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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Philadelphia Union, U.S. Open Cup: Final Score 2-1 as Lions Survive and Advance



Orlando City got second-half goals from Ercan Kara and Andres Perea and held on for a 2-1 fourth-round U.S. Open Cup victory over the Philadelphia Union at Exploria Stadium. The Lions advance to the Round of 16 with the victory, after holding on following a late Stuart Findlay goal.

With the win, the Lions avenged the Union’s 1-0 win over Orlando in Chester, PA, in the 2018 edition of the competition.

“The intensity (of the game) just shows the respect that both teams had for the Cup,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “It was not far from the high level in the league and I liked it a lot. The effort that our players did especially in a very difficult match against a very good team, too.”

Pareja’s starting XI included Homegrown Player Mason Stajduhar in goal behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Michael Halliday. Cesar Araujo and Perea started in central midfield with Junior Urso, Alexandre Pato, and Facundo Torres making up the attacking line behind Kara up top.

Orlando fashioned the first chance five minutes in when Torres sent in a cross from the left that found Urso in front of goal. Urso’s volley was wide of goal, however.

The miss was representative of the first half. The Lions were sloppy in possession, often giving the ball away carelessly. Halliday appeared the rustiest of the players in the opening half, with a couple of heavy touches wasting opportunities to create something in the final third and some poor passes that could have been costly.

The Union had a couple of opportunities in the ninth minute. Smith was unable to stop a foray down the right side and the ball was crossed in to Daniel Gazdag, who hit his shot right at Stajduhar. Seconds later, Paxten Aaronson fired over the bar from the right. Cory Burke hit a shot off target a minute later as the Union attempted to take control.

Jansson made a vital challenge in the 16th minute to deny Gazdag a 1-v-1 opportunity against Stajduhar, tracking back to recover after a poor pass by Halliday.

Orlando came into the game more after that and finished the first half pretty well. Torres got the ball out wide in the 17th minute and made a beautiful cutback pass to find Pato in the area but his shot was blocked by Stuart Findlay. In the 36th minute, Torres sent in a corner kick cross that fell to Pato’s foot. However, the Brazilian’s first touch got away from him and he wasn’t able to get back to it to take a shot before the defense cleared it.

Urso had two chances to open the scoring in stoppage time. The first one came on another good corner cross from Torres. The ball fell in the box for Urso, who put his shot on frame. Matt Freese came up big with his only save of the first half to keep it scoreless. A minute later, Torres was sent down the right. He fired a pass across to Urso on the left. Freese came out to challenge and Urso’s shot appeared to go off of Freese and over the bar but the referee awarded a goal kick, so the Bear may have just skied the opportunity trying to get it over the diving goalkeeper.

The Lions held the advantage in possession (59.3%-40.7%), shots (6-3), corners (3-0), and passing accuracy (84.4%-77.4%). Each team put one shot on target.

“The idea was to keep Ercan up front in his natural position,” Pareja said about the team’s improved connectivity over the previous few games. “We wanted to refresh (Mauricio Pereyra), he has been carrying the team for this period. We gave that responsibility to Alex Pato to drop and help us to connect with Urso.”

Pareja’s strategy involved Urso playing on the wing, a position he has played in the back, and that helped stabilize the team on both ends of the pitch.

“He played in that position as a very natural winger, who gave us possibilities to step in the box because he sniffed for the goal,” Pareja said. “He gave us presence in the back, and the best part is he glued us defensively too. So, today it was a phenomenal game for Urso.”

Orlando took control in the second half. In the first minute after the restart, Jansson smashed a shot from long range but hit it into the second deck. But that was just the start of the Lions getting a firm grip on the match, continuing their strong finish to the opening period.

Kara broke the deadlock in the 54th minute. Urso sent the ball to Halliday up the right side and then continued his run into the area. Halliday sent a good return pass to Urso, but the Bear’s shot was blocked by a defender in front. Kara was first to the rebound, turned and fired it into the back of the net to make it 1-0.

The fans were still celebrating when Philadelphia nearly pulled that goal right back. Quinn Sullivan was left all alone near the top of the area. The Union midfielder fired but missed the target with his shot.

Two minutes later, Orlando doubled the lead. The Union were able to dispossess Kara at the top of the box but the ensuing clearance fell to Perea about 30 yards out. With no Union defenders around him, the midfielder went for goal and sent a cannon shot just inside the left post, beating Freese and making it 2-0 in the 57th minute.

“I’m so happy for the goal,” Perea said. “I think for me it’s a very good point to start for my confidence and now I hope this helps me a lot with all my games and all this work. I just saw the ball and my mind said, ‘Shoot!’”

The Lions again left a Union player alone near the top of the area shortly after scoring. This time it was Gazdag, who sent his shot on target but Stajduhar parried it away in the 61st minute.

Philadelphia then tried to change the game by sending in starters Julian Carranza, Sergio Santos, and Jose Martinez.

Halliday sent in a good cross from right to left in the 66th minute that found Torres, but his header was right at Freese.

After that, the Union subs started to give Philadelphia a foothold in the match. Aaronson got down the right in the 67th but sent his shot into the outside netting. Ten minutes later, just seconds after Pareja sent three subs into the match — Mauricio Pereyra, Ruan, and Joao Moutinho — the Union pulled a goal back. Orlando dealt with a set piece from distance but the clearance fell for Martinez. He sent a pop-up back into the area that found Findlay, who bundled it toward the back post, just out of the reach of Stajduhar. With 13 minutes remaining in normal time, the Union were back in the match.

Schlegel made a critical challenge in the 85th minute to prevent Santos from slipping in behind the defense and in on goal.

“They all made incredible plays — Kyle. Mikey, Robin and Rodri,” Stajduhar said of his back line. “Even Mikey. First half he chased that one down on the left side and toe poked it back to me and I cleared it. Those guys are incredible. When they make plays like that, it makes my job a lot easier. I didn’t have to make many saves tonight.”

Ruan had two chances to put the match away late. On the first, he broke in behind the defense with Kara on his left. He tried to make the pass that would give Kara an easy goal but left the pass too close to Freese. On the second chance, the right back had a breakaway on goal and again had Kara mirroring him on the left. This time Ruan kept the ball but never even got a shot away as Freese came out to challenge him and the Brazilian simply dribbled the ball right to the keeper.

The Union had one more good chance to equalize at the death. Taking a free kick at midfield, the ball was flicked toward the middle of the box and then headed toward goal. Stajduhar dove to his left and secured the ball. Referee Elvis Osmanovic then immediately blew the full time whistle.

After the match, Stajduhar proposed to his girlfriend, Tatiana, on the Exploria Stadium pitch. The goalkeeper said he had given the ring to one of the team’s athletic trainers to hold onto for the big post-game moment.

“Yeah, I got engaged,” he said. “She said yes. I was more nervous than before the game for (the proposal).”

Orlando led in possession (55.1%-44.9%), shots (12-10), shots on target (5-4), corners (3-0), and passing accuracy (82.3%-78.1%).

“We were more consistent in the whole game,” Pareja said. “Not just in the possession side that we wanted to keep the ball and have sequences longer and things like that, but just have the creation of options, and it was much more like us. A good time today to bounce back and now we will refocus again on the league. But today was a match that we enjoyed a lot and congratulations to our players.”

The Lions are back in action this Saturday on the road against Toronto FC. Orlando City will learn its next U.S. Open Cup opponent on Thursday.

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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