Orlando City went on the road and won 2-1 against the Philadelphia Union for all three points. Both teams were without usual starters due to the international break, injury, or suspension. The Lions got off to a hot start, with Martin Ojeda and Ivan Angulo both scoring within the first 10 minutes of the game. Former Lion Andres Perea scored to bring the Union back within one, but the defense survived an onslaught of shots to win. It was Orlando’s first road win of the 2023 season and snapped the Union’s 24-game unbeaten streak at home. Here’s how each Lion individually performed in the victory.
GK, Mason Stajduhar, 6.5 — In his first appearance of the season, Stajduhar came up with five saves to ensure Orlando left Philadelphia with all three points. His first big stop of the night came in the 37th minute after a foul right outside of the box. The goalkeeper reacted well to Jack Elliott’s strike, jumping to push it just over the crossbar. The Union came out swinging at the start of the second half and Stajduhar did well to deny Joaquin Torres. But his best save came in the 75th minute, when he parried away a header from Alejandro Bedoya at point-blank range. There were a few shaky moments in the first half, as he made a meal of two long ball attempts that Philly pounced on. He dove to stop Perea’s first shot and couldn’t recover in time for him to stop the second after it hit the post. But he settled in as time went on and was accurate on seven of his 16 long balls, including the one that led to Orlando’s first goal. He had 24 passes at a 54.2% success rate, but ultimately did very well in one of the tougher stadiums to play in as a visitor.
D, Luca Petrasso, 5 — The left back had 53 touches in 79 minutes of action, but wasn’t able to make much of an impact on either side of the ball. Three of his six long balls were accurate and his lone cross didn’t find its mark, although it was a decent effort into the box. Problems arose for Orlando when Petrasso was often caught too far up the field to help defend Philadelphia’s counters. As a result, he only had two interceptions and two clearances in the match. The 22-year-old was also beaten in the air by Bedoya, allowing the Union captain to put a header on target that needed heroics from Stajduhar to keep out. Petrasso won two of his five aerial duels, had two unstable touches, and was accurate on 69.7% of his 33 passes. It wasn’t a particularly great outing from the left back, who was subbed off for Antonio Carlos late in the match.
D, Rodrigo Schlegel, 7 — After a rough game last weekend against Charlotte FC, Schlegel bounced back in this one. The center back led the Lions with 11 clearances, while also contributing three interceptions, two blocks, and a tackle. Schlegel won three of his five aerial duels and ended the game with a nice slide tackle to snuff out Philadelphia’s final opportunity. Schlegel had 27 passes at a 77.7% success rate and neither of his two long balls were accurate, although he did have two key passes. This was a great defensive performance from Schlegel to make life difficult for Philadelphia’s attackers. Mikael Uhre had a brace last weekend, but wasn’t able to get much going against Schlegel. Considering he’s played more MLS minutes than any other Lion, some deserved rest could be headed his way as Antonio Carlos works his way back from injury.
D, Robin Jansson, 6.5 — The Beefy Swede was putting out fires on the left side of Orlando’s defense all night long. Jansson positioned himself when the Union went on the counter and he had three clearances and a tackle in the match. The center back made smart slide tackles and was a force in the air as well, winning all three of his aerial duels. Four of his eight long balls were accurate and he completed 79.3% of his 29 passes while contributing a key pass. Jansson also didn’t commit a foul and has not received a yellow card since the season opener.
D, Kyle Smith, 4 — With Michael Halliday away on international duty, Smith started at right back for the Lions. The veteran was bossed by his former teammate on the Union’s goal, with Perea beating him once in the air and again on the rebound off the post. Smith won three of his seven aerial duels and committed four fouls, including one from a dangerous spot in front of goal right before halftime and another that allowed a free kick from near the corner. Defensively, he contributed eight clearances, a tackle, an interception, and a block. Three of his eight long balls were accurate, but he didn’t have a cross, key pass, or shot. Smith wasn’t as sharp with the ball as he needed to be and had 47 passes at a 74.5% success rate.
MF, Mauricio Pereyra, 7.5 — The captain notched his first assist of the season with a perfect ball over the top for Ojeda. The ball had enough on it to get past Elliott, but was weighted enough to give Ojeda all the time in the world to pick out his shot. Pereyra helped pull the strings on the second goal as well, getting another assist for setting Ojeda up to get the ball to Angulo. He connected on three of his four long balls, was accurate on one of his two crosses, and finished with 54 passes at a strong 85.2% success rate. The Uruguayan gave the Union headaches off the ball too, leading the Lions with five tackles and blocking a shot as well. Pereyra led the Lions with 74 touches and was successful on three of his four dribbles. Although he didn’t have a shot himself, Pereyra did well to garner attention from defenders and find the open man to maintain possession.
MF, Cesar Araujo, 6.5 — The Uruguayan was overshadowed by other Lions in this one, which is far from the worst thing for a defensive midfielder. Araujo quietly helped connect Orlando’s defense with its offense, completing 80.7% of his team-high 57 passes. He had nine long balls as well, although he was only accurate on three of them, and made two key passes. Araujo helped out defensively with three clearances, two interceptions, a tackle, and a block. His only weak spot in this one was when battling for balls in the air, as he only won one of his five aerial duels. Still, it was a solid performance from him and he did well working in tandem with Felipe to frustrate the Union.
MF, Felipe, 6.5 — It was Felipe’s first start of the season and he was great in the heart of the midfield. The 32-year-old led the Lions with six interceptions and recorded three tackles, two clearances, and a block. He had a key pass by setting up a shot for Ojeda and completed 77% of his 49 passes. There were a few moments of disconnect and neither his lone long ball nor his two crosses were accurate. The MLS veteran had 74 touches and won all three of his aerials. Felipe was shown a yellow card in the 20th minute, but didn’t let the caution impact his presence on defense and his experience helped the Lions see out the game.
MF, Martin Ojeda, 7.5 (MotM) — Ojeda was Orlando’s lone Designated Player on the pitch and lived up to his billing with a goal and an assist in the first 10 minutes of the match. He was patient and clinical with his strike, beating Joe Bendik for his second goal in as many games. The 24-year-old was just as composed when slipping the ball between defenders for Angulo to put away a few minutes later. Ojeda took a whopping eight shots, putting three on target, sending two off target, and having the other three blocked. He was also great when facilitating the offense, making two key passes, finding his man on four of his five long balls, and completing 79.6% of his 49 passes. Ojeda also contributed two tackles and two clearances on defense. The only blemishes on his performance were a few late opportunities to put the game to bed that he should’ve done better with. Ojeda is our Man of the Match for keeping Orlando looking dangerous from start to finish on the road.
MF, Ivan Angulo, 7 — Angulo certainly earned his first goal of the season. The Colombian winger made a good tackle to get his team started on a counter attack and then made a nice run to get past two defenders to slot his shot home. It was one of his two shots in 70 minutes of action, the other ruled off-target, although it appeared Bendik nudged it just wide of the far post after Angulo did well to beat Olivier Mbaizo with his speed. He only had 30 touches, but was a constant part of Orlando’s attack and had a key pass as well. Angulo could’ve taken better care of the ball, as he had four unstable touches and 24 passes at a 75% success rate. His only cross was unsuccessful as well. Angulo made an impact on defense too, contributing two tackles, an interception, a clearance, and a blocked shot. While he may need to work on his first touch, it was a great night from Angulo as he feasted on Philly’s defense once Pereyra and Ojeda cut it up for him.
F, Ramiro Enrique, 6 — Enrique did well holding up play and attracting attention from Philadelphia’s defenders so other Lions could work their magic. He deserved credit on the scoresheet for chesting down a long ball to set up Pereyra’s assist. Enrique is only 5-foot-7 but won five of his 10 aerial duels and did well up against one of the best center back duos in the league in Elliott and Jakob Glesnes. The statistics don’t reflect his impact on offense, as his only shot was blocked and he had no key passes. Before being subbed off in the 79th minute, he had 30 passes at a 73.3% success rate and his only long ball was inaccurate. Regardless, the 21-year-old was solid in his first trip to Subaru Park and helped out on defense with two clearances and a tackle.
MF, Gaston Gonzalez (70’), 5.5 — The winger had 10 touches in over 20 minutes of action and looked better than he did in previous games. Gonzalez showed off some of his strength and skill on the ball on the left side of the pitch, but wasn’t particularly dangerous. He was successful on one of his two dribbles, won one of his two aerial duels, and was inaccurate on his one cross and one long ball. He completed two of his four passes and had a clearance as well.
F, Duncan McGuire (79’), N/A — The rookie delivered a great key pass to serve the ball to Ojeda in the center of the box on a silver platter. McGuire beat Glesnes to a pass from Ojeda in the final third and then casually slipped the ball between the reigning MLS Defender of the Year’s legs for Ojeda to shoot. McGuire had seven touches, and completed three of his four passes. He only won one of his four aerial duels, but did well on offense to keep the Union on their toes while hunting for an equalizer.
D, Antonio Carlos (79’), N/A — The center back made his first appearance of the season, coming on for Petrasso to give the Lions some more height and stability in defense, and so the team could go five at the back in defense. Carlos had one interception, completed three of his five passes, was accurate on one of his two long balls, and won one of his two aerial duels. It was mostly just nice to see Carlos back on the field after missing games due to injury.
MF, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson (84’), N/A — Coming on for Pereyra late in the match, he only had four touches and completed his only pass. Thorhallsson had a chance to put the game on ice in stoppage time, but his shot went wide of goal.
That’s how I saw the individual performances in Orlando’s 2-1 road win against the Philadelphia Union. Vote for your Man of the Match in our poll and let me know your thoughts in the comments below.
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
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