Orlando City SC has now officially added another Brazilian player to its roster ahead of the 2020 Major League Soccer season as the Lions have signed 30-year-old midfielder Júnior Urso from Brazilian giants Corinthians. This is a move that has been widely expected for some time, particularly after the Serie A side made an official announcement about the sale of Urso to Orlando on the team’s website on Jan. 6. Urso has been listed as an Orlando City player on his Wikipedia page for some time.
“We are very excited to welcome Júnior Urso to Orlando City,” said Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi in a club press release. “Coming from a renowned club like Corinthians, he brings a great amount of international experience to Orlando while allowing us to add more depth and a new skill set to our midfield. He possesses great vision and abilities on the ball and we expect him to make an immediate impact on our roster.”
Per the club, Urso will make above the maximum salary budget charge and Orlando City will determine his roster designation ahead of the MLS Roster Compliance date of Feb. 28. We expect that he will be a Targeted Allocation Money (TAM) signing.
The Mane Land sources confirmed on Dec. 20 that the deal, which had already been reported by Brazilian website GloboEsporte, was close to completion, as both Urso and Corinthians had already accepted Orlando’s offer. The only pending step at that point was MLS approval and the official announcement from Orlando City. That finally came today.
While we still don’t have official numbers, GloboEsporte reported that the Lions would pay the Brazilian club a transfer fee, which has been estimated by Brazilian journalist Benjamin Back at $900,000, and would sign Urso to a four-year deal. Orlando City, which has recently been giving lengths of deals in club press releases, did not do so in Urso’s case.
A dynamic box-to-box midfielder, Urso will be the second Brazilian addition to Orlando’s roster in 2020 joining Palmeiras center back Antônio Carlos, who was officially acquired via a loan deal on Dec. 30. The club already has fullback Ruan and winger Robinho in the squad.
Urso’s (his name is the Portuguese word for bear) real name is Ocimar de Almeida Júnior and he’s known as the “steering wheel” for his play on the pitch. He started his career in 2007 playing for Santo André and was transferred to Ituano in 2010. Two years later, after a loan stint with Paraná Clube, he had his first opportunity at the Brazilian first division with Avaí.
His breakout season happened in 2013, when he played for Coritiba and scored once in 23 matches in Brazil’s Serie A. His good performance granted him a move to China as he was signed by Shandong Luneng. He stayed with the Asian club for two and half seasons and recorded 16 goals and seven assists in 72 matches — during that period, Shandong won the Chinese Cup and the Chinese Super Cup.
Urso returned to Brazil in 2016 to play for Atlético Mineiro, where he featured at both the Brazilian Serie A and the Copa Libertadores registering five goals and four assists in 31 matches. The midfielder returned to China in 2017, this time to play for Guangzhou R&F and stayed there until the end of 2018.
Last season he returned to Brazil again to play for Corinthians and his stint with the team started on the right foot as he helped Timão to win the São Paulo State Championship and was included in the tournament’s Best XI. He saw fewer minutes during the second half of the season, though, and ended his time with the club with 57 matches and seven goals.
What It Means for Orlando
Urso’s addition strengthens Orlando’s depth at center midfield. With the Brazilian, Sebas Méndez, Mauricio Pereyra, Uri Rosell and new signing Andrés Perea, Orlando Head Coach Oscar Pareja will have five good options to rotate in the middle of his preferred 4-3-3 formation. That depth can be especially important, considering Ecuadoran international Mendez is expected to miss some time as he joins his national team for the World Cup qualifiers and Copa America.
The Brazilian brings international experience to the Lions as he had success in Brazil and China. Besides covering a lot of ground and connecting passes effectively in the center of the field, Urso also possesses an interesting shooting range, which could add another dimension to Orlando’s offense in 2020. He's also got a good presence in the box on set pieces.
Here’s a sample of what he can do: