Connect with us

Orlando City

Orlando City vs. Tigres UANL, Concacaf Champions League: Final Score 1-1 as Lions Eliminated on Road Goals Tiebreaker

A late Ercan Kara goal made things interesting but Orlando City is out of the CCL despite a 1-1 aggregate.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Orlando City’s first foray into Concacaf Champions League play was a short one as the Lions drew 1-1 against Tigres UANL of Liga MX at Exploria Stadium in front of 21,112 fans. Even though Tigres couldn’t beat Orlando, the Lions must bow out of the competition due to the dreaded away goals tiebreaker after holding the Mexican side to a 0-0 draw away last week.

The Lions could hardly have had a tougher draw in their first outing and gave a solid effort but came up just short after Ercan Kara’s bicycle-kick goal in the 90th minute evened things up late. Duncan McGuire fired high with the goalkeeper out of position moments later on what turned out to be the last play of the match. The Lions were incensed that it was the last play after Honduran referee Said Martinez gave five minutes of stoppage time and then watched as Tigres players milked those five minutes with the typical dark arts of time wasting. Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja — who carries a stopwatch during the match — confronted Martinez after the match about not adding more time, but he was shown a red card for his troubles.

Pedro Gallese put on an incredible show in goal to give his team a chance but his teammates simply couldn’t generate anything offensively and wasted the few good chances they did create.

“We are proud of the effort we showed during the game,” Pareja said after the match, discussing what he said to his players in the locker room. “They played against a good rival and we were there. So, we will move on, but we were upset as well.”

Pareja’s lineup included Gallese in goal behind a back line of Luca Petrasso, Robin Jansson, Rodrigo Schlegel, and Michael Halliday. Cesar Araujo and Mauricio Pereyra were in the central midfield behind an attacking line of Ivan Angulo, Martin Ojeda, and Facundo Torres, with Ramiro Enrique up top. Enrique returned to action for the first time since leaving with a minor knock at halftime last Tuesday in Mexico.

The first half chances mainly belonged to Tigres. Although the shots weren’t that uneven in terms of numbers, there was a big difference in the quality of those chances. The visitors got things started in the ninth minute, when Luis Quinones intercepted Ojeda’s cross-field pass attempt and broke the other way. Near the top of the area he stepped into his shot and Gallese got over to make a good save.

The Lions cleared the ensuing corner and looked to break but Pereyra was called for a foul just outside the area and booked for it. Gallese touched the ensuing free kick over the bar but it may have been staying high anyway.

Orlando’s first attacking motion ended badly when Torres chipped the ball into the air and tried to turn and shoot in one motion. He got the movement wrong and fired way off target in the 14th minute.

One minute later, Gallese bailed out his teammates with a huge stop on Nicolas Ibanez’s header in front. Fernando Gorriaran fired just wide on the rebound off the save.

The Lions should have broken the deadlock in the 19th minute. Petrasso’s pass found Angulo in the box and the winger fired but missed just inches wide of the right post.

The miss was costly, as Tigres grabbed the lead moments later. A cross in from Orlando’s right should have been defended by Petrasso, who got caught ball watching. That allowed Sebastian Cordova to chest the ball down to himself and fire past Gallese from close range, giving the visitors a 1-0 advantage in the 21st minute. With a road goal in their pocket, it made the uphill climb for Orlando that much harder.

The Lions didn’t respond to the goal well, as Schlegel and Araujo both took unnecessary yellow cards within the next few minutes. Halliday had an opportunity on the break with numbers in the box in the 30th minute but he couldn’t beat his defender with the cross and the ball deflected out.

Orlando didn’t do much with a couple of set pieces in the latter stages of the first half but should have pulled level seconds before halftime. Petrasso’s pass deflected in front to Enrique just a few yards in front of goal but his shot hit goalkeeper Nahuel Guzman in the chest. The Lions thwarted the ensuing counter and that was it for the first half.

The visitors held more possession in the first half (53.5%-46.5%), and had more shots (8-5), shots on target (4-1), and corners (4-1). Orlando City passed slightly more accurately (84.9%-82%).

Orlando City looked more lively to start the second half and fashioned the first chance after the break. Off a Pereyra corner, the ball fell to Enrique’s feet. The forward poked it toward goal but it was blocked behind for another corner.

Gallese made a save on a free kick from distance in the 52nd minute on a ball that eluded the wall and was heading just inside the left post. The Peruvian international kept making big saves as his team pushed numbers forward as time grew shorter. He made vital stops in the 67th, 73rd, and 83rd, robbing Quinones on the last of those. He made another key save in the 84th. It was an unbelievable display as Gallese finished with seven saves and there weren’t many easy ones in the bunch. His save on Ibanez was absolutely filthy.

“Obviously for us he represents a lot of security,” Pareja said of his goalkeeper, “especially today after we pushed in the second half and the lines were higher and we left the spaces in behind. Very good to see him in a good form.” 

The Lions fought hard to get back on level terms and Torres had an opportunity in the 80th. Kara’s backheel sent the Uruguayan in and he sent a lunging toe poke toward the net. His shot was deflected by defender Igor Lichnovsky up into Guzman’s midsection for an easy save.

Second-half sub Kara was fouled just outside the area late in the match and fellow substitute Dagur Dan Thorhallsson lined up over the ball. His free kick was going just under the bar when Guzman got a touch to it at the last second, pushing it over the bar in the 89th minute. The ensuing corner led to the equalizer.

Torres took the set piece from the left corner and he picked out McGuire at the near post. The rookie’s header was cleared off the line but Kara turned around, tracked it down and sent an overhead kick looping back toward goal and in, tying the match at 1-1 in the 90th minute.

Martinez indicated a minimum of five minutes of stoppage time and Tigres used up nearly every second of it. Kara tried another bicycle kick in stoppage time and there were some shouts for handball but there was no call from the video assistant referee for Martinez to take a second look at it.

Orlando had a series of corners and set pieces but couldn’t get onto them. Guzman came off his line and initiated contact on one, drawing a questionable foul and then milking precious seconds by staying down. Tigres center back Samir was sent off for a second yellow in stoppage time as well.

The last set piece came agonizingly close to providing a winner. Guzman came off his line to try to catch a set piece cross but could only get a hand on it. With the keeper well out of position, McGuire smashed it toward goal but his shot was always rising and fizzed over the bar.

Martinez then signaled the end of the match and Pareja bolted onto the pitch to argue, earning himself a red card.

“We’re not bad losers. We’re respectful, but we’re not stupid,” Pareja said of what happened after the game. “We scored in minute 89 and between 89 and 96:45 it was four minutes, 50 seconds that they did not play the game. They didn’t allow us to play the game. Whether it was because their goalkeeper wasn’t playing — not restarting — substitutions, and even the celebration of the goal. So they need to understand that. I mean, you give five minutes, but they’re wasting time. They need to add more time.

“We are competing and they need to realize that. So, the two teams were very feisty and it was a great game. I think they needed to reevaluate on the referee how many minutes they need to add. And that’s frustrating.”

The Lions turned around possession in the second half, finishing with the advantage (54.1%-45.9%) as well as a higher passing accuracy (84.4%-81.1%). Tigres had more shots (15-12), shots on target (8-5), and corners (7-6).

It’s a tough way to leave the competition, and the away goals tiebreaker seems rather random, but them’s the rules.

“This team did not give up at all,” Pareja said. “We pushed, pushed, pushed and then we found the game — probably later than we want, obviously. And 89 minutes (we scored) but after that I thought we had the energy to score another one, including and that option that Duncan had. But it could be one more or two more. But again, the referee just cut the game.”

“I’d definitely say we gave it all and played till the end,” McGuire said. “So, I definitely think from now on the games that we play we have to play the way that we finished that game, giving it all and leaving it all on the field.”

Orlando City wraps up a brutal stretch of five games in 15 days on Saturday when Charlotte FC visits Exploria Stadium in league play.

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)

Continue Reading

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.

Continue Reading

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!

Continue Reading