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Louisville City: Breaking Down the First Three Signings

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With the MLS Expansion Draft and a few trades and signings mixed in, the Orlando City roster has really begun to take shape over the last week. Orlando's USL Pro affiliate, Louisville City FC, has been making some roster noise as well. While the fledgling club hasn't received any Orlando City players on loan (yet), the club had some landmark news last week with the announcement of its first three signings. While we've yet to hear any specifics about the formations or systems which Coach James O'Connor will employ in the upcoming campaign (hopefully more details in the coming weeks), player signings make for even more substantial news.Here's the breakdown of the boys who will take the pitch next spring at Louisville Slugger Field.

Kadeem Dacres F/M (Highlights) –

Bio: Dacres is a 23-year-old forward/midfielder who was deployed a good deal as a left winger at his most recent post at Arizona United SC in USL Pro. He played college soccer at the University of Maryland-Baltimore County, where in his last season he was named his conference’s Midfielder of the Year. He was also first-team all-conference, as well as on the NSCAA All-Northeast Region first team. Dacres was drafted in the fourth round of the 2013 MLS SuperDraft by the Chicago Fire. He played for Reading United of the USL PDL before heading to Arizona United, where he scored three goals and registered one assist in 24 appearances in 2014. He has been involved with the USA youth setup at the U-15, U-17 and U-18 levels.

(Limited) Analysis: Dacres is a pacey attacker who shows flashes of talent. Skilled with both feet, he displays an eagerness and capability to take on opposing defenders with the ball at his feet and he has the pace to run past multiple defenders at a time. Although no one will mistake him for Steven Gerrard anytime soon, he has a strong enough leg to put the ball on frame from outside the box to test the keeper and also shows some finishing ability in front of goal. He draws fouls well, putting his defenders in positions to make mistakes on which he largely capitalizes. However, scoring only three goals on 21 shot attempts would suggest that he either could use some polish on that finishing ability or have better shot selection; while his one assist in 24 appearances posits that he may need to work on link-up play and service into the box from out wide.

O'Connor on Dacres: "Kadeem is a talented player who is fast, direct, and a real threat to opposing teams. He has great potential and I think he is one that will really excite our fans this upcoming season."

Absolutely Out-of-This-World Unfair Poor Man's Comparison: Asamoah Gyan.

Juan Guzman M/DM (Highlights) –

Bio: Not to be confused with the jheri-curled World Series-winning pitcher or the MLS referee of the same name, Guzman is a 28-year-old holding midfielder who last played for the Charlotte Eagles of USL Pro. (Orlando City fans may remember Guzman from the 2013 USL Pro Playoff Final, which Orlando won.) Before Charlotte, he played college soccer at Liberty University, where he was team captain. Guzman was named to the all-conference first team once and was twice named to the NSCAA All-South Atlantic Region first team. Signing with Charlotte in 2010, Guzman made 92 appearances for the Eagles, scoring four goals, including two in 2014. In 2013 he had a preseason trial with the Colorado Rapids. Guzman previously has experience with the US U-15 setup.

(Limited) Analysis: Guzman plays in a holding midfield role and displays many of the qualities which are ideally found in a number six. Playing in front of the back four, he shows good positional intelligence and tackling ability. One of his best traits is his passing ability and field vision, which he uses in a deep-lying playmaker role, pinging passes off of his right foot towards attackers ahead and with the ability to switch fields. At only 5-foot-9, Guzman may lack some of the physical presence of some defensive midfielders.

O'Connor on Guzman: "He has very good attributes. He's a holding midfielder, so he can play a specific role and he's going to be a very good asset for us."

Absolutely Out-of-This-World Unfair Poor Man's Comparison: Andrea Pirlo.

Guy Abend D/RB/DM (Highlights) –

Bio: Abend is a 24-year-old, jack-of-all-trades defensive player. He has been a player in the Israeli Football League system for six seasons, making over 100 appearances across all competitions for four different clubs in both the first and second divisions — including at Hapoel Rishon LeZion, where he served as team captain. He scored two goals in 37 appearances for Rishon LeZion last season. Abend has made appearances for the Israel U-19 national team.

(Limited) Analysis: Abend's personal highlight tape lists his playing positions as "Defensive Midfielder, Stopper, Right Back." Stopper. Need I say more? Abend displays physical talents to be a defensive destroyer for Louisville City. He has good technical ability with his feet, and is is a good leaper, which make his headers both useful defensively and dangerous in the attacking third, particularly on set pieces. He has good enough speed to get forward out of central positions and to beat defenders down the touchline when he bombs forward from right back. He also has good passing ability out of the defensive third, which he uses both when making long defensive clearances towards attacking outlets, and when he brings the ball up from the back on the ground in combination plays with teammates. He has played in multiple positions throughout his career, but O'Connor sees him as a midfielder.

O'Connor on Abend: "We're really excited to sign Guy. He is a player I've had my eye on for a while. I'm thrilled we could come to terms."

Absolutely Out-of-This-World Unfair Poor Man's Comparison: Geoff Cameron.

More of O'Connors thoughts on the three new signings:

Louisville City FC News and Notes for December 11:

  • Louisville City has began construction of the new locker rooms at Louisville Slugger Field for next season. I promise, there is a locker room somewhere in this picture.

  • The USL Pro League meetings are underway down in Florida. Hopefully this means that we will get some concrete news about the schedule and kit in the near future.
  • Lastly, the official Louisville City scarf, which has been mentioned previously in this space, is finally available (it uses lyrics from “My Old Kentucky Home” which seems pretty cool). Louisville peeps: go buy one.

Orlando City

The Mane Land Announces Membership Program

Maximize your Mane Land experience with our new TML membership program while supporting our independent efforts.

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Hello, readers of The Mane Land and listeners of our podcasts. Before you start reading this, please note that the most important part of this post is at the end. So, don’t stop until you get to the bottom.

You may recall that when we left SBNation to become independent, we really weren’t sure the best way to go about that. Many of our readers and listeners generously offered to help us make that transition, but we still weren’t sure the best path forward, so we took a poll.

The poll was pretty much split down the middle between those who preferred a one-time, Kickstarter-style campaign (which we did, and those of you who stepped up to help completely blew us away!) and those who favored a Patreon-style, subscription-based membership with extra perks. In fact, the member subscriptions option got a few more votes in our poll.

The folks who took part in our GoFundMe fundraiser were fantastic and are now immortalized on this very site on the “Our Founders” page. But we had always planned to give folks the option to choose whichever method of support they preferred and we tried to communicate that throughout the process. It took a little longer than expected to get up and running, but our membership subscription program is now in place! (You may notice the fancy new banner ad about it on the home page, echoed below.)

Supporting TML helps build a better TML for you to enjoy, so you’re really subscribing to your own Orlando soccer fandom.

Part of that delay was thinking up something that didn’t encroach on the benefits we gave our Founders. Those folks helped us get started and deserve the exclusivity of the perks they got. The other part of the delay is that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. (However, for you guys, I’m willing to be cloned.)

We have utilized the popular Buy Me a Coffee platform to run this program. You can find the basics here. The Mane Land premium membership program includes three tiers of membership, as well as the option to click on the “Support” tab for those who just want to help us out whenever, without joining the program or adding any recurring “appointment-based” payments to their budgets. We love that feature of Buy Me a Coffee (or “Buy Us a Beer” in our case…you drink what you like).

For those who do choose to become members, we hope we have provided value and we are planning to add benefits along the way, in addition to providing special giveaways, events, etc. (more on that below). We have also provided subscription options — with monthly or annual memberships. The annual cost essentially gives you 12 months for the price of 10.


Current Benefits

The current membership benefits depend on which level of support you choose — Homegrown Player, TAM Player, or Designated Player level. Each level includes all benefits from the lower tiers, with additional benefits for each higher level.

Homegrown Player: This is a basic set-it-and-forget-it level of support for The Mane Land, providing a way for our readers and podcast listeners to contribute to the success of TML‘s independence goals. We want to compensate our current volunteers, replace lost income of those who previously received small stipends from being part of the SBNation network, add photographers, attract new writers, and expand our coverage. Additionally, each Homegrown Player Level member will be recognized in a Lion Links column, which is still typically our most widely read post of each day and one of the top daily links columns among soccer sites. Homegrown Player Level members will also be included in any future prize drawings we have or events we host and may be subject to future benefits as they are added.

TAM Player: In addition to Homegrown Player benefits, TAM Players will receive a new weekly e-newsletter in their inbox (unless you opt out…some people hate email). These will be informal missives from myself, other TML writers, or a combination, discussing what’s on our mind regarding Orlando City, the Pride, OCB, or soccer in general. Think of it as an extra post from our site that may cover multiple topics. Additionally, you’ll get a 10% discount from our web shop items that we control (presently, that means everything except our listed MLS Shop items). We will definitely have more benefits coming for this level soon and will look for opportunities to include additional benefits as they become available.

Designated Player: This limited availability level of support includes all perks from the Homegrown and TAM levels, but it goes beyond. Your discount at our webshop (for items we control) will be 15% off. Additionally, we’ll send you Zoom links to watch us “make the doughnuts” whenever we record the podcast. This includes when we interview guests. You’ll see how the sausage is made behind the scenes and everything that we say, some of which will end up on the cutting room floor before the final podcast is sent out. This includes both The Mane Land PawedCast and SkoPurp Soccer: An Orlando Pride PawedCast. And after two months of membership you can commission a bonus episode of either podcast simply by letting us know what topic you want us to cover. Think of this as an extended Ask Us Anything. We’ll do a whole show about your topic and you can even join us to discuss it if you wish.

The DP Level will certainly have additional benefits tacked on as we move forward. It is currently limited to 40 members but could be expanded slightly depending on demand and our Zoom attendance.


Future Benefits / Benefits Under Consideration

While we won’t be able to schedule these due to the random nature of items falling into our hands, there will be periodic prize giveaways in drawings that include all of our members, regardless of level. The catch is that you get one entry per level of support, meaning Homegrown Player Level members will get one entry per prize drawing, TAM Player Level members will get two entries per drawing, and Designated Player Level members get three entries for prize drawings. Some of the kinds of items we have come across in the past include match tickets, trinkets, posters, scarves, and so on.

We are planning to add a message board to our website, well…soon-ish is the word that comes to mind. The plan for the message board is to build our community and further the discussion about the club. As part of this, we’re planning an exclusive, members-only area of that message board that TAM and DP members can access. This will be a place our staff can share informational nuggets we can’t necessarily write stories about for various reasons and interact with our members on a daily basis.

Other things in the works include meet-and-greets/watch parties where you can chat with TML staff members and catch a road match with a bunch of like-minded Orlando City/Pride fans while we all cheer on the team together. There may also be other informal outings with one or more members of the staff, organized fantasy leagues, random Zoom calls for Q&A sessions, and perhaps even some organized group outings for Orlando City / Pride matches, national team games, etc.


The Most Important Part of This Post

Remember at the top of this post, when I said the most important part is at the bottom? Well, that seems like a long time ago, now, so it’s OK if you’ve already forgotten.

The most important part of our membership program is you. We want your feedback so we can make this program something that interests and excites you. We want to know what you like and dislike about this program. We want to know if there are some things we didn’t think of that interest you. If you like what we’re offering, tell us! If you hate what we’re offering, we want to know what you’d prefer instead or in addition. If you want to go drinking with Dave, we can probably arrange that, but it’ll be a unique tier and we’ll have to figure out the cost of that.

No idea is too crazy to suggest, even if it’s too insane for us to actually offer. Let us know what you want from your subscription and we’ll see if that’s something we can do. We’ll make it easy for you by putting the form right here below this post, which is now concluded.

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Welcome Home!

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Where do I even start? When we were told in January that SBNation was pulling its support of The Mane Land and other MLS and NHL blogs — and many podcasts — I was devastated. The site had become my new baby in September of 2014 and after eight and a half years, I wasn’t ready to let it go.

I was in a pickle. I couldn’t afford to lose the monthly stipend I had been getting from SBNation to manage the site and provide a steady stream of content. It wasn’t that it was a huge monthly sum, but it mostly covered my car payment. That car was purchased when my salary was higher. The pandemic hit my day job like it did to many, and after a four-month layoff, I got my old job back but not at the same rate. So, imagine taking a pay decrease at work and then, on top of that, losing the amount you spend per month on your car payment. There was simply no way to launch The Mane Land independently, I thought, because I simply couldn’t cover the startup costs. Even with some generous offers from the staff to pitch in, there simply wasn’t a way.

Once we took the news public, there was an outpouring of support on social media. We appreciated both the pledges to help out that we got from the community and the signal boosting that the national media gave blogs like ours. Those national folks rely on local reporting for background.

Encouraged by this outpouring of public support, I met with the TML staff and we threw some ideas around. We polled our Twitter followers to see how our community would prefer to show their support. We got pretty close to a 50/50 split between those who wanted to provide a one-time donation via a Kickstarter or GoFundMe crowdsourcing effort, and those who would prefer some sort of premium subscription add-on service like Patreon or Buy Me a Coffee.

We didn’t get a lot of responses to that poll, but we decided as a group that since the results were so similar, we would offer both and let the public choose one path, the other, or even both. (Stay tuned for news soon-ish on the premium subscription level, but rest assured, everything you’ve been getting for free at TML will remain free!)

I was, admittedly, skeptical that we could raise enough startup money to create a private business, pay for hosting a new site and two podcasts (having long wanted to give the Orlando Pride their own unique show), registering a domain, paying for some design work and consulting, and any unexpected expenses that might come up. However, I thought we’d at least give it a try.

Then the amazing Orlando City, Orlando Pride, and TML community got involved. You guys pushed us past our bare minimum goal in just four and a half hours when our fundraiser went live on March 1. We reset our goal and you met that by midnight. We reset our goal again, to the dream total we discussed on our initial staff Zoom chat and you met that by that first weekend.

Stunned. Humbled. Amazed. Touched. All of these words apply to how that made us feel, but they don’t quite cover it. I think we all felt an enormous responsibility, as well. We felt a mandate to provide you the best site and the best coverage we can.

We got everything we needed to run the site for two years, even if we don’t earn a penny after our launch — and we plan to try, via advertising, a Patreon (or similar) program, an online shop, affiliate links, and anything else we can think of. But we decided to leave the GoFundMe open through the end of March, just in case there were folks who wanted to contribute but needed to wait for payday, or if more people wanted to become founding members of this new site.

Now, here we are. You guys did this. We’re here because of you. And this site isn’t quite what it will become. I’m still learning my way around WordPress, after being away from it for years. There’s more to build, and some of the things you’re seeing on this site now will be improved in the future. We’ll continue to tweak it, add things, and upgrade as we go.

For now, I just want to welcome you to your new online home. On behalf of our entire staff, I thank our founding members, who are now immortalized on this site in our founders section. If you weren’t able to contribute to our transition from SBNation’s network to an autonomous and independent, new version of The Mane Land, you can thank the folks on our founders page, because without them, we wouldn’t be here. And if you still want to help out, we’ve got more things on the way.

Vamos.

Michael Citro
Managing Editor

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Orlando City

Intelligence Report: Orlando City vs. Philadelphia Union

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It’s Matchday Eve once again, and Orlando City is looking to right the ship after a tough 2-1 loss to Charlotte FC last Saturday. This week the Lions will hit the road and take on the Philadelphia Union up in Pennsylvania.

A date with the Union means I caught up with Joe Lister, one of the writers over at Philadelphia Soccer Now, the new home of what was formerly SBNation’s Brotherly Game. As usual, Joe was extremely helpful in getting us up to speed on Philly.

One of the storylines in Orlando City’s off-season was Andres Perea’s departure for the Union. How has he performed so far?

Joe Lister: He’s done really well. Perea has sat behind Ale Bedoya thus far in the season, but as the Union’s captain exits matches a little earlier this year, Perea has stepped in well. He’s also seen significant minutes in Champions League play, and has been great in all competitions. He’s not fighting for a starting spot, but Perea is exactly what Philly needed: a role player.

Paxten Aaronson and Sergio Santos are no longer with Philly. How have they been replaced?

JL: Frankly, Santos and Aaronson have been the Union’s least important transfers of recent memory. The absence of Cory Burke is felt a little more in the first team, but it’s hard to say that Jim Curtin is regretting letting Santos and Aaronson walk.

In the larger picture of transfers, Philly brought in Perea and Joaquin Torres to boost the attack, and they’ve looked solid this far. Torres has demonstrated abilities at the No. 10 and the No. 9, and Perea, as you know, has huge upside at the No. 8.

Obviously, the Union are competing on two fronts to start the season, which can make it a bit tricky to judge performances when rotation is coming into the mix. With that being said, what are your early impressions of the team this year?

JL: The team is a little shaky. For some reason, the same starting XI that reached the MLS Cup final is struggling to gel.

The attack, more specifically, is having a rough go. It took some time to get forward Mikael Uhre going, but as soon as he did, Julian Carranza picked up a red card. It isn’t pretty right now, and the Union truly looks like a mid-table side in MLS action.

Are there any injuries, suspensions or call-ups that will keep players unavailable for selection? What is your projected starting lineup and score prediction?

JL: That Carranza red card will give him a suspension against Orlando, and goalkeeper Andre Blake may be missing the match due to a grade one adductor strain (though he could be cleared to play within the next few days). The Union will also be missing a bunch of players to international duty. Daniel Gazdag, Damion Lowe, Jose Martinez, Richard Odada, Quinn Sullivan, Brandan Craig, and Jack McGlynn will all be out. I’m no math major, but that adds up to nine absences.

Deep breath, here’s my lineup projection.

This isn’t gospel, but Curtin turned to a 4-3-2-1 when faced with injuries in 2021. My gut is that he’ll try something similar here.

Joe Bendik; Kai Wagner, Jack Elliott, Jakob Glesnes, Olivier Mbaizo; Jesus Bueno, Leon Flach, Alejandro Bedoya; Joaquin Torres, Andres Perea; Mikael Uhre.

With all of that said, the Union just can’t pull this off. The team is missing too many players, and they just don’t look comfortable in MLS. This one goes to Orlando, 3-1.


Big thanks to Joe for getting us caught up on the Union. Vamos Orlando!

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