Orlando is renowned as a home of mice, gators, and Lions.
They’re going to have to make room for a Bear.
Júnior Urso, most recently found patrolling center midfield for Brazilian powerhouse Corinthians, was unveiled as Orlando City’s newest signing on Monday. The Portuguese “Urso” literally translates to “bear” in English. The midfielder received the moniker while on trial for a club in his home country; when he opted to wear his hair out rather than in his trademark braids, a teammate branded him “Urso” and the name stuck. For Urso, it’s not just a nickname.
“When someone calls me Bear I feel stronger,” Urso said in Portuguese in his introductory interview. “It ended up being a perfect fit for the player I became. There are a few characteristics I have that people seem to admire, like my strength, or my endurance throughout the games for the 90 minutes...It’s who I am. It’s something I’m going to carry with me for the rest of my life.”
Urso has been known throughout his career for his durability. The 30 year-old played an absurd 3,827 minutes in all competitions in 2019, a number that no player even approached in the United States (FC Cincinnati midfielder Haris Medunjanin led all MLS players with 3,390 minutes for Philadelphia, including U.S. Open Cup and MLS Cup Playoffs). He has played over 200 league games in his career between Brazil and China, in addition to 20 combined appearances in Copa Libertadores and Copa Sudamericana.
Despite playing in a position with heavy defensive responsibilities, Urso has displayed a nose for goal as well. He scored nine goals in his Brazilian Série A career, with seven in all competitions last season. His trophy case grew in 2019 as well, as he led Corinthians to a Campeonato Paulista title, a prestigious regional competition in Brazil. Urso was voted to the tournament’s Best XI by the participant clubs’ captains and head coaches.
The stylish Urso hasn’t been afraid to travel the world, either. The midfielder spent five seasons in China, taking home two domestic cup titles with Shandong Luneng. An American adventure was just the ticket.
“I was contacted to go to different teams in my country of Brazil, among other clubs,” Urso recalled of his decision to transfer. “I believe that somehow I knew that God had something special reserved for me. And that’s when I got a phone call from my agent about Orlando’s interest.”
Urso could barely wait for the end of the phone call. “I didn’t think twice. Only heard until he finished what he had to say but the word yes was already in my heart, in my mind and I’m living a very special moment here.”
The Brazilian didn’t even need to do any research. He had followed MLS since David Beckham’s arrival in Los Angeles more than a decade ago, but Orlando’s rabid fan support and ties to his homeland led him to the City Beautiful.
“I found it special and different the fans supporting the team at all times, rooting, someone wearing a lion mask, lots of purple smoke,” Urso said. “I became very enthusiastic about it. We like that. For us players, it’s so important that we feel this warmth from the fans. It propels us forward to perform on the pitch, prevents us from losing focus. It’s important for us. It’s our 12th player. And I noticed that the Orlando fans are truly special.”
“Besides Marta on the women’s side, there were two other Brazilians here, Kaká and Julio Baptista, that I admire,” he added. “They’ve been here and left a legacy. And so when I heard about this opportunity to also be here, I didn’t have to think twice to say yes.”
Urso is well-aware of the hunger Orlando feels for the MLS Cup Playoffs. Fortunately for the City faithful, bears need plenty to eat.
“I expect to do what I’ve been doing in the last few years, winning and scoring goals,” he said. “I expect to be remembered positively as a winner, which is what Orlando deserves.”