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Orlando City vs. Colorado Rapids: Final Score 2-0 as Lions Extend Unbeaten Run to Six Games

Facundo Torres and Ramiro Enrique scored and the Rapids had two men sent off in an eventful match.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Facundo Torres and Ramiro Enrique scored and the Rapids had two men sent off as the Lions beat Colorado 2-0 in front of an announced crowd of 18, 711 at Exploria Stadium. Orlando City (7-4-5, 26 points) posted consecutive wins for the first time in 2023 and extended their unbeaten streak to six games (3-0-3) with the victory over the Rapids (2-9-7, 13 points).

Orlando improved to 4-0-0 at home in the all-time series and 5-1-2 overall.

“We’re very pleased and excited just to get three points in front of our fans,” Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja said after the match. “That was something that we had in our mind today — winning at home and just getting that confidence back. It’s not an easy job. I think we’re going to increase it for sure with time, but today it was very necessary to get this win and performance.”

Pareja’s starting lineup remained unchanged, with Pedro Gallese in goal behind a back line of Rafael Santos, Robin Jansson, Antonio Carlos, and Kyle Smith. Cesar Araujo and Wilder Cartagena played in the central midfield behind an attacking line of Ivan Angulo, Mauricio Pereyra, and Torres, with Ercan Kara up top.

The match was delayed about 50 minutes due to inclement weather and whether it was the delay or the wet pitch, Orlando’s passing was not sharp throughout the opening half. And when the passes did arrive as intended, they weren’t handled cleanly.

The Lions started brightly, winning a corner kick just 19 seconds into the game, but the Rapids handled Orlando’s crosses well and even some dangerous-looking balls into the area never reached the target. Torres took a pass near the penalty spot in the eighth minute, turned, and fired a shot but hit his effort right at Colorado goalkeeper Marko Ilic.

Two minutes later, Cartagena sent too soft a back pass and it was picked off, but Jansson made a great open-field tackle to snuff out Colorado’s transition opportunity.

Kara headed just over the bar in the 12th minute after getting onto a good cross from Santos.

Cole Bassett took a shot from distance that was right at Gallese in the 14th minute and Colorado started to grow into the match, earning some set pieces and a yellow card on Carlos for a foul on Kevin Cabral. Carlos will miss the next match due to yellow card accumulation.

The game took a turn in the 39th minute when Braian Galvan caught Angulo with a high boot, studs first, and he was sent off.

Orlando’s best chance of the half came in stoppage time when Smith sent a cross into the box and Pereyra directed it on goal but again the shot was straight at the goalkeeper.

Orlando City finished the half with more possession (59.7%-40.3%), shots (7-2), shots on target (2-1), and passing accuracy (85.3%-79.4%). Both teams won two corners.

Pareja made a couple of changes at the break, replacing Carlos with Rodrigo Schlegel and Cartagena with Martin Ojeda. He said the defensive change was to protect Carlos due to him being on the yellow, while Ojeda’s introduction was a tactical change to move Pereyra deeper and add a forward against the shorthanded Rapids.

Those changes paid dividends, as Schlegel made three outstanding open-field tackles in his 45 minutes of work, and Enrique provided the knockout blow late in the game.

The Lions came out on the front foot in the second half, looking to take advantage of their man advantage. Kara tried to flick a cross inside the back post just after the restart but didn’t get enough of the ball and it skipped wide in the 47th minute.

After a couple of dangerous crosses fizzed through the six-yard box in the 55th minute, just needing a touch but not getting one, the Lions finally opened the scoring. Pereyra sent the ball to Torres near the top of the area. The Uruguayan international smashed a shot that deflected off defender Andreas Maxsø and in to make it 1-0 in the 56th minute. It was Torres’ team-leading fifth goal of the MLS season and his third in two matches.

“I see much more conviction of him,” Pareja said of Torres, who has three goals and two assists in the last two matches. “The responsibility that these young guys have on their shoulders, and knowing that when we don’t score goals, everybody looks at them, and they feel it, right? But they kept working and Facundo has been outstanding in the last few games, especially because scoring is obviously what we need the most. So, happy for Facu and hopefully we can keep increasing from everybody that part that we’re looking for, just being more lethal.”

Torres got to the end line in the 65th minute and cut back a pass to Kara at the near post, but the Austrian had no room to squeeze his shot between Ilic and the post and his attempt went wide anyway. Three minutes later, Angulo worked his way from the left and fired a shot but Lalas Abubakar deflected it and it popped up gently for an easy catch by Ilic.

Torres nearly had a brace in the 71st minute. He fired a shot from the top of the box that sizzled just wide of the right post after taking a slight deflection. The Lions couldn’t do anything with the ensuing corner.

The Rapids went down another man in the 75th minute. Abubakar, who was booked early in the match, was beaten by Angulo about 35 yards out from goal. The big defender grabbed Angulo and brought him down to prevent a transition opportunity, despite having decent coverage behind him. Referee Rosendo Mendoza showed him a second yellow and Colorado was down to nine men.

“For us, it’s more pressure (being up a man or two), because we know that we were leading the game, and we have one more player and then two,” Pereyra said. “We know we cannot concede a goal, but that’s our responsiblity.”

Pareja bolstered his attack moments later by bringing on Enrique for Smith, moving Angulo to right back against the outnumbered Rapids.

Pereyra nearly put the game away in the 81st, smashing a shot from outside the area that was headed for the upper left corner. Ilic made an outstanding save to tip it wide of his post.

The insurance goal came only two minutes later. Araujo brought the ball up through the middle and sent it wide to Torres on the right. Torres dribbled toward the corner of the box and with Kara dragging defenders toward the six-yard box, the Uruguayan found Enrique at the top of the area. Enrique took a step to his right to improve his angle and fired a blast into the bottom right corner. The Lions led 2-0 in the 83rd minute.

Enrique called the goal “a great moment.”

“Facu was out on the wing with the ball and we were just trying to bring into the area,” Enrique said through a club interpreter. “I saw the forwards go up and take the focus of the center backs, so I just kind of dropped back and hoped that Facu was going to play the ball there. And thankfully he did, and I hit it, and thankfully it went in, and just a lot of joy in that moment for it to finally come.”

The game started to open up unexpectedly after the second goal. Colorado fashioned a chance to pull back a goal in the 85th minute, getting the ball in front of goal but the defense deflected the ball out for a Rapids corner. Kara tried a shot from distance in the 87th that didn’t miss the left post by much and had Ilic diving on the play. Gallese made a save a minute later on Darren Yapi to preserve the shutout.

From there, the Lions saw out the match. Pareja subbed Alejandro Granados on late for his first MLS appearance. The OCB midfielder was signed Friday to a short-term agreement and in just a few minutes on the pitch managed nine touches, a shot attempt (which was blocked), and completed six of his seven pass attempts.

Orlando City had 70% of the second-half possession to finish with the advantage (65%-35%). The Lions also had more shot attempts (15-4), shots on goal (6-2), corners (5-3), and passing accuracy (89.4%-81.5%).

Gallese kept a clean sheet in his 100th game with Orlando City across all competitions. About the only thing that went wrong in the second half was Smith picking up a yellow card and he’ll be suspended for accumulation for the next match.

“The second half we could have been probably more aggressive, but the boys were were cautious about just closing the game,” Pareja said. “And this is something that we carry on our shoulders, and I understand that. Even me. We needed to win today and that happened, so we’re happy. We’ll keep increasing and getting our performances better. That’s what we’re aiming for.”

The Lions will head north next Saturday to face the New England Revolution for the first time this season. Game time is 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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