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Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Final Score 1-1 as Lions Open Road Schedule with a Draw

The Lions finally got a goal in open play through Duncan McGuire but couldn’t hold the lead, settling for a draw at D.C. United.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

The good news is that Orlando City finally scored a goal from open play. The bad news is that the Lions finally conceded a goal on the season as they left Audi Field with a 1-1 draw against D.C. United. Rookie Duncan McGuire put Orlando City (1-0-2, 5 points) on the board in the second half, but an inch-perfect shot by Chris Durkin enabled United (1-1-1, 4 points) to claim a point.

“In the first half today, we didn’t look like us,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “I don’t blame the players. I just think that they did great trying to adjust. The intensity was good. We would like to play much better, obviously, but they’re always good (in terms of intensity and discipline).”

Pareja rotated his squad from Tuesday night’s match in Mexico. Pedro Gallese again started in goal but his defense was a three/five depending on whether Orlando had the ball or not. Rookie Abdi Salim, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Kyle Smith got the start, with Rafael Santos getting his first start at left wingback and Ivan Angulo playing wide right, with Wilder Cartagena and Mauricio Pereyra in central midfield. The attacking line featured Dagur Dan Thorhallsson and Facundo Torres on the wings underneath McGuire, who got his first start up top.

As has been the case throughout this young season, the Lions provided little to no danger in the attack in the opening half, while Gallese bailed the team out multiple times to keep the game scoreless through the first 45 minutes.

The hosts started to cause trouble early when former Orlando fullback Ruan sent in a good cross (I know!) in the sixth minute. Gallese came off his line to get a hand to it. The ball fell to Theodore Ku-Dipietro, who had his shot blocked in front.

Orlando City’s first shot attempt came from Wilder Cartagena in the 17th minute. He was way outside the box and obviously not in as much space as he thought because he got his shot blocked and it didn’t even make it inside the penalty area.

Gallese made a couple of tame stops early but in the 28th minute, the ball ended up with Christian Benteke all alone in front of goal when Salim missed getting his head to a cross. Benteke’s shot was good but Gallese’s save was better.

In the 34th minute, Gallese robbed Ku-Dipietro with a big stop and then Benteke nodded off target on the recyle attempt.

The Lions nearly got their first quality look of the game in the 41st when Pereyra sent a ball in for Torres. The younger Uruguayan’s first touch was a bit heavy though, and Tyler Miller scrambled off his line to smother it. It was practically Miller’s only activity in the opening 45.

Gallese had no trouble collecting Pedro Santos’ shot from distance in the 42nd minute, taking it on the first hop. Benteke fired wide of goal off Miller’s long free kick deep in first-half stoppage time as D.C. continued to present threats to the Orlando City goal.

The Lions had maybe their best attacking movement of the half deep in stoppage time when Torres sent a headed pass in behind down the left. McGuire ran onto it but could only win a corner kick.

D.C. held wide margins in possession (57.2%-42.8%), passing accuracy (85.2%-77.1%), shots (8-3), and shots on target (4-0). Orlando City had the first half’s only corner kick attempt deep in stoppage time but provided no threat from it.

If not for Gallese, the score could have been much different at the break.

Pareja changed shape and personnel at the break, sending Robin Jansson on for Salim and Martin Ojeda on for Torres. The Lions went to a four-man back line with Smith on the right, pushing Angulo up to the wing.

The move opened the game up a bit and the Lions were able to get on the ball more but also allowed D.C. to advance more easily as well, at times.

“We did expect the game in the second half we could have more volume and more actions up front,” Pareja said. “We knew the defensive five in the first half would probably reduce our possibilties because we were playing with one more defender and one less attacker. But we wanted to have solidness and try to see if we can create some more sequences around, in the flanks, and I think we did but not with so much consistency. Second half when we made the change of the model and the change of the personnel, we knew that this was going to surprise D.C. at some point and that we would add one more forward, and that happened.”

Thorhallsson finally gave the Lions a shot on goal in the 48th minute, sending his attempt from distance directly in at Miller, who had no trouble catching it. In the 52nd minute, Ojeda sent a ball straight to Miller that may have been a weak shot or an attempted through ball for McGuire that didn’t work out.

But a minute later, the Lions found their breakthrough.

Smith got the ball on the right side from Angulo and sent a cross to the back post. Thorhallsson was there and nodded it back across the front of goal. McGuire arrived to bundle the ball in despite a challenge from Steve Birnbaum and the ball finally found the inside of the net for Orlando. A check for offside confirmed the goal — McGuire’s first as a professional and on Thorhallsson’s first MLS assist.

The rookie celebrated his goal with a celebratory flip.

“It was a great team buildup. Great cross,” McGuire said. “I thought I could get my head onto (the initial cross from Smith). I turned, and Dagur played a great ball across the face of goal — made the goalie out of the play — and then it was a simple tap-in. Dagur could not have made it easier for me.”

“It’s a dream for him,” Pareja said of his rookie’s goal. “I’m very pleased because he’s a young kid and very committed with the group, and an American player that came from the college system, which is fantastic. And he’s proven already in his first game that he belongs. We’re very happy for him.”

The game had hardly restarted when it seemed D.C. would equalize. A shot that was blocked riccocheted off the arm of Wilder Cartagena and the referee immediately pointed to the spot. But Cartagena’s arm was not only tucked in, but his entire forearm was behind his back. That, added to the close proximity and sudden change of direction made the decision a harsh one, and the video assistant referee, Jorge Gonzalez, suggested that referee Jon Freemon have another look. Freemon went to the monitor and quickly overturned his initial call.

Pereyra turned down an opportunity to shoot from the top of the box in the 61st minute, and instead tried to thread a ball through the defense to Ojeda, who appeared to be offside anyway. Ojeda re-established himself and Pereyra played it to his left. Ojeda tried to turn and shoot in a single motion but couldn’t get squared all the way around and left his shot wide.

Seconds later, at the other end, Smith did well to erase a good cross from his former teammate, Ruan.

The Lions dealt with a series of corner kicks shortly after that but D.C. couldn’t pay them off. The best look for the hosts was a shot through traffic by fullback Mohanad Jeahze, but it was well wide of the goal in the 73rd minute.

Ojeda put a shot on target in the 79th but it was from distance and right at Miller.

A minute later, Durkin equalized. Smith and Schlegel were unable to gain control in the corner and the ball was sent to Durkin at the top of the area. He faked a shot on his right and pulled the ball back onto his left as second-half sub Cesar Araujo went for the block. Durkin then fired an unstoppable shot just inside the far post that Gallese somehow almost got to.

It was Durkin’s third career MLS goal and his second against Orlando City. Both cost the Lions points at Audi Field.

Ruan fired a shot well up into the crowd in the 86th after an initial clearance of a D.C. corner kick.

The final seconds of stoppage time produced a set piece for the Lions near the left corner, won by substitute Gaston Gonzalez. Ojeda played the ball to the penalty spot for Jansson, who had peeled away from goal. The Beefy Swede was open for the shot but mishit it badly and it went nowhere near the goal frame.

Orlando survived a quick D.C. push up the pitch and the final whistle brought the proceedings to an end.

D.C.’s advantage in possession dipped a little in the second half, but the hosts still finished with a comfortable advantage in that stat (56.7%-43.3%). United also led in passing accuracy (81.1%-75.5%), shots (16-9), shots on target (5-4), and corners (5-2).

“I thought we looked much, much better,” Pareja said of the second half. “I think we had a couple actions. I think we had a goal. And we accomplished that objective.”

Orlando City has made it through three of the five matches in 15 days and will return home to face Tigres in the second leg of Concacaf Champions league play in the Round of 16 Wednesday night at Exploria Stadium. The next league game for the Lions is set for next Saturday night at home against Charlotte.

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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Lion Links

Lion Links: 12/5/23

Exploria Stadium will host Copa America games, Pride reportedly make offer for Crystal Dunn, Americans in midweek action, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Good morning, everyone. I’m still dragging a little bit after having a shortened weekend due to work, but I hope all of you were able to hit the ground running yesterday and started your weeks off on the right note. As usual, there’s a lot of interesting things to discuss today, so let’s get after it.

Exploria Stadium Picked as Copa America Venue

The host cities and venues for next summer’s Copa America tournament were revealed and Orlando City’s Exploria Stadium has been chosen. The Lions’ home will have games on June 29 and July 1, and both games could be very important ones as they will take place during the final day of play for Groups A and C. We also know that the USMNT will play its group stage games in Atlanta, Dallas, and Kansas City. The semifinal matches will be held at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey and at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, with Charlotte also hosting the third-place game. We’ll know very soon which teams will be playing in Orlando, as the draw will take place on Thursday.

Orlando Pride Reportedly Make an Offer for Crystal Dunn

The Orlando Pride have reportedly made a large offer to bring Crystal Dunn to Orlando, with CBS Sports reporting the amount prepared by the Pride to be more than $400,000. However, negotiations between the Pride and Dunn are reportedly no longer ongoing.

The 31-year-old is a free agent after announcing that she was not returning to the Portland Thorns after three seasons there. She is one of the more notable free agents this off-season and the Washington Spirit and NJ/NY Gotham FC are also interested in signing her ahead of the 2024 season.

Americans in Midweek Action

There are a number of American players who will be playing games this week, so make sure you have some of these marked down on your calendar. First up is a match that could feature up to three players currently in the USMNT pool, as Jordan Pefok, Joe Scally, and Borussia Monchengladbach will face Kevin Paredes and Wolfsburg in the DFB Pokal. Tomorrow sees Tim Ream, Antonee Robinson, and Fulham playing Matt Turner’s Nottingham Forest, although the USMNT’s starting goalkeeper is not likely to play. The week finishes with Juventus and Weston McKennie facing Napoli in league play, although Tim Weah is still an injury doubt.

USWNT Aims for Change in Mentality

The 2024 calendar year is going to be an important one for the United States Women’s National Team, and the team wants to start it off on the right foot. Interim head coach Twila Kilgore is viewing today’s match against China as a chance for the team to continue building a new identity and to keep developing tactically after a disappointing early exit from this summer’s World Cup. While Emma Hayes has been named the team’s new head coach, she won’t officially join up until Chelsea’s club season ends in May. Until that happens, there’s plenty of work to be done with the Gold Cup just around the corner in March, followed by the Olympics in Paris in July.

The Soccer Tournament Adds Women’s Competition

Following the success of last year’s first edition of The Soccer Tournament, the organizers have added a women’s competition for next summer’s event. The seven-a-side tournament will now also feature an eight-team women’s bracket which will also have a $1 million prize up for grabs. The decision was made after an all-women’s team led by Heather O’Reilly drew significant support when it competed last year, despite not picking up a win. The men’s tournament will also be expanding to 48 teams for this year’s competition, after featuring 32 participants during the summer.

Free Kicks

  • Ramiro Enrique has been called up to Argentina’s training camp for its 2024 Olympic team.
  • Orlando City’s documentary about the 2022 U.S. Open Cup victory has won a Suncoast Emmy.
  • In the 2023 Women’s College Cup final, Florida State beat Stanford 5-1 to win its fourth national championship.

That’s all that I have for today. Y’all stay safe out there.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 12/4/23

Crew to host MLS Cup final, LAFC returns to MLS Cup, Tim Howard to be inducted into National Soccer Hall of Fame, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Good Monday morning, Mane Landers. The weekend brought us some drama-filled conference final action, and we now know who will play for the MLS Cup. But before I dive into that, I just want to take a quick minute to say with mixed emotions that this will be my final Lion Links here, but don’t be sad, because the rest of the boys will still be bringing your daily content needs and coverage. I’ll be stepping away as my wife and I are soon to be first-time parents, and I’m looking forward to all that entails. I appreciate each and every one of you readers for taking the time to scroll through my articles each week. If you’re interested in writing for TML, we could definitely use the help so please reach out. Now, let’s get into the links!

Columbus Crew Claim Hell Is Real Comeback

After a rocky start, the Columbus Crew became the first team to overcome a two-goal deficit on the road and advance in a single-leg round in the history of the MLS Cup playoffs. FC Cincinnati got off to a great start behind USMNT striker Brandon Vasquez, who opened the scoring, but it was captain Luciano Acosta’s sublime free kick finish that stole the show in the first half.

It took trusting the process and the tactics of their first-year manager Wilfried Nancy, but the Columbus Crew fought back with late match heroics to seal the victory. Forward Christian Ramirez bagged the game-winning goal in extra time in the 115th minute.

“You can only fight for someone like that,” said Ramirez. “So many times you can feel that you’re getting the bad end of the stick at certain moments, but I haven’t felt that. I think numerous guys understand how he sees the game now, and we respect that. We talk about writing our story in the Columbus Crew history; this chapter wasn’t done. We got one more week, one more game.”

LAFC Returns to MLS Cup

The league’s defending champion, LAFC, will once again be playing in the final match of the postseason. After frustrating the Houston Dynamo throughout the Western Conference final, LAFC won 2-0. Houston might have dominated the stat sheet in possession, passes, and passing accuracy, but really it was just playing into the gameplan of LAFC.

“We knew that’s what they wanted. They wanted the ball,” said LAFC right back Ryan Hollingshead. “They like to play this little tiki-taka in the middle of the field, these little movements, little one-twos, three of their guys just kind of pass the ball, but they’re going nowhere. And so we just said, do whatever you got, have the ball as long as you want. They created zero dangerous chances. They had a half-chance in the first half on a cross to Baird and that was it. And so a lot of these teams, it’s like, yeah, they’ve got possession, they may be moving the ball. But if they’re not creating dangerous chances, who cares?”

MLS Cup Final Preview

The Eastern Conference champion Columbus Crew will host Western Conference champion LAFC at Field on Dec. 9 at 4 p.m for the MLS Cup. The match will be No. 53 across all competitions this campaign for LAFC, and a victory would make the club the first repeat winners since the 2011-2012 LA Galaxy. The storylines leading to the match will likely center around the possibility of it being Carlos Vela’s final game for LAFC, but for the Crew, the bench players will be the ones to watch. In the 65th minute of the Eastern Conference final, Head Coach Wilfried Nancy brought in Julian Gressel and Christian Ramirez, who both played a pivotal role in two of the three Columbus goals in the comeback victory.  The Crew last lifted the MLS Cup in 2020, defeating Seattle Sounders 3-0 at Historic Crew Stadium.

2024 National Soccer Hall of Fame

On May 4, the National Soccer Hall of Fame will induct its 2024 class. Most notable will be long-time USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard, who played 121 matches for the United States and had a successful career in the English Premier League. Other inductees will be USWNT World Cup winner Tisha Venturini-Hoch, 1996 Paralympic captain Josh McKinney, and USL founder Francisco Marcos.

Orlando Reportedly Set to Host USMNT-Brazil Friendly

The United States Men’s National Team is reportedly far along in negotiations to face Brazil in Orlando for a friendly leading to next year’s Copa America. The Yanks and Brazil last met in September 2018 in a friendly match in East Rutherford, NJ. The United States will host the Copa America from June 19 to July 14 as one of six invited teams to the South American competition. Brazil enter as the defending champion and should prove a worthy test for the Stars & Stripes to tune up for the Southern American title.

Free Kicks

  • Check your pockets and secure your valuables when USMNT left back Antonee Robinson is on the field.

That’s a wrap for my personal writing here for a while. It has been a pleasure to bring some coverage to you all for the past couple seasons. It’s not goodbye. It’s see you later. Vamos Orlando!

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