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Lion Links: 12/10/16

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The curtain is about to close on this year’s MLS season. Tonight in Toronto, we get to see the surging Sounders and high-flying Toronto match up in what should be a great Cup final. It should be a high-scoring affair as TFC’s three-headed monster of Jozy Altidore, Sebastian Giovinco, and Michael Bradley try to keep up with the pace and power of Nico Lodeiro and Jordan Morris.

Hopefully it’s as entertaining as the Eastern Conference tilt between Toronto and Montreal, that was a back-and-forth goal-fest for the ages. As a bonus, it’s supposed to be below freezing. If you’re trying to get a friend into MLS (or soccer in general), this is a game you’ll want to show them. There’s nothing like two clubs playing for their first title.

To get you into the mood before first kick tonight, we’ve got a full slate of Links for you to peruse.

Breaking Down MLS Cup

If you’re looking for more information on the two conference champions before tonight, MLSSoccer.com’s Matthew Doyle has you covered. It’s the tactical side of the Cup, the team’s strengths and weaknesses, and what to expect on a cold night in Ontario. Since I haven’t necessarily been keeping up with Seattle or Toronto throughout the year, the charts, highlights, and comprehensive analysis of every position on the pitch is helpful to get to know their personnel. If you’ve got any questions, that preview will likely answer them.

Don Garber Gives State of the League Address

David Beckham’s Miami expansion franchise was at the forefront of Garber’s annual speech. This time, however, it wasn’t the same old song and dance of wait and see, promising that it was moving forward. Now, Garber has said there is a deadline for Beckham to get his team off the ground to be the 24th franchise. He’s not saying Miami won’t get a team if Beckham can’t get things going, just that other teams waiting in line can jump them. The league will discuss franchises 25-28 this coming week.

Video replay was another major talking point on Friday and Garber says the league wants to implement it after the All-Star Game in 2017. On top of having another large influx of Targeted Allocation Money and the two new expansion clubs, next season should be full of positive new additions.

Garber Q&A on NASL, Promotion and Relegation

As the 2016 season winds down, the commissioner took some time to reflect on the year with ESPN FC and look ahead to the future. The uptick in TV ratings and attendance is great, but Garber wants to make matches even more accessible to fans by allowing them to watch “on whatever platform they want to watch. We will be very focused on that next year and the years to come.”

With NASL potentially on the verge of collapse, the Soccer Don also discussed the lower leagues and what they mean for MLS. While America’s top league has been relatively stable, the turnover in USL and especially MLS has created some turmoil and uncertainty. Garber certainly isn’t happy that some clubs might go under, but he’s an advocate for stability in the American soccer landscape. He does not believe that MLS was a cause for NASL’s demise, even though there was competition for markets and NASL wanted the Division I label.

Brad Guzan Reportedly Returning Stateside

The era of an American goalkeeper in the Premier League may be finally coming to an end. Tim Howard made his triumphant return to MLS this year and helped bring the Colorado Rapids deep into the playoffs. Now his compatriot, Brad Guzan, is reportedly following suit. Atlanta United may be getting a USMNT keeper for the club’s inaugural year as the 32-year-old Guzan is set to leave Middlesbrough for the expansion side. Atlanta’s off-season has been the talk of the league so far, and it will be interesting to see if they can put it all together to be competitive in their first season.

The Optimal World Cup Format?

There has been talk of expanding the field of the world’s most prestigious international tournament, but Jonathan Wison of Sports Illustrated believes that he has found the perfect format. There are inherent issues with most of the proposed increases in the size of the field, be it shorter rest or a longer tournament with more matches. Wilson wants to focus to on two major points: making sure the top teams play stiff competition and developing soccer in more countries. His idea — to play group stages between teams from varying confederations in their home countries before moving on to one final, centralized tournament — certainly seems to solve some of the problems posed by FIFA’s ideas. This proposed method has its own flaws — mainly the greatly increased travel for every team involved — but in a perfect world it gives plenty of fans the ability to technically watch World Cup matches and turns the final 16 into an epic tournament between the best nations regardless of confederation.

Those are all the Links we have for you today. Now all we can do is crack open some beer and watch either Toronto FC or Seattle win their first Cup. Who do you think takes home the silverware?

Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/12/24

Orlando Pride play in Utah tonight, Orlando City B earns a point, Europa League quarterfinals begin, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City B

Happy Friday! I hope this week has gone smoothly for you as we gear up for even more Orlando soccer tonight and tomorrow. It should be a nice next few days, even if I’m working for most of it. I don’t have many plans outside of work beyond bonding with my cat and trying a new stuffed bread recipe. Let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world!

Orlando Pride Play the Utah Royals Tonight

The Orlando Pride are on the road tonight for a showdown with the Utah Royals at 9:30 p.m., and you can catch the game on NWSL+ or through Bally Sports if you’re local. Although the Royals are an expansion team this year, the Pride last squared off against the previous Royals back in 2019, with Orlando losing all three games to Utah that season. This season, the Pride are riding a three-game unbeaten streak. However, they are also still on the hunt for their first win after three consecutive draws. While the offense awaits the arrival of Zambian striker Barbra Banda, the Pride have managed to score off of a set piece in each of their three games so far. While a draw on the road wouldn’t be awful by any means, hopefully the Pride can get a solid tally in the win column tonight.

Orlando City B Draws Philadelphia Union II

OCB went on the road to take on Philadelphia Union II and earned a single point after a 1-1 draw and penalty shootout. The two teams traded goals in the first half, but the Young Lions were on the back foot for most of the second half. While Orlando’s offense sputtered, the defense survived chance after chance from Philadelphia to send the game to a shootout. Orlando lost the lengthy shootout, 7-6, claiming just one point, but at least the Young Lions didn’t leave Pennsylvania empty handed. Hopefully OCB can return to its winning ways when it faces off with Crown Legacy FC on April 19.

New York City FC Stadium Plans Finally Approved

Plans to build a soccer-specific stadium in Queens for new grounds for New York City FC were approved by New York City officials. It will be a $780 million stadium expected to open in 2027 and serves as the centerpiece of a redevelopment project in the neighborhood. The 25,000-seat stadium will be right next to Citi Field, which has been one of the many home venues for NYCFC over the years since joining as an expansion side alongside Orlando City in 2015. It’s a bit wild that this stadium is set to open 10 years after Orlando christened its own soccer-specific stadium back in 2017. At least the Lions won’t have to play road games at baseball stadiums for much longer.

Europa League Quarterfinals Kick Off

The Europa League quarterfinals are underway, with the remaining eight teams squaring off in the first legs of their matchups. In England, Atalanta leaned on a brace from Gianluca Scamacca and stellar defense to win 3-0 against Liverpool. Bayer Leverkusen’s unbeaten streak stretched to 42 games after it beat West Ham United 2-0, thanks to a pair of late goals. The first match between Italian clubs AC Milan and Roma went to the visitors, as Roma scored early on and held on for a 1-0 win at San Siro. The only quarterfinal that wasn’t a shutout took place in Portugal, with Benfica beating Marseille, 2-1. The second legs will all take place at the same time next week, which should make for an exciting Thursday afternoon of soccer.

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That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!

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Lion Links: 4/11/24

Learning more about Morgan Gautrat, OCB plays tonight, Champions League action, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I’m having a fairly stressful but great week after adopting my first cat and getting him all set up here. It may take a few weeks to turn him into a loyal Orlando soccer fan, but I have high hopes. Regardless, I’m looking forward to the gauntlet of games with Orlando City B playing today, the Orlando Pride tomorrow, and Orlando City on Saturday. Let’s get to the links!

Getting to Know Morgan Gautrat

Orlando Pride midfielder Morgan Gautrat was the latest player to field questions as part of the video series for fans to learn more about the players who wear purple. She weighed in on how she changed her game once she transitioned to the United States Women’s National Team at age 19, going from a playmaking attacker to a player who slots in deeper in the midfield. Gautrat brings leadership, experience, and a strong skillset to a young Pride team that’s built a strong culture around it. She also spoke on how Florida is her soccer home, what her spirit animal is, and the team’s aspirations this season.

Orlando City B Takes On Philadelphia Union II

The Young Lions are on the road today at 4 p.m. for an MLS NEXT Pro match against Philadelphia Union II. OCB last played in Chester, PA in last year’s season opener, winning 3-1 in an impressive victory. The team will hope for a similar result tonight to get back on track after a loss to Inter Miami II earlier this month. Philadelphia has yet to lose in regulation this season and has won both of its home matches. It should be a tough match for the Young Lions, but a great chance to climb back up the Eastern Conference standings for them.

Assessing USWNT After SheBelieves Cup Win

The United States Women’s National Team is moving towards the Olympics with plenty of momentum after winning the SheBelieves Cup and Concacaf W Gold Cup. There were plenty of parallels between the SheBelieves Cup final and the Gold Cup semifinal against Canada, one was just a bit more waterlogged. Canada used a late penalty to send the game to penalty kicks, Sophia Smith scored, and Alyssa Naeher stood on her head in the penalty shootout. The key differences were that Mallory Swanson has given the attack some needed dynamism after returning, and the defense struggles without Naomi Girma to anchor it. It was also Twila Kilgore’s final game as the USWNT’s interim head coach, and now attention will turn towards how Emma Hayes can elevate the team once she takes over.

Champions League Quarterfinals Roll On

Atletico Madrid and Barcelona both won in their first legs of the Champions League quarterfinals, although neither match was a blowout. Atletico Madrid hosted Borussia Dortmund and scored twice in the first half. Dortmund brought one back in the second half, but Atletico Madrid held on to secure a 2-1 win. The road team completed the comeback in the other match though, with Barcelona winning a 3-2 thriller against Paris Saint-Germain that included four goals in the second half. All in all, this was a great round of quarterfinal first legs filled with plenty of goals, and the second legs next week should be pretty entertaining.

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  • Andrew Wiebe was the latest analyst to dive into Orlando’s attacking woes this season. I personally think things will naturally improve once the team gets some rest under its belt and Luis Muriel settles in. I agree with Wiebe though that Wilder Cartagena and Cesar Araujo must return to form.
  • The Champions League shouldn’t overshadow a strong slate of Europa League quarterfinals today. My favorite matchup of the four would have to be the Italian showdown between AC Milan and Roma.
  • English forward Rachel Daly announced that she is retiring from international soccer. The 32-year-old scored 22 goals last season with Aston Villa and has scored 16 goals in 84 appearances with England.
  • Midfielder Dillon Serna is hanging up his cleats at age 30 after a career that included time with the Colorado Rapids and Colorado Springs Switchbacks.
  • Manchester City’s Rodri is feeling the wear and tear of his team’s pursuit for silverware. Rest may be hard to come by for him during a congested schedule, and he hasn’t lost in the past 66 games he’s played in.
  • Former Liverpool midfielder Danny Murphy shared the struggle he had after retiring, providing details on his drug addiction and the despair felt after he quit playing.

That’s all I have for you today on this fine Thursday. Treat yourself to something you deserve, check in with a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while, and have a great day!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/10/24

MLS Earth Day kits are in, Dagur Dan Thorhallsson gets noticed, U.S. wins SheBelieves Cup, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

Welcome to Wednesday, Mane Landers. Time to start your day with some tasty links. Orlando City and the Pride are back in action this weekend, and OCB has a match tomorrow. That means plenty of goodness to end the week. Three straight days of Orlando matches is something for which to be grateful. Let’s get to the links.

Orlando City’s Greener Goals

Orlando City joins the other clubs in MLS in celebrating Earth Day with the Greener Goals week of service. Each club will volunteer time to help the environment. The club has two cleanups scheduled, including one in the area around the stadium in which fans can contribute to the effort. Additionally, all the clubs will have special One Planet pre-match kits. The kits are made from recycled materials and represent either soil, woods, or water. I’m guessing that the Orlando City kit is of the soil variety.

Dagur Dan is Da Man

The Mane Land PawedCast isn’t the only outfit noticing that Dagur Dan Thorhallsson is a force to be reckoned with. To be fair, he had some struggles during Orlando City’s hectic start to the season. Once he was rested, he was back in form and others outside of Orlando are taking notice. It’s not particularly surprising given his very nice right foot on crosses, his ability to take on opponents, and his ability to get back on defense. I’m looking forward to more from him because I don’t want no Fop! I’m a Dagur Dan man!

Barbra Banda Sends Zambia to the Olympics

After a 2-1 loss to Morocco in the first leg, Zambia bounced back with a 2-0 road win in the second leg to qualify for this summer’s Olympics. Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda scored twice in the match, including a penalty in extra time to secure the win on aggregate. It’s the second straight trip to the Olympics for Zambia, with Banda scoring six goals in the group stage of the last Olympics. This year, Zambia is in a tough group against the U.S., Germany, and Australia, but has the talent to make a run.

Once Upon a What?

Once Upon a Coconut is now the official coconut water sponsor of Orlando City, the Orlando Pride, and Inter&Co Stadium. If you’re like me, your first response was, “I was unaware that official coconut water sponsors were a thing.” Well, they are, and now the club is a leader in this exciting new frontier. All kidding aside, sponsors mean money for the club, which is a good thing, and the product will be available to sample in the Mane Street Plaza Fan Zone. Drink up, me hearties!

USWNT Wins the SheBelieves Cup

It took the USWNT all the way to penalty kicks to finally win the 2024 SheBelieves Cup, defeating Canada 2-2 (5-4). Canada struck first before the U.S. took the lead on a Sophia Smith brace. Canada equalized late on a soft penalty conceded by Crystal Dunn, and the match went to spot kicks to decide things. Despite missing the first shot, the U.S. eventually won, thanks to three saves by Alyssa Naeher, who also contributed a goal in the shootout.

In the third-place match, Brazil and Japan also went to penalty kicks, with Brazil winning the shootout 3-0 after a 1-1 draw, with Lorena saving all three of Japan’s penalty kicks. Cristiane scored the equalizer for Brazil in the 71st minute to ultimately send the game to penalties. The Orlando Pride’s Angelina and Marta played for Brazil.

Racial Abuse in El Trafico

Following LAFC’s 2-1 victory over the LA Galaxy Saturday, the Galaxy’s Ghanaian forward, Joseph Paintsil, was the victim of online racial abuse. Reportedly, an LAFC fan used a derogatory slur and criticized Paintsil’s performance in the match. MLS, the Galaxy, and LAFC all condemned the incident. The parties are continuing to work with local authorities to hold the person accountable.

To be very clear, as far as I’m concerned, there is no room for this in soccer or anywhere. No racism, no homophobia, no transphobia — just stop being horrible.

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That will do it for today. Remember to check back daily as we get you ready for all the upcoming matches. Vamos Orlando!

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