Orlando City went on the road to take on FC Cincinnati and left empty-handed after a 1-0 defeat. Pedro Gallese provided stellar goalkeeping, but the Lions just couldn’t create enough chances on offense. Mauricio Pereyra, Joao Moutinho, and Robin Jansson were all absent from the starting lineup for various reasons, which definitely impacted how Orlando attacked in this match. Let’s dive into how each individual Lion performed in this road loss.
GK, Pedro Gallese, 8 (MotM) — If not for Gallese, the Lions would have been heading into halftime with a massive deficit to overcome. El Pulpo came up with spectacular saves time and time again, denying Nick Haggland from close range twice in the first half and Alvaro Barreal from the top of the area. Another save stopped Luciano Acosta’s deflected attempt, but Gallese couldn’t intercept the ensuing cross after the rebound and his clean sheet was spoiled. His eight saves were the most he’s had in a match this season and the loss doesn’t fall anywhere on his shoulders. His distribution was also solid, connecting on five of his eight long balls and completing 85% of his 20 passes.
D, Thomas Williams, 6 — The 17-year-old started as the team’s left back in place of Joao Moutinho. He had his work cut out for him at times against Brandon Vazquez and Brenner, but held his own with some defensive support from teammates. The Homegrown Player had three clearances and a tackle in 45 minutes of action. It was just his second start of the season and it showed on occasion as he completed just 83.3% of his 24 passes. Williams didn’t have any crosses and was accurate on one of his three long balls. He was subbed off at halftime for Antonio Carlos, ending his appearance on the road.
D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 6.5 — The Argentine center back returned from suspension and led his team with six clearances. He also blocked a shot from Luciano Acosta at the top of the box and had three interceptions and a tackle as well. Schlegel could’ve reacted a bit faster on Cincy’s goal, unable to locate Brenner in time after the initial shot. He had a whopping 16 long balls, connecting on six of them. Only 79.7% of his passes were successful, but he attempted a team-high 69 of them as he tried building out of the back and rotating the ball around the field. Schlegel also won three of his four aerial duels to give the Lions some supremacy in the sky. Schlegel’s performance showed that he can hold things down while Carlos continues to ease back into things.
D, Kyle Smith, 6.5 — Smith started at center back in the first half and then shifted to left back for the second half, showcasing some of the versatility that makes him so valuable for Orlando. Leading the team with five tackles, Smith had another strong game and also contributed five clearances and an interception. Regarding Cincy’s goal, Smith did a good job putting himself in a position to make one of his trademark goal-line saves, but ultimately wasn’t able to get a piece of Brenner’s shot. He also led the Lions with 85 touches and three key passes, including a nice through ball to Ercan Kara. His only cross didn’t find its man, but it did earn the Lions a corner kick late in the match. Smith was accurate on two his five long balls and 82.5% of 57 passes were successful.
D, Ruan, 5.5 — The right back needed to react quicker on Cincinnati’s goal. Acosta shot from outside the box, then raced past Ruan to get his own rebound and assist on the goal. In terms of defensive statistics, Ruan only had one clearance and needed to offer a bit more bite on that side of the ball considering the depleted back line. Although he completed 87.8% of his 41 passes and was accurate on two of his four attempted long balls, neither of his two crosses were successful as he continues to struggle in that area of his game. Ruan also had three unstable touches in a performance he will have to shrug off and move forward from.
MF, Cesar Araujo, 6.5 — Araujo had an efficient night, completing 91.2% of his 57 passes to help build possession for Orlando. He did struggle a bit when defending against Acosta, who used some fancy footwork to get two shots off while Araujo was on him. The second of those shots led to Cincy’s goal as Araujo chased down Acosta only for the Argentine midfielder to cut back and find room to shoot. It’s hard to fault Araujo for much of that though and he had two interceptions, two clearances, and a tackle. Offensively, his single shot was blocked but he did a decent job putting the ball into dangerous areas. Four of his six attempted long balls were accurate and one of his two crosses found their mark. This was also his fifth consecutive match without a yellow card, meaning one of his accumulated yellow cards this season is removed due to good behavior.
MF, Junior Urso, 5 — Like most of Orlando’s midfielders, Urso had a rough night. His poor touch trying to wrangle in a pass from Araujo caused the turnover that led to Cincy’s goal. The Bear didn’t have any shots during a match in which Orlando certainly could’ve used them. His only cross of the game was a key pass that gave Jake Mulraney a chance in the box, although far enough from goal that the resulting header needed better power and placement to go in. Urso had two crosses and defensively he contributed an interception and a clearance in 69 minutes on the field. He completed 23 of his 28 passes for an 82.1% completion rate and didn’t attempt any long balls. Urso was dispossessed four times in this one and may be feeling the fatigue of three starts within 10 days.
MF, Andres Perea, 5 — Perea had a tough time trying to fill Mauricio Pereyra’s role on offense. The 21-year-old completed 50 of his 62 passes for an 80.7% success rate that could’ve been a better as he turned the ball over and ended Orlando’s momentum. He had just one key pass and his only cross didn’t connect, although his lone long ball did. Perea was hesitant at times with the ball at his feet, particularly when Cincy closed down on him or when he needed to quickly find an open Lion. He had a good opportunity in the 33rd minute on a counter, but a bad touch while sprinting down the field allowed Cincy defender John Nelson to stop him. It wasn’t all bad though. Perea was defensively sound with two tackles, two clearances, and two interceptions, while also winning six of his seven aerial duels. It’s important to remember just how young Perea is and he had big shoes to fill. But, this match showed that he lacks the skillset to truly pull the strings of Orlando’s offense at this time.
MF, Jake Mulraney, 5 — The Irishman’s only shot came late in the first half from a good opportunity at the top of the box, but his headed attempt was easily handled by Celentano. Mulraney had a rough night in terms of distribution. His lone cross was blocked and he completed just 76.5% of his 17 passes and struggled to beat Ray Gaddis on the left. He did do a solid job dropping back to support Williams on defense though, recording three tackles, an interception, and a clearance. Mulraney was subbed off at halftime for Benji Michel, continuing their competition at the position.
MF, Facundo Torres, 5.5 — With Pereyra out, the stage was set for Torres to take the reins of the offense and drive it forward. While he led the Lions with five crosses, connecting on two of them, Torres wasn’t able to get much going on offense. His only shot was a low effort from distance that went wide of goal and neither of his long balls found their target. The Uruguayan had 55 passes at a solid 87.3% success rate, but just one key pass. His two tackles undersell a decent defensive performance, as he hustled all over the pitch to pressure Cincy from start to finish. Although he had 72 touches, Torres was often quickly swarmed by Cincy’s players when he had possession and was fouled a team-high four times. Torres showed plenty of fight in this match, but wasn’t able to make much of an impact on offense as the Lions were shut out.
F, Ercan Kara, 5.5 — The Austrian forward only had one shot in 62 minutes of action and that was a poor attempt that harmlessly trickled to Celentano for him to collect it. Kara only had 14 touches and eight passes at a 37.5% success rate, which is a testament to the lack of service and support he received throughout the match. He wasn’t able to really take advantage of set pieces either as Orlando didn’t have a corner kick until he was off the field. Three unstable touch didn’t help things for Kara, as his holdup play wasn’t what we’re used to seeing, although he won three of his four aerial duels. Kara spent his time on the field stranded on an island until he was subbed off for Alexandre Pato right before Cincy took the lead.
D, Antonio Carlos (45’), 7 — The Brazilian center back made his return after his injury in April. While he didn’t have any defensive stats, Carlos helped stabilize things for Orlando and completed all but one of his 31 passes for a strong 96.8% success rate. He also connected on all five of his long balls to pick out players downfield. His only shot was a headed effort sent just wide of goal after a cross from Alexandre Pato in the box. It’s nice to see Carlos back out there, even if his return wasn’t enough to galvanize Orlando towards a result.
MF, Benji Michel (45’), 4 — Michel came on for Mulraney, but made less of an impact with just 14 touches and 10 passes at an 80% success rate despite playing an entire half. Michel had no shots, crosses, or key passes, although he did contribute a tackle on defense. His speed is an asset, but he just wasn’t a factor in this match.
F, Alexandre Pato (62’), 4 — The 32-year-old was sloppy to say the least. Only one of his five crosses was accurate and some of his misses were bad enough that there was no chance of recycling them. None of his three long balls were successful either and he finished with eight passes at a 375% success rate. His only shot went over the bar and a bad touch squandered a golden opportunity in the box on a counter attack. Hopefully this performance was just an anomaly and his quality service returns in future games.
F, Tesho Akindele (69’), 5 — The Canadian forward is still on the hunt for his first goal contribution of the season. Akindele only had three touches and three passes in this match, which isn’t great from a forward you’re hoping adds a spark off the bench. The Lions had a slew of set pieces late in the match while trailing, but poor service prevented Akindele from really capitalizing on them.
That’s how I saw things in Orlando’s defeat at the hands of FC Cincinnati. Be sure to let us know your thoughts in the comments, and don’t forget to vote for the Man of the Match as well.
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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
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