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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Final Score 2-1 as Lions Choke Away All Three Points in Stoppage Time



Orlando City played an outstanding first half and solid road match overall but threw away all three points by allowing the tying and winning goals in a 2-1 loss to D.C. United at Audi Field. The Lions (8-9-6, 30 points) threw away a one-goal lead in the second half for the third consecutive road match but made it worse by allowing a second to host D.C. (6-12-3, 21 points) in its first match under new manager Wayne Rooney.

Junior Urso’s wondergoal put the Lions ahead in the first half but two huge missed chances on empty nets cost the team what would have been a commanding lead. Still, it was hard to imagine Orlando getting nothing from the game until Chris Durkin and Taxi Fountas scored in the 91st and 95th minutes, respectively.

With tonight’s loss, the Lions were swept in the season series by the worst team in the Eastern Conference.

“We have tremendous pain on tonight’s result after a great first half and part of the second one too,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “We just ended up giving up a result that was very important for us. I think I did not coach them well, especially in the second half. I take that responsibility. I feel like I could have done a much, much better job of helping them.”

Pareja’s lineup reflected a “they can rest when they’re dead” attitude toward squad rotation, as the gaffer made no changes to the lineup that played Wednesday night in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals. Pedro Gallese started in goal behind a back line of Joao Moutinho, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Ruan. Cesar Araujo and Junior Urso took up their customary spots in central midfield behind an attacking line of Alexandre Pato, Mauricio Pereyra, and Facundo Torres, with Benji Michel in the striker role.

Despite a lack of rest, the Lions started the game on the front foot, harassing the hosts in their own end, causing turnovers, and getting numbers quickly into the attack. The waves of attack started in the fourth minute, with a fantastic pass from Pato sending Ruan down the right side. The right back’s crossing pass for Michel was just a tad too far out in front, however.

Three minutes later, Urso caused a turnover in the attacking third but Pereyra overcooked the entry pass. In the eighth minute, Michel sent a weak header on target that didn’t worry the goalkeeper. Nevertheless, the Lions grabbed the lead moments later.

Pato chipped a pass over the defense to Urso on the right side to create an attack in the ninth minute. Urso finished that attack with a chip of his own, sending an absurd ball over Rafael Romo and into the inside netting from the right side near the top of the box.

“Always in my career when I have that chance, I never tried to put it over the keeper,” Urso said of his unusual goal. “I always tried to bring the ball and tried to score on a hard shot. But today I had good confidence to do that. If I had the opportunity, I would change my goal for the three points.”

The rest of the first half seemed like a series of plays designed to test the will of all Orlando City fans, as the Lions continued to get into good scoring positions but refused to put a second shot in the net.

That started in the 19th minute when Torres took the ball down the left and fed into the box to Pato, who fired over the bar. Moutinho headed a recycled corner kick ball across the box to Michel in front in the 24th minute but he took too many touches and had his attempt blocked in front.

Urso sent a header wide in the 26th minute off a good cross from Ruan before the really egregious errors started. The first was a perfect ball over the top from Pereyra that sent Michel and Pato in behind the defense on the right. Michel pulled Romo way out of goal and fed to Pato, who turned and missed the gaping wide, goalkeeper-free net in front of him in the 28th minute.

In the 37th minute, Urso went for a brace with a good, low shot toward the right corner, but Romo made a good last-ditch diving save. A minute later, Michel had a worse miss than Pato’s empty-net whiff. Torres cut a beautiful ball back across the top of the six and Romo was caught at his post, but the Orlando attacker missed the net. The game could have been well over at that point but the Lions just weren’t ruthless enough.

Urso fired another shot at Romo in the 42nd minute but it was straight at the goalkeeper, giving him no trouble. It was the last decent look at goal for either side in the first half and the Lions took a 1-0 lead into the break that should have been three times that.

Orlando’s dominance in the game may not have shown on the scoreboard, but it did on the stat sheet, with the Lions leading in possession (51.8%-48.2%), shots (10-1), shots on target (4-1), corners (2-1), and passing accuracy (90.9%-87.3%).

The second half began a bit more evenly played after D.C. sent on Martin Rodriguez to add width to the midfield, substituting off Sofiane Djeffal. United found its footing in the match after Pereyra subbed off in the 55th minute for Andres Perea and started to create opportunities and get more possession in the attacking third.

“He came out with a pain in his knee,” Pareja said of Pereyra’s substitution. “He let us know in the middle of the game. We decided to continue in the second half with him and after 10 minutes or so the pain was increasing and he couldn’t continue. We lost control in there with the ball. I thought we had a lot of connections from (Pereyra) dropping those 10-15 yards and creating from there.”

The first warning sign for Orlando came in the 61st minute when a cross from Jackson Hopkins found Fountas in front for a golden opportunity. Gallese made himself big and came up with a huge save to protect the lead. The hosts sent the rebound wide.

Pato made a good run through the D.C. defense in the 64th minute but his shot was deflected out for a corner by Brendan Hines-Ike.

Pato had another look — this time in space at the left corner of the box — in the 69th minute but he missed the target again.

Orlando got sloppy in the late stages (almost like a team that played a midweek cup semifinal). A poor exchange in midfield gave the ball away in Orlando’s defensive third in the 71st minute but Hopkins sent his shot wide. Moments later, Ravel Morrison had his shot at the top of the area blocked.

The rest of normal time consisted mostly of Orlando doing well to hold the ball and eat up minutes and it seemed as though the Lions would come home with all three points but disaster struck in the 91st minute with a simple ball over the top to Ola Kamara on D.C.’s left side. Kamara cut back a diagonal pass to Durkin who sent it past Gallese to pull the hosts level.

Ruan was shaken up on the play and the time spent tending to him cost the Lions the point they still had, because it turned four minutes of stoppage into more than six. Kimarni Smith sent a ball into the area and this time Fountas didn’t leave his shot where Gallese could reach it.

The D.C. Designated Player’s winner in the 95th minute seemed a harsh result for Orlando but that’s what can happen when a team wastes sitters like the ones the Lions missed.

United turned most of Orlando’s statistical advantages around in the second half, finishing with more possession (56.3%-43.7%), passing accuracy (90.3%-89.7%), and corners (4-3). Orlando still had more shots (15-8), but each team finished with four on target.

“They added more numbers up front and started creating some sequences that for us were difficult to sustain, especially on the left side with the winger that they brought up,” Pareja said. “But then that’s circumstances in that moment we needed to have control the way we did it in the first half and we couldn’t do it.”

“I think the last 10 minutes were terrible,” Urso said. “The first half, we were really good on the field. In the second half we were really deep and then they had more control of the game. I think we have to keep more attention.

“Oscar puts us on the field to do what he says. He tells us to keep the ball and try to find space to score the goals, but sometimes we don’t try that. Sometimes we just stay and wait on the (other) team coming, so this is not the idea of Oscar. So, I think we have to follow what he says. And sometimes we don’t follow, we just defend there and wait for the other team coming, so I think we made a mistake.”

Apart from the U.S. Open Cup, it was a July to forget, and a critical month to get through. The Lions hardly navigated it in optimal fashion and continue to be fragile when the game most calls for nerve — moments in front of net and defending late against teams throwing numbers forward.

It’s something that needs to be fixed quickly or Orlando City will be on the outside of the playoff chase at season’s end.

The Lions will get a bona fide normal work week, returning to action next Saturday night when the New England Revolution visit 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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