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Lion Links: 10/17/15

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This is getting ridiculous.

The Lions grabbed their fifth-straight victory with a 2-1 win over New York City FC on Friday, keeping their playoff hopes alive and giving Orlando fans everywhere an excuse to break out the "little brother" chants whenever they face New York again.

Orlando City doesn't control its own destiny as it chases a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs, but the Lions have done everything in their power to make the postseason a reality. Let's not worry about that yet though, because we've got some Saturday morning Lion Links to get to!

Recapping the Win Against NYCFC

The Lions just can't stop winning these days, getting it done with a Cyle Larin header in the 62nd minute and a second goal eight minutes later that electrified the 43,179 fans at the Citrus Bowl. Orlando finds itself one point behind Montreal in the quest for the Eastern Conference playoffs, with the season finale in Chester next weekend.

We've got everything you missed from another exciting night at the Citrus Bowl…

Lions Honor Inaugural Alumni Class During Halftime Ceremony

We talk about players who are #ForeverALion a lot around here (still have that jersey ready for you, Dom), but Orlando City made it official on Friday, inducting over 40 players into their inaugural class.

From the club's official press release:

There is a long line of players that make up the historical backbone of Orlando City SC’s success. To honor their contributions, the Lions are launching the Orlando City Alumni Association to conclude the regularly-scheduled Major League Soccer (MLS) season with over 40 former Lions, who played between 1985 and 2014.

The players from Orlando City, the Orlando Lions, and the Orlando Sundogs honored at halftime were: Alex Acosta, Yordany Alvarez, Greg Brick, Justin Bryant, Keith Buckley, Paul Butler, Robin Chan, Lou Cioffi, Patrick Dicks, Mark Dillon, Aziz Essafi, Steve Freeman, Ian Fuller, Michael Garvanian, Don Gatanis, Ian Gill, Fiji Haig, John Higgins, Kenny Higgins, Paul Holmes, Lou Karbiener, Oyvind Klausen, Ajit Korgaokar, Mark Lamb, Nick "Lane-O" Lane, Sheldon Lee, Erik Leibin, John Lewis, Declan Link, Marcos Machado, David Mackey, Kirk Mackey, James O'Connor, Chris Payne, Anthony Pulis, Andrew Restrepo, Jason Riegler, Mark Stell, Erik Ustruck, Rob Valentino and Tom Wurdack.

If you see any of these legends around Orlando this weekend, be sure to tip your cap.

Germany Allegedly Bought the 2006 World Cup

While I would argue that every country to host soccer's biggest tournament technically "bought the World Cup," these allegations appear to be a little more serious.

New information suggests the officials in charge of Germany's 2006 World Cup bid set up a slush fund to purchase the votes of FIFA members. The best part is, FIFA was apparently aware of this whole thing — information that really shouldn't be surprising if you know anything about international soccer's governing body.

This is definitely something to keep your eye on, because it's not like the German football federation has a squeaky clean record. Franz Beckenbauer led that German bid committee, and the former New York Cosmos star has already faced disciplinary action for not complying with a FIFA investigation.

Does MLS Have a Sponsorship Problem?

Don't tell the Red Bulls.

A recent article from fellow SB Nation site Black and Red United claims that MLS could have a sponsorship issue looming. It all centers around the league's recent deal with definitely-not-a-gambling-site Draft Kings, which is at the center of numerous allegations of insider trading and corruption.

That sponsorship by itself might just be something at which we rolled our eyes and then just moved on. However, MLS has other sponsors as well: Three of the league's teams are sponsored by multi-level marketing companies. Multi-level marketing is a business model where a company's sales force is almost entirely independent contractors, and they are paid for their sales as well as for recruiting new salespeople to the company. If you've been on Facebook in the past couple of years, you almost definitely have a friend who has tried to recruit you into one of these companies.

In other words, several of the league's biggest sponsors follow a problematic business model that could lead to legal and economic issues down the road. None of these potential lawsuits would implicate the league directly, but they could cause them to lose any of these sponsors and the valuable financial resources that come with them.

Seriously, we're talking about a lot of money.

Roster Changes for the USWMNT Ahead of Orlando Friendly

With the celebration phase of the USWNT's post-World Cup friendlies starting to wear off, Jill Ellis is already starting to think about building the team she will take to Brazil next summer.

Ellis has named seven new players to the squad that will take on Brazil this month at the Citrus Bowl. The newbies include Jaelene Hinkle, Gina Lewandowski, Emily Sonnett, Samantha Mewis, Christine Nairn, Lindsey Horan, and Stephanie McCaffrey. Crystal Dunn will also be on the roster, though she was one of the last players cut from the World Cup team last summer.

With a couple players expected to hang up their cleats between now and the Olympics, the journey to the big time could begin for several of these young women. And it looks like it's going to start in Orlando.

As Long as They Get Alex Morgan…

* * *

That's it for today, Mane Landers, let's enjoy the weeken and pull for New England Revolution tonight.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/19/24

Orlando Pride host the San Diego Wave, Orlando City B faces Crown Legacy FC, Europa League action, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

Happy Friday! Make sure to get your night plans in order as both the Orlando Pride and Orlando City B have games tonight. Figure out your drink of choice, charge those devices if you don’t plan on heading to the stadium for the Pride game, and knock out any chores before things get rolling. It should be a fun day, so let’s get it started with some links!

Orlando Pride Host the San Diego Wave Tonight

After earning their first win last week in Utah, the Orlando Pride are back in the City Beautiful for tonight’s game against the San Diego Wave at 8 p.m. The Pride’s four-game unbeaten run is on the line and will be put to the test against a Wave team that has four points from three games. San Diego has only scored two goals this season, but it has also secured a pair of clean sheets so far. The biggest storyline heading into the match is whether or not Barbra Banda will make her Pride debut. Hopefully Orlando can light it up at home and keep former Pride forward Alex Morgan and the rest of the Wave’s offense in check.

Orlando City B Takes On Crown Legacy FC

The Young Lions are also in action tonight at 7:30 p.m., with a match against Crown Legacy FC in North Carolina. Crown Legacy is only a point behind OCB, but is still searching for its first win of this MLS NEXT Pro season. OCB has played every game away from the Orlando area so far and ground out a 1-1 draw against Philadelphia Union II last weekend. Orlando hasn’t won a game since its season opener on March 16, but has been proven capable of getting points on the road. Wilfredo Rivera and Yutaro Tsukada linked up for the equalizer in that match, so hopefully they can keep that momentum rolling into tonight’s game.

Americans to Watch This Weekend

European soccer seasons and tournaments are nearing their ends and there are many Americans in important games this weekend. Haji Wright’s heroics put Coventry City into the FA Cup semifinals, and he will have a chance to impress again on Sunday against Manchester United. Elsewhere in England, Fulham duo Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream could put a dent in Liverpool’s title hopes, while Nottingham Forest’s Matt Turner and Giovanni Reyna will square off against Everton, as both sides aim to avoid relegation. Over in Italy, AC Milan duo Christian Pulisic and Yunus Musah will try to stop Inter Milan from claiming the Serie A title in a rivalry match at San Siro. There’s also a showdown between Americans in the Scottish Cup semifinals, with Celtic’s Cameron Carter-Vickers going up against Aberdeen and Dante Polvara.

Europa League Quarterfinals Come to a Close

The Europa League quarterfinals are done and dusted and only four teams remain in contention for some silverware. West Ham United took the lead against Bayer Leverkusen, but couldn’t overcome the aggregate deficit and the German club advanced. Leverkusen also scored a late equalizer to make it a 1-1 draw and extend its unbeaten streak to 44 games. Marseille scored at home against Benfica to send the game to extra time and then won the eventual penalty shootout. Atalanta did enough in a 1-0 loss to Liverpool to advance on aggregate, with Liverpool’s lone goal coming from an early Mohamed Salah penalty kick. AS Roma is also through to the semifinals after a 2-1 win against AC Milan, despite a red card in the first half. In the semifinals, Marseille will face Atalanta and Leverkusen will take on Roma.

Free Kicks

  • Houston Dynamo Head Coach Ben Olsen has agreed to a new contract that will keep him with the club through 2026. Olsen has quietly dragged the Dynamo out of the Western Conference’s basement and won last year’s U.S. Open Cup as well.
  • New York Red Bulls defender Andres Reyes was suspended an additional match for violent conduct in the team’s match against the Chicago Fire. This means Reyes will miss tomorrow’s match against LAFC and the home game against the Vancouver Whitecaps on April 27.
  • American left back Jorge Villafana is hanging up his cleats. He won the MLS Cup with the Portland Timbers back in 2015 and the Concacaf Gold Cup with the U.S. in 2017.
  • Replays won’t be a part of the FA Cup for the next six years. This will ease some of the schedule congestion for English Premier League teams, but it denies lower-division sides the chance at more revenue.
  • The folks over at Stars and Stripes FC shined a spotlight on forward Jubilo Iwata, who currently leads Japan’s J1 League in scoring after eight games. It’s always cool to learn more about some of the lesser-known players in the U.S. player pool.
  • An NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers will be played in Brazil at Corinthians Arena. However, there’s an unofficial rule at the stadium that green can’t be worn, as it is the color of Corinthians rival, so we’ll see if that’s adhered to come September.
  • Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird’s production company will adapt Cleat Cute, a romance novel by Meryl Wilsner about love between teammates on a women’s soccer team. As someone who’s read it and loved it, I’m pretty excited for the show to say the least.

That’s all I have for you today. Stay hydrated and enjoy the games today. Go Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/18/24

Barbra Banda’s opportunity in Orlando, Omar Gonzalez’s mental health struggles, UEFA Champions League quarterfinals finish, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope this week has been treating you well as we gear up for another weekend packed with Orlando soccer. It’s been a fairly busy week for me as I juggle work with keeping an eye on my cat. He’s a bit of a menace, but at least in a cute way. I’ll spare you my rambling on how great he is, and instead give you today’s links from around the soccer world.

Opportunity Knocks for Barbra Banda

Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda landed in the City Beautiful and spoke on how her first week with the team has been going. While there’s plenty of buzz surrounding the Pride on how Banda should improve the team’s offense, playing in the NWSL will also help the 24-year-old further develop her game.

“I think the league is quite good. I’ve been following it from way back,” she said. “I think it’s a very interesting league, very strong. All the teams are very physical, fast. So I think it’s good for myself to improve.”

Now that she’s with the Pride, soccer fans around the world will now have better access to watch one of the best forwards in women’s soccer. Banda also talked about the warm welcome she received at the airport and you can check out more of her reaction to that and some of her first few days in Orlando in the video below.

Portland Thorns Head Coach Reassigned

Mike Norris is no longer the head coach of the Portland Thorns after the club made him a technical director instead. The Thorns have never had a worse start to an NWSL season, losing three of their four games this year and still searching for their first win. Rob Gale will serve as the team’s interim head coach while the club does a global search for a replacement. I’m a bit surprised that Norris wasn’t given a few more weeks to turn things around, considering Portland is just a win away from being back in the thick of things. We’ll see if the Thorns will get that win with Gale at the helm when they take on the struggling Houston Dash Saturday.

Omar Gonzalez Shares His Mental Health Journey

American defender Omar Gonzalez discussed the difficulties he’s had over the course of his year and the toll it has had on his mental health. His own goal in the USMNT’s loss to Trinidad & Tobago that cost the team its chance to qualify for the 2018 World Cup would be rough for any player to overcome, but Gonzalez stated that head injuries made a stressful few years of his life much more difficult. Gonzalez admitted that he had daily suicidal thoughts until he reached out for needed help while with Toronto FC. Things have since improved and he’s currently with his hometown team, FC Dallas. I think it’s helpful for players like Gonzalez to be open about the mental health problems athletes face. Hopefully this lets other athletes know they aren’t alone in these struggles and encourages them to reach out for help if needed.

UEFA Champions League Semifinals Are Set

Only four teams are still standing in the UEFA Champions League after the quarterfinals wrapped up with plenty of dramatic soccer. The matchup between Real Madrid and Manchester City lived up to expectations with a penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw in England. Real Madrid prevailed and ended City’s run, with Andriy Lunin making two saves in the shootout. In the other quarterfinal, Bayern Munich advanced after beating Arsenal 1-0, thanks to Joshua Kimmich’s head.

It all sets up for a thrilling pair of semifinals and potential storylines for the final. Will Bayern and Borussia Dortmund reach the final for a rivalry match for the ages? Can Kylian Mbappe finally give Paris Saint-Germain a Champions League title, and will it be at the expense of Real Madrid? If the semifinals are anything like the quarterfinals, it will be great soccer to enjoy.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando City Director of Equipment Operations Charles Raycroft received some deserved recognition after reaching an impressive milestone in his career.
  • Romario, who was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 1994 after helping Brazil win a World Cup, has registered himself as a player for America Football Club. The 58-year-old has been the president of the club since 2009 and now has the chance to play alongside his son Romarinho.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/17/24

Orlando City rises in power rankings, Orlando Pride waive two players, Champions League results, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

Welcome to Wednesday, Mane Landers. Time to start your day with some tasty links. It’s shaping up to be an exciting weekend with Orlando City, the Orlando Pride, and Orlando City B all playing. Last week, Orlando’s teams ended up with seven out of nine possible points. Here’s hoping we see nine out of nine this weekend. Let’s get to the links.

Orlando City Moving On Up

Starting the season 0-3-1 is a good way to be in the cellar of the utterly meaningless MLSsoccer.com power rankings. Orlando City is now starting to climb up the rankings thanks to three straight results. The Lions moved up four spots to 21st after the 3-2 victory over DC United. It was Duncan McGuire’s goal that secured the win, and his performance off the bench was a talking point for this week as well.

Farewell Kaylie Collins and Tori Hansen

The Orlando Pride announced that goalkeeper Kaylie Collins and defender Tori Hansen were waived on Tuesday. Both players were on loan in Australia’s A-League Women ,with Collins at Western Sydney Wanderers FC and Hansen with Melbourne Victory FC. Collins and Hansen were both NWSL draft picks for the Pride, though neither saw significant minutes with the club.

Barbra Banda Begins Training

Barbra Banda participated in her first training with the Pride Tuesday. It’s uncertain how much playing time she may get this week, but it’s possible she makes her first appearance against the San Diego Wave this Friday. Please remember that it sometimes takes new players time to get used to a new club, a new city, and a new league. Of course, I’m still hoping she comes on and scores a brace against the Wave.

Wild Matches in Champions League Quarterfinals

Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund both overcame deficits in the first leg to advance to the UEFA Champions League semifinals. PSG dropped four goals on Barcelona to win 6-4 on aggregate. Barcelona scored first, but made things hard on itself when Ronald Araújo was sent off.

Borussia Dortmund also scored four goals, defeating Atletico Madrid 5-4 on aggregate. Dortmund gave up an own goal, but battled back to take the lead in the match and then the lead in the tie thanks to goals scored in the 71st and 74th minutes. It was a wild, fun match to watch. Dortmund and PSG will meet in the semifinals.

Free Kicks

  • MLS will now start implementing the new rules for off-field treatments, timed substitutions, and in-stadium VAR announcements. The idea is to maximize effective match time.
  • The International Football Association Board (IFAB) will test new time limit rules during the 2024-2025 season for how long keepers can hold the ball with potential consequences including giving the opposing team a corner or a throw-in.
  • Finally, our thoughts are with the friends and family following the passing of Joel McKell.

That will do it for today. Check back later in the week as we get you ready for the Orlando City, Orlando Pride, and OCB matches this weekend. Vamos Orlando!

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