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Orlando City vs. D.C. United: Final Score 3-1 as Lions’ Home Futility Continues

Level at the break, the Lions gave up two goals early in the second half and continue to struggle both at home and in all games against D.C.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Orlando City simply cannot figure out D.C. United. The Lions (3-3-2, 11 points) fell behind early but leveled the game before halftime, only to fall flat in the second half in a 3-1 loss to D.C. (3-4-2, 11 points) at Exploria Stadium. Duncan McGuire scored again, to offset a strike by Taxiarchis Fountas in the first half, but Donovan Pines and Christian Benteke scored in the second period to lift the visitors to the win.

Orlando dropped its third consecutive home match and hasn’t won at Exploria Stadium since opening night, going 0-3-1 sincethe end of February.

“Certainly a very disappointing night, not getting the results at home after the big effort that the team (had) in the games away,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “The development of the game, I thought it was very clogged. The game did not flow and we did not find that rhythm. We couldn’t find a way to hurt them. And they did it in those key moments. There’s no excuse. They took advantage of it and that’s why they get the points tonight.”

Pareja’s lineup included Pedro Gallese in goal — tying Joe Bendik for the most appearances in goal in club history, with 92 — behind a three-man back line of Rodrigo Schlegel, Robin Jansson, and Antonio Carlos. The midfield was made up of Gaston Gonzalez and Ivan Angulo outside of Cesar Araujo and Mauricio Pereyra. Facundo Torres and Martin Ojeda flanked rookie Duncan McGuire up top.

The teams played an uneventful first 10 minutes as they struggled to settle into the match. Each team got an early set piece but did nothing with it.

The Lions were particularly poor connecting passes and gave the ball away cheaply, in the early stages of the game and it cost them in the 15th minute. Angulo gave the ball away in the middle of the pitch and the ball quickly found its way from Mateusz Klich to former Lion Ruan on the right side. He played Fountas in behind the defense and the Greek forward scored his fifth goal in three matches against Orlando. In just three games, Fountas has become D.C.’s all-time goal-scoring leader against Orlando City.

After a few minutes of playing in the middle of the pitch, the Lions leveled things out of nowhere. Carlos started the play with a great tackle in the middle of the pitch, knocking the ball to Ojeda. The Argentine turned and played a through ball for McGuire to run onto and he beat Tyler Miller to equalize in the 23rd minute. It was the rookie’s third goal of the season.

“We executed a perfect press the way that we like to do the majority of the time in the way that we like to press,” Ojeda said about the tying goal. “Antonio was able to recover (the ball) very quickly, and I saw Duncan using his space well. So, I just tried to hit him on the counterattack to put him in one on one with the keeper. With luck, it happened and he was able to score the goal.”

A couple of Orlando long balls nearly sent Ojeda and Torres in behind the defense but the delivery was a little long on both and Miller was aggressive in coming off his line.

Angulo got down the right and put in a good centering pass to Ojeda in at the half hour mark. The Designated Player tried to flick it to himself to work past a defender but his touch was a little heavy and the ball rolled in to Miller.

The mixed night for Angulo continues moments later when he made a poor cross out of play and then got another blocked after being sent down the wing by a good flick by Torres.

The half saw a couple of good chances for Gonzalez to make something happen in the final minutes. His header across the box hit Victor Palsson in front of goal and required Miller to save it by knocking it over the net in the 40th minute. Gonzalez then forced Miller to make a save in stoppage time when Torres’ blocked cross reached him and he headed toward goal. The shot, however, was right at the goalkeeper.

Orlando City held a slight edge in possession (52.4%-47.6%) at the break, with both clubs firing three shots, but the Lions edging the visitors in shots on target (2-1) and corners (3-1). Orlando was slightly more accurate in the passing game (75.9%-70.9%), but neither team was spectacular.

Orlando came out of the locker room strong, sending a few crosses through the box but nothing came of them. But it was the visitors who took the lead. It started wtih an inattentive moment from Angulo, who drifted from Pedro Santos and by the time he recovered he could only knock a cross out for a corner. Behind the play, McGuire was down with what appeared to be a hamstring issue. Ramiro Enrique subbed on prior to the corner kick.

On D.C.’s corner kick, Pines ran through Araujo, knocking him to the ground and easily towered over Enrique to give the visitors the lead on a header in the 52nd minute, literally adding insult to the McGuire injury. The Lions appealed for a foul on Pines but none was given and there didn’t appear to be much of a delay to account for the play being reviewed.

The Lions had a couple of half chances to pull the goal right back but as has been a problem this season so far, both Ojeda and Torres had shot opportunities blocked by the defense. That proved costly, as D.C. added to its lead shortly after those chances.

Benteke got his goal in the 63rd minute and it was a preventable one. The Lions had ample opportunity to clear an aerial ball but couldn’t knock it away from the penalty area. It eventually found its way back in to Benteke who played it to himself, held off Schlegel, and then turned on a dime and fired past Gallese to make it 3-1.

D.C. United Head Coach Wayne Rooney said preparing for Orlando was difficult because of the varied formations the Lions have used in recent weeks, but he added that he felt his team had the size and strength to take advantage on set pieces.

Pareja inserted Ercan Kara and Rafael Santos for Ojeda and Schlegel to try to change the game and Kara nearly scored on his first touch off a corner, forcing Miller to knock it ofout for another in the 69th minute.

Orlando came frustratingly close to pulling one back a couple of times with Carlos and Angulo sending crosses through the six that just needed a touch but no one could provide one. The Lions should have had a second goal in the 77th minute on a counterattack with Torres laying off to give Araujo a wide-open look but the midfielder hit his shot right at Miller.

Benteke had two good chances to make the score even more lopsided. The first came on a free header that he missed well wide of goal and the second was stopped by a diving Gallese.

The Lions have now gone four straight without a win against D.C. — all four since Rooney became United’s head coach.

Orlando finished with more possession (55.2%-44.8%), shots (13-9), corners (9-3), and passing accuracy (82%-77.3%), but both teams got five shots on target and D.C. won the only stat that matters.

“We thought we got into that final part of the field more than a few times where we needed to be more pointed in our finishing and taking those opportunities at the end,” Ojeda said. “We had some good chances. Gaston had a header. We had a couple of opportunities where we came through. Obviously, we had the goal. But it’s just got to be more pointed and we’ve got to finish when we get into the box and into the final portion. It just has to be better.”

Pareja said after the match that it was too soon to tell the severity of injuries sustained by McGuire and Pereyra in the match, but those would be big losses for City to shoulder.

Gonzalez said the players aren’t feeling any pressure building with the lack of home results.

“I’d say we’re all calm right now. We know that there’s things that we need to fix to be able to take these results at home,” he said. “We’re faulting on the details here at home. That’s costing us some of these points. To the fans, I’d say, we know that we’ve got work to do to be able to bring those victories at home and to give them the results they deserve,” Gonzalez said.

The Lions will get another shot to right the ship at home next weekend, with the LA Galaxy visiting Exploria Stadium on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.

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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