Junior Urso: What To Expect From The Bear In 2020
Updated: Jun 1, 2020
It's the 13th January, the middle of a brisk Floridian winter. Junior Urso, aka the Bear is stood in front of the Orlando City media team. Snappily dressed, stylish but not too flashy. The 5"10 Brazilian looks every bit the embodiment of his combative, no frills approach to the beautiful game. He smiles for the camera and you can tell he is genuinely excited about the prospect of suiting up for the Lions come February 29th when Real Salt Lake and Justin Meram roll into town. Actually, who am I kidding. Meram ain't coming. Even if he does, you get the sense the Bear is the sort of player our Justin would like to avoid.
Urso provides Orlando with an entirely different option in its midfield. Urso is very much a box-to-box player, he has an incredible engine which allows him to get up and down the pitch with vigour. He is the sort of defensive midfielder who is equally adept at starting attacks as he is at breaking them up. He is composed on the ball, strong in the tackle and also has a keen eye for goal. Last year for Corinthians, Urso averaged 1.6 tackles per game and a respectable 0.7 interceptions over 37 appearances, according to WhoScored.com. He also recorded an 87% pass completion average with an average of 35 passes per game and 1.1 dribbles. Urso is the sort of defensive midfielder who can carry the ball forward, which will inevitably create options for the Lions in the attacking third. This sort of dynamism in midfield will allow for the likes of Nani, Pereyra and Ruan to stetch opposing back lines and create space. This should be particularly advantageous at home as Orlando looks to finally use the Central Floridian climate to its advantage.
All too often last season Orlando's passing play was laboured and predictable. Opposing defences weren't overworked in the humid temperatures at Exploria Stadium. The Lions were never able to use the conditions to their advantage. I firmly believe that using players like the Bear and Sebas Mendez in midfield gives the Lions added bite (pun intended) in the team's engine room. I was actually one of those supporters who really admired Will Johnson. I admired his work-rate, his willingness and desire to break up opposition attacks. But where Wild Man Will fell short was his ability on the ball. His mantra was very much, win the ball back and give it to someone more creative. When Johnson played alongside Uri Rosell and Sebas Mendez, Orlando lost that little bit of spark in midfield. Teams began to double up on Nani, and it became very easy to nullify the Lions. Urso negates that to a certain extent. He is the sort of midfielder who thinks 'OK, i'll win the ball back and try to get us moving again' rather than just winning the ball back and playing it safe.
As I mentioned earlier the Bear also has a keen eye for goal, having chalked up 26 career goals across 224 career league and cup appearances. For a defensive midfielder, that's pretty good. For context Sami Khedira has scored 42 goals across 320 career outings for Stuttgart (1 & 2), Real Madrid and Juventus. Urso will hopefully be able to improve the Lions' goal output from the centre of midfield. Orlando only chalked up 3 goals from central midfielders last season with Sacha Kljestan, Will Johnson and Carlos Ascues each chalking up 1. To be frank, Ascues and the Wild Man played more than a few games in the back 4 so i'm not sure they even really count. I think i'm trying to make it seem better than it was... Either way, we can all agree that this is a statistic that has to improve this season. By contrast Jonathan Osorio scored 5 goals from midfield on his own for Toronto, and you know. They actually made the play-offs.
The challenge for Urso will be adapting to life in Central Florida, as well as adapting to his new team mates, the club and the league itself. These are the same obstacles all overseas players face. Urso will be confident in adapting to his new surroundings having had previous experience playing outside of his native Brazil. Urso had spells at Shandong Luneng and Guangzhou R&F of the Chinese Super League between 2014 and 2019. The Chinese Super League is probably one of the few leagues in the world that can compare to MLS in terms of shear volume of travel. Still, it will be interesting to see how the Brazilian adapts to life in MLS. It's certainly not an easy transition, but it's one that Urso is certainly more than capable of making.
Ever since Luiz Muzzi's arrival at the club he has spoken of the need to create a culture within the club that disseminates from top to bottom. He wants to create a feeling of inclusivity and of belonging. That can only be achieved with the correct recruitment. Ricardo Moreira said recently in an interview with the Orlando Lions Den Podcast (see above), that the club feel it is of vital importance to get to know a player before they recruit. This is something that is not uncommon the world over, but something that can be easily overlooked. Urso comes across as confident, but not arrogant. He portrays himself as a likeable figure, somebody who will easily slot in to the Orlando City locker room. Only through recruiting the right personalities, can you generate real camaraderie amongst a team. From this point of view Urso certainly seems to check that box. Urso himself certainly seems to be enjoying himself in Orlando so far (at least according to his Instagram account)... I mean what's not to love, right? Let's hope he is enjoying himself as much at the end of the season. If the Bear can show his predatory instincts in the Orlando midfield then you never know, the Lions might just be roaring come the end of the season.
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