piece, although the yellow card was overkill by the referee. He had no shots or key passes.
MF, Sebas Mendez, 7 — The Ecuadorian got his first start of the season and was active, but there was a little rust showing at times with regard to positioning above his own penalty area. He did his job defensively, finishing with two tackles, an interception, two clearances, and a block. He passed well, as usual, at an 89.2% rate, hitting on one of his two long balls but was unsuccessful on his lone cross. He and Araujo helped funnel most of the LA attack to the wings and it was a good match overall for Mendez.
MF, Cesar Araujo, 7.5 — The kid in the central midfield just keeps on delivering. Araujo was active on defense against a good group of attackers, with a team-high three tackles to go with two interceptions and a clearance. His passing rate of 93.9% led all Lions who had at least five attempts and he was on the ball more than any Orlando player except Moutinho. Six of his seven long balls were accurate and he had one key pass. He had an opportunity to score his first MLS goal on the counter but the shot was deflected away at the last second. Araujo received his third yellow card in four matches, taking one for the team. His tactical foul to break up a late LA rush can largely be blamed on substitute Benji Michel trying to take on Julian Araujo one-on-one, and losing that battle, rather than taking the ball to the corner to run some clock. This score could have been higher but there were a couple of times he was a tad late closing down that could have prevented some entry balls.
MF, Facundo Torres, 7.5 — The Young Designated Player is just starting to settle in and get comfortable and now he’ll leave for the international window. Torres opened his account with a no-doubt-about-it headed finish after putting himself into the perfect space for Kara’s cross. He had two of Orlando’s six shots and one of the club’s two shots on target. Torres passed at an 81.3% clip, and was accurate on one of his two crosses and two of his five long balls. He contributed a tackle, two interceptions, and a clearance on defense. He also won an aerial. His three unstable touches were a slight blemish on an otherwise great outing.
MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 6 — It was another mixed game for the captain. Although he did some things well, there is just a bit of inconsistency marring his game right now. He continues to have at least one dangerous giveaway in his own end that is seemingly preventable. His passing rate of 76.5% isn’t good enough, and he went just 1-of-5 on long balls. He was dispossessed once and had three bad touches. And his set piece delivery was once again not precise enough. However, there were good things too. He created two scoring chances (a shared team high), was 1/2 on crosses and 1/2 on through balls, won a tackle, and drew two fouls on the opposition.
MF, Junior Urso, 6.5 — The Bear continues to do the selfless things on the field to help the team, even if sometimes those aren’t rewarded, such as when he unlocked the LA defense with a beautiful through ball for Ruan, only to see his fellow Brazilian waste the chance with a poor cross. Playing as a false wing, Urso helped divert the LA attack to the wider areas but was his usual pesky self, winning three fouls. He chipped in two tackles and two interceptions. His 81.5% passing rate was good considering he was playing a little further up the pitch, and he created two scoring chances and was a perfect 4/4 on long ball accuracy. I knocked a tiny bit off his grade for not getting a shot attempt (considering his position) and for being dispossessed three times, but it was yet another solid match for Urso.
F, Ercan Kara, 7 — Despite being isolated much of the match due to the huge disadvantage Orlando had in possession, it was a quality game from the Turkish-Austrian Designated Player. His first MLS assist set up the game-winning goal with an inch-perfect cross to Torres. He won three aerials, created a scoring chance, had one of Orlando’s six shot attempts, and won two fouls. His 66.7% passing rate seems low but it was a small sample size with only nine attempts. He helped out defensively with a pair of clearances and did well to press LA’s central midfielders into playing up the wings.
D, Kyle Smith (68’), 6 — El Soldado (or “The Accountant,” if you prefer) came on for Ruan and even though he was tasked with being solid defensively, he still managed to get one of Orlando’s two shots on target, although it was right at the goalkeeper. His passing rate of 71.4% wasn’t much to write home about but he did complete one of his three long balls. He provided one tackle and a clearance and the Lions’ right side seemed a bit calmer defensively after he came on.
F, Benji Michel (68’), 5.5 — Michel came on to spell Kara, providing fresh legs for a potential late counter opportunity at an insurance goal. Despite being on the pitch for only 22 minutes and five more of injury time, he still had three poor touches, including the one that allowed LA to counter and created the need for Araujo to take a tactical foul to slow down the attack. He completed seven of his nine passes, won an aerial and had a defensive zone clearance. He didn’t manage a shot or a key pass.
D, Rodrigo Schlegel (79’), N/A — The Argentinian defender came on for Pereyra to get an extra defender on the field and he basically ate up space and kept the middle of Orlando’s defensive third congested, but there’s not much to grade him on. He had only one touch of the ball, registered no defensive stats and was unsuccessful on his lone pass attempt. The change of shape did allow Orlando to prevent any late danger from the Galaxy, though.
F/MF, Tesho Akindele (84’), N/A — The Canadian wasn’t on the field long enough in relief of Torres to fairly evaluate, but he did his job over the final six minutes of normal time and five minutes of stoppage time. He managed seven touches and completed all four of his pass attempts to help the Lions eat up the remaining time.
That’s how I saw the performances in an important Orlando City road victory. Let me know where you think I got it right or wrong in the comments section and vote for your Man of the Match in the poll below.
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Orlando City Parts Ways with Captain Mauricio Pereyra
Orlando City and club captain Mauricio Pereyra have agreed to terminate his contract.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Junior Urso
The Bear returned unexpectedly in the middle of the season to bolster the Orlando midfield.
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.
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.
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.
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)
Orlando City Parts Ways with Captain Mauricio Pereyra
2023 Orlando Pride Season in Review: Emily Madril
PawedCast Episode 391: Orlando City Off-Season Roster Predictions
Lion Links: 12/5/23
Lion Links: 12/4/23
PawedCast Episode 391: Orlando City Off-Season Roster Predictions
Orlando City2 weeks ago
Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Five Takeaways
Orlando City2 weeks ago
Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Final Score 2-0 as 10-Man Lions Fall at Home in Extra Time
Orlando City2 weeks ago
Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew
Orlando City2 weeks ago
Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Preview, How to Watch, TV Info, Live Stream, Lineups, Match Thread, and More
Orlando City1 week ago
Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew: Player Grades and Man of the Match
Lion Links2 weeks ago
Lion Links: 11/25/23
Lion Links1 week ago
Lion Links: 11/29/23
Orlando City1 week ago
2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Alex Freeman