Happy Wednesday, Mane Landers! Before we get to the festivities, let’s all take a moment to wish William Eyang a happy birthday. Eyang turns 22 today, and is preparing to kick off the season with Orlando City B. The Cameroonian forward played for Bodens BK in Sweden last year, and will bring his speed to Melbourne this coming season. So in his honor, we’re dedicating these Lion Links to him, and making them the best Links of all time (Note: claim may not be accurate).
OCB Schedule Released
After months of eager anticipation, the USL finally released the schedule for the upcoming season, and The Mane Land has you covered for all your planning needs. Fortunately, there are only three conflicts with the senior squad and at least one team is away on all of those, so you never have to worry about what game to attend.
And like any good schedule drop, it is accompanied by instant analysis about games yet to be played between teams with undecided rosters. The USL has declared these to be the 20 most intriguing games. OCB versus last year's OCSC affiliate, Louiville City FC, makes the list. It should be an interesting battle of extremely purple proportions, but considering the amount of new teams in the league and the amount of turnover likely to be seen by many other clubs, it's anybody's guess as to what the best match-ups will be. I just know the best team will be playing in Melbourne.
Past and Future Lions in Action
Yesterday was a busy day for former and potential future Orlando City players. First off, keepers Tally Hall and Josh Ford are training with Seattle. Or in Hall's case, likely rehabbing and watching practice. Former Orlando City midfielder Mikey Lopez signed with NYCFC. Lopez played briefly with Orlando City in March of 2014 while on loan from Sporting KC. His tenure with the team was short, as he was then loaned to Oklahoma City in June. Lastly, potential future OCSC forward and current academy player Alejandro Pereira was part of the U.S. U-17 team to take part in the Aegean Cup. Unfortunately, the team fell short, losing 3-1 to host Turkey in the final. Pereira did not see the field in the game.
Pride Players on International Duty
Ashlyn Harris and Alex Morgan have, unsurprisingly, been named by USWNT Head Coach Jill Ellis to the Olympic qualifying tournament. The tournament will be held between Feb. 10 and 21 in Texas. Harris will be backing up Hope Solo, while Morgan leads a surprisingly thin attacking corps. Meanwhile, Kaylyn Kyle has not been named to the Canadian squad. This is not too surprising as she has been left off most of the recent teams, though she did play significant minutes for Canada in the last World Cup. I guess this means she will be roaring and ready to go for the Pride.
- For some reason, some feel that the World Cup in Qatar is in jeopardy (note to self: see if anything odd has been going on with FIFA recently). Should the location of the tournament come up for grabs again, prospective FIFA President Jerome Chapman supports the U.S. as a location.
- Speaking of the World Cup, long time Italian and Juventus keeper Gianluigi Buffon will retire after the upcoming tournament in Russia. Without actually looking it up, my best estimate is that Buffon has been the Italian goal keeper since forever.
- Lastly, I close with this because it made me laugh. PAOK striker Dimitar Berbatov interviewed himself after getting sent off against AEK Athens. I look forward to the upcoming SBN blog, Berbatov on Berbatov.
That's it for now, kids. Time to go start working on the "Happy Belated Birthday, William Eyang" tifo for the OCB opener.
Lion Links: 9/23/22
Lions and Herons meet again, Carly Nelson is writing a book, NWSL free agency opens, and more.
Happy Founder’s Day, Mane Landers! It was on this day in 2014 that our fearless leader and Managing Editor Michael Citro started our first ever WordPress website. It’s safe to say that I’m sure The Mane Land has impacted your life as much as it has mine over the years, whether that be through daily reading or weekly podcasts. Cheers to Michael and all those who have come before me.
In my own personal news, I have been grinding away on the new EA FC 24 (the franchise formerly known as EA’s FIFA.) So far, the gameplay and updates have been great in my initial 15+ hours of play, and my online Ultimate Team is starting to really take its shape. I’m sure in a couple weeks that I’ll transition to a traditional Career Mode and take the Lions all the way to an MLS Cup and beyond.
Before we dive into today’s links, let’s all wish a very happy birthday to everyone’s favorite defensive midfielder, Wilder Cartagena!
Third Bout for Orlando City and Inter Miami
Orlando City and Inter Miami have already met twice this campaign. Sunday’s match will look to break the deadlock between the two rivals as both clubs have a victory to their name in this year’s series. In May, the Lions grabbed a 3-1 victory over the Fort Lauderdale-based club. The two sides met for a second time in the knockout round of Leagues Cup 2023 with Inter Miami taking the 3-1 result at DRV PNK Stadium. No matter the result this time around, Orlando City has already clinched a playoff spot, however, the Herons need every point they can get to attempt to do the same.
Carly Nelson, Goalkeeper and Author
It isn’t unheard of to learn that an athlete might have tried another sport before finding soccer, Orlando Pride goalkeeper Carly Nelson came from a background of gymnastics, tennis, basketball, and baseball before her father started a club soccer team with her in mind. While Nelson might have idolized USWNT legend Hope Solo as a child, she started her playing days as a forward, winger, and midfielder. Outside of protecting the Pride’s net, Nelson is spending time writing a book about her life growing up in Utah and the issues her family faced to hopefully help others that might find themselves in similar situations.
NWSL Opens 2024 Free Agency
The National Women’s Soccer League has officially opened the league’s unrestricted and restricted free agency periods. In accordance with the NWSL Players’ Association’s collective bargaining agreement, eligible free agents can begin negotiations for their 2024 Standard Player Agreements. Players eligible for unrestricted free agency include all who have at least five years of service within the NWSL and contracts expiring in 2023, while players eligible for restricted free agency include those who have at least three years of service. For the Orlando Pride, defender Kylie Strom is set to be an unrestricted free agent and midfielder Jordyn Listro is under restricted terms. Any club that currently holds the rights of a restricted free agent has a seven-day period to match an incoming offer from another club or else the player may sign with the new club under the terms of the offer.
USMNT’s Tyler Adams Nearing Return
Tyler Adams will not make his Bournemouth debut this weekend, but he could return as early as next week. Bournemouth’s manager, Andoni Iraola, provided a positive update on the U.S. Men’s National Team captain as he finishes up rehabbing a long-term hamstring injury.
“He has started this week at least to train partially with the group, so probably we can have a chance of having him next week or two weeks, something like this. Tyler is really close because once you start training partially with the group, it’s a matter of sensations, and if you are physically good enough. He has a very good physical base. So I think it will take not a long time to see Tyler with the team.”
Adams has not played since March after having a hamstring surgery. Even with a known injury, the 24-year-old still completed a move from Leeds United to Bournemouth following Leeds’ relegation to keep him in the top flight.
MLS Weekend Preview
Aside from the Florida derby, there are plenty of matches to be excited about around the league this weekend. Personally, I’m looking forward to catching a bit of the D.C. United and New York Red Bulls match. Manager Wayne Rooney’s club is right on the bubble in a tight Eastern Conference race while the Red Bulls can do themselves a huge service and come back into the playoff picture with a win. Out in the Western Conference, there is a real buzz around a Portland Timbers squad after a manager sacking. It could be a huge win for the Timbers and likely push them above the play-in round should they find a result against the Colorado Rapids.
- FC Cincinnati has signed its captain Luciano Acosta to a contract extension through the 2026 MLS season with an option for 2027.
- For the third-straight vote, an Inter Miami player has Goal of the Matchday honors as Robert Taylor got 44.5% of the vote for Matchday 33.
- FC Cincinnati wingback Álvaro Barreal has been nominated for the 2023 FIFA Púskas Award and is only the second-ever MLS player to earn a nomination after Zlatan Ibrahimovic became the first in 2019 with the LA Galaxy.
- The United States, Mexico, and Canada are joining forces to tackle any “collusive schemes” involving goods or services connected to the 2026 FIFA World Cup in an effort to avoid exploitation of the major event.
- Athletico Paranaense’s18-year-old Vitor Roque has likely played his last game for the club before his move to Barcelona after the striker has reportedly torn ligaments in his right ankle.
That’s all I have for you today, Mane Landers. I hope you all have a fantastic Saturday. Be safe on Sunday at the match. Stay hydrated and look out for those around you. Vamos Orlando!
Lion Links: 9/22/23
Orlando City prepares for Inter Miami, MLS NEXT Pro Decision Day is Sunday, USWNT wins against South Africa, and much more.
Happy Friday! It’s been a pretty busy week of apartment hunting and work for me, so I’m looking forward to some rest and relaxation this weekend. I don’t have many plans, but I did make sure to carve out a few hours to make a drink and get some reading done. My book club is fairly low maintenance, but I’ll be behind if I don’t finish Fourth Wing before the second book in the series comes out in November. Let’s get into today’s links!
Orlando City Takes On Inter Miami This Weekend
Following a 2-0 loss on the road to New York City FC earlier this week, Orlando City will aim to bounce back when it hosts rival Inter Miami this Sunday. Orlando has a chance to set club records for the most wins and points in a season since it joined MLS in 2015. It will be the third meeting between the two clubs this season, with Orlando beating Miami 3-1 in May before falling 3-1 in the Leagues Cup’s knockout stage. Although Miami will be without Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba according to Head Coach Tata Martino, the Herons still have plenty of attacking talent in the form of Sergio Busquets, Leonardo Campana, and Josef Martinez.
Orlando City B Readies for MLS NEXT Pro Decision Day
Sunday will also be the final day of the MLS NEXT Pro regular season, with nearly every team in action. Here’s everything you need to know about Decision Day across the league, with playoff spots still up for grabs. Orlando City B has already clinched its spot in the postseason, but can secure fifth in the Eastern Conference when it takes on FC Cincinnati 2. However, the difference between fifth and a lower seed won’t matter too much due to a new rule this year where the second and third seed in each conference choose which lower seed it wants to host in the playoffs. The Golden Boot race is competitive as well, with OCB’s Jack Lynn tied at the top with New York City FC II’s Matt Myers. We’ll see if Lynn takes part in Sunday’s match after giving the first team needed depth last weekend.
USWNT Beats South Africa in Julie Ertz’s Finale
The United States Women’s National Team won 3-0 against South Africa in the first of two friendlies this month. All three of the USWNT’s goals came in the first half, with Lynn Williams bagging a brace. In her final USWNT game, Julie Ertz started and earned plenty of applause from the crowd at TQL Stadium when she was subbed off in the 36h minute. M.A. Vignola made her USWNT debut in the match as well, coming on at halftime. The two nations will play again on Sunday in what will be forward Megan Rapinoe’s last game with the USWNT.
Europa League Group Stage Kicks Off
The first round of Europa League group stage matches is over, with all 32 teams getting things started across Europe. Brighton & Hove Albion’s first Europa League match was a rough one, as the English club fell 3-2 at home against AEK Athens. The Spanish clubs also struggled, with Villarreal getting shut out 2-0 by Panathinaikos and Real Betis losing 1-0 to Rangers. Elsewhere, AS Roma beat Sheriff Tiraspol 2-1 thanks to a winner from Romelu Lukaku, Liverpool won 3-1 over Austrian club LASK after trailing early on, and Marseille drew 3-3 with Ajax in a thriller. West Ham, Atalanta, Bayer Leverkusen, and SC Freiburg also won their group openers.
- Enjoy the sights and sounds from the Orlando City Foundation’s annual celebrity golf and footgolf tournament.
- Borussia Dortmund reportedly has no interest in signing Jadon Sancho from Manchester United. The 23-year-old spent four years with the German club before making the move to United in 2021.
- American defender Mark McKenzie scored a late equalizer in Genk’s 2-2 draw with Fiorentina in the Europa Conference League.
- Xavi Hernandez has reportedly signed a one-year contract extension with Barcelona.
- Here’s an interesting look into the shortage of referees in Europe and how abuse at the youth levels may be to blame.
That’s all I have for you today, Mane Landers. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!
Lion Links: 9/21/23
Orlando City clinches playoff berth despite loss, Eastern Conference standings remain close, USWNT plays South Africa tonight, and more.
How’s it going, Mane Landers? Last night’s result wasn’t the best outcome by any means, but losing on the road on short rest after a huge win isn’t the worst thing in the world. We’ll just have to shake that loss off and look forward to more soccer while we have it. Before we dive into today’s links, let’s all wish a happy birthday to Orlando City B midfielder Imanol Almaguer!
Orlando City Clinch Playoff Spot Despite Loss
The Lions weren’t able to put together a comeback in their 2-0 loss on the road to New York City FC. Playing at a narrow Citi Field, Orlando was not able to get much of anything going on offense and was shut out for the first time since July 8. The loss snapped Orlando’s six-game unbeaten streak in MLS play as well. Although the Lions are headed back to Florida emptyhanded, they did qualify for the playoffs due to other results in the league. Orlando will look to right the ship when it hosts Inter Miami this Sunday at 7:30 p.m.
Eastern Conference Remains Tight After Midweek Matches
Orlando wasn’t the only Eastern Conference team to clinch its spot in the playoffs after the latest midweek matches, with the Columbus Crew and Philadelphia Union both qualifying. Cucho Hernandez had a hat trick within the first 23 minutes of the Crew’s 3-0 win at home against the Chicago Fire. A penalty kick in stoppage time by Daniel Gazdag salvaged a point for the Union in a 2-2 draw with Charlotte FC. FC Cincinnati also needed a late equalizer from the penalty spot in its 1-1 draw with CF Montreal. As for how Orlando’s rivals fared, Atlanta United drew 1-1 with D.C. United and Miami beat Toronto FC, 4-0. Lionel Messi and Jordi Alba both exited in the first half and Miami Head Coach Tata Martino stated that neither will play against Orlando this weekend. Of course, that could just be misdirection. We’ll know for certain come Sunday.
USWNT Plays South Africa Tonight
The United States Women’s National Team will play its first match since the World Cup tonight when it faces South Africa tonight at 7:30 p.m. at TQL Stadium. Following Vlatko Andonovski’s departure last month, Twila Kilgore will coach the team for these friendlies. It will also be Julie Ertz’s final game after 10 years of playing for the USWNT. The 31-year-old announced her retirement last month and spoke more about her decision ahead of tonight’s match. After tonight, the USWNT will play South Africa again on Sunday at Soldier Field.
Champions League Group Stage Rolls On
More clubs got their first taste of this year’s Champions League action as the group stage kicked off this week. Arsenal’s campaign got off on the right foot, with a 4-0 win over PSV Eindhoven that put the English club at the top of its group after a 1-1 draw between Sevilla and Lens. Manchester United had a rougher time, falling 4-3 on the road to Bayern Munich. Goalkeeper Andre Onana struggled and blamed himself for the loss. Real Madrid needed a goal from Jude Bellingham in stoppage time to win 1-0 over Union Berlin at home, while Lautaro Martinez scored a late equalizer in Inter Milan’s 1-1 draw with Real Sociedad. Elsewhere, Napoli beat Braga 2-1, RB Leipzig won 2-0 against a Benfica side that was reduced to 10 men early on, and Galatasaray and Copenhagen split the points in a 2-2 result.
- A cheesesteak offered by Kappy’s Subs at Exploria Stadium is receiving some attention for being purple. I personally find the lack of cheese and tons of banana peppers weirder, although I’m sure it tastes pretty good.
- Most of the players on Spain’s women’s national team ended their boycott after an agreement was reached that will reportedly bring change to the federation.
- American defender Reggie Cannon will reportedly join Queens Park Rangers in the English Football League Championship.
- Tottenham midfielder Ivan Perisic will undergo surgery after suffering an ACL injury and will miss the remainder of the season.
- Marcelino has stepped down as Marseille’s head coach after less than three months at the helm. This decision comes in the midst of fans complaining about how the French club has been run.
- Here’s an interesting dive into which players have scored the most goals against a former club, with Robert Lewandowski at the top of the list for his crimes against Borussia Dortmund.
That’s all I have for you today. Be like a goldfish and enjoy your Thursday!
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