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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Portland Timbers: Final Score 1-1 as Late Penalty Costs Lions Road Points



Orlando City was up a goal and a man late in the match but conceded a late penalty and drew the Portland Timbers 1-1 at Providence Park. Junior Urso gave the Lions a second-half lead but Cristhian Paredes equalized from the spot after being fouled in the box by Andres Perea. Orlando (2-1-2, 8 points) were minutes away from three huge road points but Portland (1-1-3, 6 points) took advantage of the mistake.

The Lions remained unbeaten on the road (1-0-2) but have lost some valuable points on controversial plays in the two draws. Orlando took four of a possible six points from their back-to-back west coast trips.

“Our boys had a great plan that we worked during the week against a good team in a difficult place,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “They executed the way we imagined it. They obviously feel that they deserve much more. Collectively, it was a terrific effort.”

Pareja was forced to juggle his lineup due to international call-ups. Mason Stajduhar started in place of Pedro Gallese in goal, behind the usual starting back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Cesar Araujo and Junior Urso were in central midfield behind an attacking line of Benji Michel, Mauricio Pereyra, and Tesho Akindele, with Alexandre Pato up top.

The first half was cagey with the teams probing for an opening and playing mostly between the two penalty areas. A few crosses were sent in but there weren’t many opportunities to get onto them.

The first shot on goal came off of Pato’s foot in the 13th minute but it took a slight deflection and was no trouble for Portland goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic. Three minutes later, Urso fizzed a ball into the area that the Timbers were able to cut out before Pato could get to it. Michel nearly got in behind in the 18th minute but he took a touch that was a bit heavy and by the time he got back to the ball, the goalkeeper had come out to smother it.

Pereyra was fouled by Diego Chara — a common theme throughout the first half — giving Orlando a free kick in a dangerous spot. Unfortunately, Pato hit his shot into the wall and Ruan made a mess of his attempt to recycle the ball into the area.

The most dangerous chance in the first half came Portland’s way in the 30th minute. A low, hard cross through the area eluded Stajduhar and Paredes was crashing the net at the far post. But the cross had so much pace on it that Paredes was unable to direct his header toward the gaping net in front of him and it squirted wide

Urso sent a low drive from outside the area on target in the 43rd minute but it was never a problem for Ivacic.

The half started to get a little chippier toward the end of the half. Referee Marco DeOliveira could have booked Chara for his three fouls on Pereyra, but didn’t. And tempers flared between Araujo and Dairon Asprilla along the sideline but nothing came of it.

An uneventful first half came to a scoreless conclusion. Portland held more possession (57.8%-42.2%), won more corners (4-2), and was more accurate in the passing game (86.3%-82.2%). Each team fired five shots toward goal but Orlando got more on target (2-0), although not much troubled either keeper.

The Lions responded well after halftime, getting the ball into the final third and looking for an opener. Pereyra fired a shot right at the goalkeeper shortly after the restart. And not long after that, Orlando finally found a way through the traffic in front of Portland’s goal.

Pato tried to play in Ruan on the right side but his pass was deflected back to him by the defense. He then picked out a late run by Urso and sent him in behind the defense. Urso tapped it past Ivacic to make it 1-0 in the 52nd minute.

Carlos made a couple of big plays at the back to keep Orlando in front. Akindele gave the Lions a chance to double the lead from near the end line on the right, flicking the ball out in front of goal in the 59th minute. No Lions were crashing the net and it allowed the Timbers to clear.

Portland subbed on Sebastian Blanco to try to get back into the game and the dynamic attacking midfielder made a difference, particularly in transition. He put a shot on target that Stajduhar saved in the 64th and he missed a drive toward the right post wide a few minutes later.

Pereyra was stretchered off with an injury in the 73rd minute and Rodrigo Schlegel subbed on to try to give the Lions more stability in response to the Blanco sub. The Argentinian responded with a huge block from a shot at the top of the area on one of his first touches.

Things looked good for Orlando when Pato made a slick move in traffic and Josecarlos Van Rankin pulled him back, drawing his second yellow card in the 76th.

Disaster struck three minutes later, as Perea got a piece of Paredes just inside the top of the area at the same time Carlos was knocking the ball away. A penalty was given and 10-man Portland had their lifeline.

DeOliveira waited so long to make a decision that Paredes slammed the ground angrily. Then DeOliveira signaled for the penalty. He appeared to be in conversation with Video Assistant Referee Edvin Jurisevic, but the referee never went to take a look at it. Paredes then hit his shot right down the middle and Stajduhar couldn’t leave a foot in to deflect it.

“The penalty went down the middle. I went to the side. It is what it is,” Stajduhar said.

The Lions came close to being able to retake the lead in the 83rd minute off a corner kick as the ball skipped tantalizingly toward Urso at the back post but a defender arrived just before the Bear could get on on the ball.

The Lions got a couple of half chances after that but couldn’t get a clean shot at the target, settling for a point after some nervy moments on defense deep in stoppage time.

The Timbers held more possession (52.2%-47.8%), attempted more shots (12-11), won more corners (5-4), and passed more accurately (84.3%-83.6%) but Orlando got more shots on target (4-3).

“I felt that we lost some shape in the middle” Pareja said of the middle part of the second half. They were risking with some good players. We had the opportunity to close the game earlier. There were moments when we had control of the ball but we did not have control of the game. The first half I thought we had control of both.”

“A little frustrated because obviously there was a real chance to actually win that game and take three points on the road,” Stajduhar. “Also a little satisfied that we did everything well and, you know, one moment could turn it the other way.”

The Lions will face their third consecutive Western Conference opponent next Saturday when LAFC visits 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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