Welcome to your match thread and preview for a midweek match-up between Orlando City and New York City FC at Exploria Stadium (7:30 p.m., MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+). This will be the first of the two scheduled meetings between the Lions (4-4-3, 15 points) and Pigeons (4-5-3, 15 points) this season. The Lions will make the return trip to New York City on Sept. 20, with that match scheduled to take place at Citi Field.
Here is what you need to know ahead of the match.
The Lions are 7-7-6 in 20 meetings with NYCFC in the all-time series in MLS play and 7-7-8 including one playoff match and one U.S. Open Cup meeting (remember, games that go to penalty shootouts in knockout competitions officially count as draws), so the series between the two 2015 expansion sides has proven to be a competitive one. Orlando is 4-2-4 at home in this series in MLS play and 4-2-6 at home in all competitions — 5-2-6 if you count the 2020 MLS is Back Tournament game as a “home” contest.
The most recent meeting took place at Red Bull Arena (one of NYCFC’s many homes away from home) on Oct. 2 of last year, with the Pigeons erasing a 1-0 halftime deficit that Facundo Torres provided. The “hosts” got second-half goals from Alex Callens and Talles Magno to complete the comeback and win, 2-1. In the last meeting at Exploria Stadium, the Lions got a Tesho Akindele goal at the death, stunning NYCFC as Orlando City won, 2-1, on Aug. 28, 2022. Junior Urso and Maxi Moralez had scored early in the first and second half, respectively, to set up Akindele’s dramatic late winner.
Orlando City had a five-game unbeaten streak in the series (1-0-4) absolutely demolished in on July 25, 2021 in a 5-0 OCSC loss at Yankee Stadium. The Lions started a makeshift lineup, and it showed, as the Pigeons got goals from Jesus Medina, Ismael Tajouri-Shradi, Moralez, Malte Amundsen, and Valentin Castellanos. Why the makeshift lineup? That match was sandwiched between home games against Philadelphia and Atlanta, with quick turnarounds for each. The strategy was sound, as Orlando won the other two games in that nine-day span.
The teams met in Orlando on May 8, 2021 and drew 1-1. Nani smashed a golazo in the second half to put the Lions on top, but Joao Moutinho fouled Tajouri-Shradi in the box and Castellanos scored from the spot to equalize.
The last meeting of the 2020 season happened in the postseason and things got weird. Orlando City ultimately prevailed in penalties after a 1-1 postseason draw on Nov. 21, 2020. Nani put Orlando ahead from the penalty spot, only to see Maxime Chanot equalize on a set piece. Extra time couldn’t settle it, so to penalties we went, and the Lions advanced thanks to a save by defender Rodrigo Schlegel — after goalkeeper Pedro Gallese was sent off with a second yellow for coming off his line early. Benji Michel’s blast was the difference in the shootout. (Seriously, just click the above link in this paragraph and relive that madness.)
The Lions and Pigeons wrapped the 2020 season series on Oct. 14 at Exploria Stadium, playing to a 1-1 draw. Chris Mueller opened the scoring but Keaton Parks equalized just before halftime. The first meeting of 2020 also took place in Central Florida in the MLS is Back Tournament on July 14, when Mueller’s brace and a late Akindele insurance goal led Orlando to a 3-1 win. Medina scored for NYCFC. That win snapped Orlando City’s 0-4-3 streak in the previous seven competitive meetings with the Pigeons. The last match in that winless streak against NYCFC was a 1-1 draw, with the Lions then dispatching NYCFC from the U.S. Open Cup in a penalty shootout on July 10, 2019. That night has been immortalized for the running of The Wall and Adam Grinwis’ heroics in goal.
The teams drew both regular-season meetings in 2019, 1-1 on April 27 at Yankee Stadium, and 2-2 on opening day at Exploria Stadium. That draw on opening day snapped the Pigeons’ four-game series win streak, in which they’d outscored the Lions 10-0 in that span.
NYCFC took all three meetings in a dismal 2018 season series. The Lions went 2-1-0 against New York City FC in 2017, including a win to christen the stadium now known as Exploria with Cyle Larin scoring the only goal in a 1-0 OCSC win. Orlando was 3-1-2 in 2015 and 2016 in the first six meetings with NYCFC.
Orlando City rallied from a 2-0 deficit on Saturday night in Columbus to draw the Crew, 2-2. Ercan Kara and Duncan McGuire lifted the Lions to a road point to snap a two-match losing streak on the three-game road trip (two MLS matches and one U.S. Open Cup game). City is just 2-3-1 at home this season, but one of those wins — a 2-0 victory over the LA Galaxy — came in the club’s last match in Exploria Stadium. Orlando will be looking to halt a slide of 0-2-1 in its last three competitive matches when the men in purple take the pitch tonight.
New York City FC is level on points with Orlando but has played one more match, and lost that extra game. The Pigeons enter with a road mark of 0-5-2 on the season, with the last three away efforts being losses, but will likely feel good about their chances against an Orlando side that has struggled at home the last two seasons. We will likely see their ‘A’ game.
Tonight’s visitors will look a bit different than what we’re used to. Several of the team’s stalwarts are gone, including Callens, Moralez, Castellanos, Anton Tinnerholm, and USMNT goalkeeper Sean Johnson. However, the Pigeons will play the way they usually do. They’ll be difficult to break down and look to pressure for chances to win the ball and go forward in transition. Santiago Rodriguez leads the team with four goals. Magno and Gabriel Pereira have chipped in three goals each and the latter can also play a setup role, with a team-high three assists to his credit already in 2023. Newcomer Richard Ledezma also has three assists on the season and will be a player for the Lions to watch.
“It is a tough league with difficult matches that come every three days in these moments,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said. “We need to recognize that it was the quality of our execution in the second half that brought us back in the game (at Columbus) because in both halves I can’t complain about energy or willingness or desire or discipline. We just need to execute much better. Let’s be ourselves and do the right things. We have to keep that feeling and that emotion and execute the right things. We have the quality to do it. This is not just running, it is the quality of our execution that needs to be improved and let’s see if we can keep the momentum from the last 45 minutes.”
Orlando City will be without Luca Petrasso (thigh) and Thomas Williams (U-20 international duty), while Mauricio Pereyra (thigh) and Felipe (lower leg) are questionable. As of this writing, NYCFC’s game notes don’t seem to include an availability report, which seems like it should be some kind of league rules violation, however, Alfredo Morales (lower body) was out this past weekend.
- Our most recent PawedCast includes our key match-ups and score predictions for the New York City FC game and a preview of NYCFC with Andrew Leigh from Hudson River Blue.
- Our Intelligence Report by Ben Miller provides the latest info on New York City FC from Hudson River Blue’s Oliver Strand.
Orlando City (4-2-3-1)
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese.
Defenders: Kyle Smith, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, Michael Halliday.
Defensive Midfielders: Cesar Araujo, Wilder Cartagena.
Attacking Midfielders: Gaston Gonzalez, Facundo Torres, Ivan Angulo.
Forward: Ercan Kara.
Bench: Mason Stajduhar, Rafael Santos, Rodrigo Schlegel, Felipe, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, Mauricio Pereyra, Martin Ojeda, Ramiro Enrique, Duncan McGuire.
New York City FC (3-4-3)
Goalkeeper: Luis Barraza.
Defenders: James Sands, Maxime Chanot, Thiago Martins.
Wingbacks / Midfielders: Kevin O’Toole, Keaton Parks, Santiago Rodriguez, Tayvon Gray.
Forwards: Matias Pellegrini, Richard Ledezma, Gabriel Pereira.
Bench: Mitja Ilenic, Stephen Turnbull, Andres Jasson, Braian Cufre, Gabriel Segal, Matt Freese, Tony Alfaro, Justin Haak, Talles Magno.
REF: Sergii Boiko.
AR1: Corey Parker.
AR2: Kevin Klinger.
4TH: Lukasz Szpala.
VAR: Jorge Gonzalez.
AVAR: Logan Brown.
How to Watch
Match Time: 7:30 p.m.
Venue: Exploria Stadium — Orlando.
TV/Live Stream: MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+.
Radio: FM 96.9 The Game (English), Accion 97.9 FM and 810 AM (Spanish).
Enjoy the match. Go City!
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)
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.
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.
- 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.
- David de Gea is reportedly open to signing for Newcastle United following Nick Pope’s shoulder dislocation.
- The English FA has charged Manchester City with failing to control its players, following Erling Haaland’s reaction on social media to a decision made by referee Simon Hooper.
That’s all that I have for today. Y’all stay safe out there.
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.
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 Lower.com 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.
- Check your pockets and secure your valuables when USMNT left back Antonee Robinson is on the field.
- Liverpool scored in the 87th and 88th minutes to win 4-3 and climb to second in the EPL standings on 31 points.
- Manchester City and Tottenham played to a thrilling 3-3 draw that might find Erling Haaland charged by the English Football Association for criticizing the performance of the referees.
- Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen saw an eight-game winning run in the league come to an end with a 1-1 draw.
- Inter Milan secured a 3-0 victory at Napoli to reach the top of the Serie A table.
- Arsenal will face Liverpool in a massive FA Cup third-round clash in January.
- Wrexham reached the third round of FA Cup after defeating Yeovil Town 3-0.
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!
2023 Orlando City Season in Review: Junior Urso
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