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Orlando City

Orlando City vs. New York City FC: Final Score 1-1 as Lions Blow the Lead Late

An early goal by Ercan Kara was about all the Lions could muster in a lethargic game at Exploria Stadium as a late lead melted away.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Orlando City scored early through Ercan Kara, but gave up a late equalizer to draw New York City FC 1-1 at Exploria Stadium. The draw left the Lions (4-4-4, 16 points) winless in their last four league matches (0-2-2) and in five straight in all competitions (0-3-2) in what should have been an utterly winnable game against the reeling Pigeons (4-5-4, 16 points), dropping two valuable points.

The Lions simply seemed to lose all energy about a half hour into the match and allowed NYCFC to hang around. The Pigeons left it until late, but accepted the invitation to take something from the match in what was another disappointing home result in a season full of them so far. Gabriel Segal scored for NYCFC — his first career goal.

“It’s a difficult thing to swallow right now,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “But a lot of things happened as well that make us feel that we’re just getting back to that team that we are. The players made a big effort today.”

Pareja’s starting lineup featured Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Michael Halliday. Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena played central midfield behind an attacking line of Gaston Gonzalez, Facundo Torres, and Ivan Angulo, with Kara up top. Both Felipe (lower leg) and Mauricio Pereyra (thigh) returned to the matchday squad on the bench.

It didn’t take Orlando City long to break the scoreless deadlock. Jansson switched play from the back and found Gonzalez down the left wing on a great long pass. Gonzalez nodded the ball down to Torres, who passed it back to the winger for the cross in. The cross from Gonzalez was inch perfect, finding Kara at the near post in the seventh minute and he nodded home his third goal in the last four games to make it 1-0.

“It was something that we continue to work on constantly, and it’s something that we really worked on in training this week,” Gonzalez said through a club translator about the play. “To have the ball played from Robin out to the left, and to have that combination work with Facu out on the left wing, and then have it end in a cross, and thankfully, it came off well from my foot, and Kara was able to finish in the best manner.”

“An early goal’s always big,” Halliday said. “Just as a team, we just need to learn to capitalize on that and just get another goal and shut the game down without letting them have the ball too much.”

Torres picked up a secondary assist on the goal, giving him assists in back-to-back games.

Orlando City looked likely to get a second goal for about the next 20 minutes, winning several set pieces in the attacking third but doing nothing with them.

Eventually the visitors started getting longer spells of possession and that led to some opportunities. Talles Magno, who came on unexpectely for Matias Pellegrini in the eighth minute turned at the top of the area and shot through traffic in the 34th minute. Gallese seemed to not see it initially and had to scramble over to make the save.

A couple minutes later, it was Gabriel Pereira sending in a deflected shot that Gallese palmed away at the last second. The goalkeeper needed a few minutes after the second save and the trainers came on to attend to him, but he was able to continue.

Orlando City was a bit lifeless and passed sloppily in the middle stages of the first half. There was a brief jolt of energy in the 41st minute that led to an attack down the right. Angulo got into the box but opted not to shoot. He instead cut back toward the middle and was dispossessed without even getting an attempt away.

A couple of minutes later, Halliday sent a cross right to goalkeeper Luis Barraza to thwart a promising attack but his effort may have taken a slight deflection toward the keeper.

That was about it for a mostly dull half after Kara’s goal and the Lions took their slim advantage into the break.

The Lions held a slim advantage in possession (50.9%-49.1%) and had more corners (2-0) but the visitors had more shots (4-3), shots on target (2-1), and passing accuracy (92.3%-90.5%).

“The first 20 minutes, where we imposed our freedom, I think we played very well,” Pareja said. “But the humidity, the heat, the proximity of the games just tells us that we needed to keep the ball and let them run. If we turned the ball over to them very quick, they were going to do the same. So, it was the demand of the game — who can keep it longer and create sequences longer.”

The quality of play in the second half didn’t get any better after the break. The game still seemed dull and lifeless. Orlando kept giving the ball away and New York City kept building chances, although they were infrequent. Gallese had to make an early save against Maxime Chanot at the back post off a set piece just a few minutes after the restart.

In the 53rd minute, Angulo got into the area and smashed a shot on target but it was stopped by Barraza. Three minutes later, Angulo tried cutting across the top of the area from the right and hit a shot with his left but he scuffed it and popped it out of play.

Carlos nearly scored in the 60th minute when a corner kick fell to his feet. He stabbed a shot on target but Barraza made the save.

The Lions looked to kill the game off but there was too much hero ball being played. Gonzalez made a good run up the pitch in the 74th minute and got into the area but he ignored his teammates, including an open Duncan McGuire on his left, and tried to beat multiple defenders, but lost the ball without a shot attempt instead.

A minute later, Gallese had to make a diving save to deny Pereira’s blast from outside the area.

Shorly thereafter, Cartagena committed his seventh foul of the match, which was significant because that set a new club single-game record. Cartagena’s seven fouls broke the mark of six previously jointly held by Cristian Higuita and Darwin Ceren, who both set that mark in the same game on Oct. 25, 2015 at Philadelphia.

The insertion of second-half subs did nothing to improve the energy of the team on the field and the chances were few for Orlando down the stretch. McGuire tried to take on multiple defenders as Gonzalez had done earlier and it had the same outcome.

The equalizer came in the 89th minute. Magno got down the left side and sent a simple ball across the top of the six. Segal was the first to it and just got a toe on it to redirect it inside the right post for the tying goal.

Orlando tried to regain some energy in stoppage time. There was a decent buildup that ended with Pereyra centering a ball for Martin Ojeda, who rushed his shot on the half volley and failed to get it on target. In the dying moments, the Lions won a corner and the cross went through the box to Araujo, who hesitated, lined up his shot, and promptly had it blocked.

That was it and the purple-clad crowd of 17,012 went home unsatisfied for the fifth time in seven home matches in MLS play this season.

New York City FC finished with more possession (52.8%-47.2%), shots (14-10), shots on target (6-4), and passing accuracy (90.7%-86.7%). The Lions won more corners (5-3) but played a fairly lifeless 94 minutes of soccer, aside from the goal.

The game was was there, and I think for moments we let them have it too long, and that’s why we ended up just being in a very low block — not because we wanted, but because we gave the ball away and they used it,” Pareja said.

“I feel like we’re there, like tonight we should win this game 100%. Me and all my teammates would agree with that,” Halliday said. “We have the quality. We have the people to do it. We just…we’ll get there.”

The Lions have another quick turnaround with a trip to Ft. Lauderdale Saturday to face Inter Miami.

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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