Happy Tuesday, everyone. We’re now just four days away from Atlanta United getting dumped when the Lions invade the Peach State. It’ll be glorious, of course, like when Ramsay Bolton got fed to his dogs.
Sorry if that seems a bit graphic for this early in the morning, but I’ve been Thronin’ it up more than ever and wondering when ol’ Euron Greyjoy will get his comeuppance, even if he did us a favor by ridding us of at least two Sand Snakes.
Anyway, that’s all Greek to those of you who aren’t down with Game of Thrones, so let’s just move into today’s Lion Links.
World Cup to Orlando?
The City of Orlando has been contacted by the joint bid for the U.S., Mexico, and Canada to host the 2026 World Cup. Mayor Buddy Dyer has been a friend to soccer and has been ambitious in chasing the sport’s largest events. Getting the World Cup to the City Beautiful would be the icing on the proverbial cake.
“We received the formal bid documents on Friday and are currently evaluating the bid and what this would involve from our community,” read a statement released by the city on Monday evening. Fox-35 was the first to report Orlando’s invitation to join the U.S. World Cup bid.
Orlando would make a great location for the event, with plenty of infrastructure, including hotel rooms, world-class training facilities, and several stadia which could host matches. We’ll continue to follow this story as it develops.
More on Dom; Why Off-Year Gold Cup Should be Scrapped
Embedded in this column about doing away with the off-year Gold Cup and holding it only once every four years, FourFourTwo writer Paul Tenorio provided a small nugget about the recent Dom Dwyer-to-Orlando transfer rumors.
Two league sources confirmed that Orlando City and Sporting Kansas City are engaged in trade talks and that a deal could be completed early in the week. Those sources were not able to confirm what Orlando City would send back to Kansas City as part of the deal. Stay tuned…
OK, so it’s not much, but it’s nice to have a second (and third) source on the story and that there is a potential timeline. Don’t hold your breath, though. As we explained, this could be a complicated deal.
The main section of the column is accurate. There’s little need for the two-year Gold Cup cycle. In the off years, the bigger CONCACAF teams have no incentive to field a top squad, and the quality of play suffers, as we’ve seen this year in the group stage. What do you think? Are you in favor of the status quo, or going to a four-year rotation?
Zidane Expects Tough Test from Kaká, MLS All-Stars
Real Madrid Manager Zinedine Zidane spoke about his club’s upcoming match against the 2017 MLS All-Star Team. Zidane is looking for his club — going through its preseason — to gain fitness and chemistry, while he says the difficulty of playing the MLS guys is that they’re in mid-season form.
“Obviously, it’ll be nice to see Kaká,” Zidane told reporters through a translator Sunday after Real Madrid’s loss on penalty kicks to Manchester United in an International Champions Cup exhibition.
“He’s an important player in the history of Real Madrid. It’ll be nice for his ex-teammates so see him, as well.”
Fabian Johnson Mulling International Retirement
Borussia Monchengladbach and USMNT star Fabian Johnson may be done with international soccer after the 2018 World Cup. Further, his appearances in lower profile games between now and then will also drop off a bit.
In a wide-ranging Q&A, Johnson also revealed that he has an agreement in place with Bruce Arena to only play for the U.S. men’s national team in the “more important” matches. While he was among the lengthy list of regular first-team players to be omitted from the current Gold Cup roster, he has missed several friendlies in the past several years.
When asked if the 2018 World Cup could be a good stopping point for his international career, the 29-year-old didn’t rule it out saying that it “could very well be” for him.
Need a Striker or Midfielder? Here are Some:
FourFourTwo put together a list of five strikers who could be realistic options for MLS teams in this transfer window. As someone who follows a team that needs more scoring punch, this interested me greatly. Interestingly, writer Steve Davis didn’t see Orlando City as a potential fit for any of the players listed, despite a need for another target man. Of these five, I’m most intrigued by Andre-Pierre Gignac (obviously) and Bryan Ruiz. Which of these guys, if any, would you like to see in purple?
Davis also pushed out a list of midfielders. Interestingly, he did not list Orlando City as a possible good fit for Juan Quintero, but he did think Adam Maher of PSV might fit the bill.
Another Obstacle to Beckham’s Endless Miami Deal
If David Beckham’s group ever brings an MLS team to Miami, the book about the journey is going to dwarf the length of anything Stephen King ever wrote. The latest obstacle for the group is a wealthy Miami resident who is suing Beckham in an effort to kill the stadium plan. Bruce Matheson contends the stadium will destroy the Overtown neighborhood's quality of life with noise, traffic, and pedestrian congestion because it will also host concerts. I’m sure the fact that Matheson owns nearby land has nothing to do with it.
“It’s apparent that Mr. Matheson hates professional sports,” Michael Hernández, the mayor's spokesperson, told the Herald. “He’s doing his best to drive out the Miami Open from Key Biscayne, and now he hopes to block Major League Soccer from coming to Miami.”
- Howard Megdal from Vice Sports posted an interesting Q&A with Orlando Pride star midfielder Marta.
- Predictably, Atlanta United is up for MLS Goal of the Week and MLS Save of the Week, because that’s what it takes sometimes to beat Orlando City in the Purple Palace. Villalba and Guzan definitely turned in super human efforts for the bad guys, with the latter also making MLS Team of the Week.
- In a Sports Business Journal story that created some Twitter buzz yesterday, Major League Soccer rejected a $4 billion global media rights deal from international media company MP & Silva, which stipulated the league adopt promotion and relegation. It’s not clear why the offer was made, as the league is contractually forbidden from participating in media rights discussions with other distributors.
- Among those born on this date are actor Walter Brennan (1894), football’s Walter Payton (1954), model — and David Bowie’s widow — Iman (1955), baseball’s Doug Drabek (1962), hockey’s Tony Granato (1964), Friends actor Matt LeBlanc (1967), hockey’s Evgeni Nabokov (1975), MLS and USMNT striker Conor Casey (1981), Brazilian footballer Hulk (1986), and Chicago Fire midfielder John Goossens (1988).
That’s all for me today. I leave you with this brilliant tribute to Full House put out by the Orlando Pride:
Full Pride > Full House
90's Night on August 5th is going to be something else. #ORLvCHI
— Orlando Pride (@ORLPride) July 24, 2017
Lion Links: 2/26/24
Orlando City draws Montreal, USWNT to play Mexico, USMNT news, and more.
Merry Monday morning, Mane Landers. I know that we’re all a little disappointed with the draw in the home opener, but a point is a point, and we go again tomorrow night. It hasn’t taken long for the matches to come fast and furious with Orlando City and the USWNT playing this week. I could not be happier.
We also want to wish a happy birthday to the Orlando Pride’s Morgan Gautrat and OCB’s Dominic Pereira from all of us at The Mane Land.
Orlando City Draws Montreal
It wasn’t the best match Orlando City ever played, but it also wasn’t the worst. The Lions couldn’t find the last bit of quality to get the winning goal despite having most of the possession and plenty of shots. VAR also played a part, though both offside calls were correct, if unfortunate. Pedro Gallese kept the Lions in the match to earn the first point of the season. Check out our match recap.
Lions React to the Result
David Brekalo made his first start for Orlando City and while he acquitted himself well, given his limited time with the team, he is still confident that things will get better with time. He was also impressed with the level of play in MLS and with the Orlando City facilities. Oscar Pareja was disappointed with the result but was understanding of some of the reasons for it. Now, Orlando City gets ready for the two matches this week.
USWNT vs. Mexico
The USWNT takes on Mexico at 10:15 p.m. tonight in the 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup. The U.S. is already through to the knockout stages of the Gold Cup but is trying to win Group A with a victory over Mexico. Former Orlando Pride forward Alex Morgan is with the team and has scored in the competition. The U.S. has a 16-match winning streak over Mexico and will be looking to extend that to 17.
The USMNT and Juventus were both dealt a blow when Weston McKennie dislocated his shoulder in the 3-2 win over Frosinone on Sunday. Prior to the injury, McKennie contributed two assists, allowing Juventus to stay in second place in Serie A. Now we wait to hear how long McKennie will be out. Check out his assists.
American Striker Folarin Balogun scored a high difficulty goal in Monaco’s 3-2 victory over Lens in Ligue 1. Of course, he also missed a penalty kick later in the same match. Fortunately, Takumi Minamino scored a stoppage-time goal to secure the victory. Take a look at the nice goal.
- Liverpool defeated Chelsea 1-0 to win the Carabao Cup on an extra time header by captain Virgil van Dijk. It was the 10th trophy won with Jurgen Klopp as Liverpool manager. Liverpool was missing 11 top players to start the game and lost Ryan Gravenberch during the match.
- Olivia Moultrie and Jaeden Shaw are making an impact with the USWNT despite being two of the younger players on the team. The impact came in the form of goals for each Moultrie and Shaw.
- Naomi Girma has impressed for the USWNT in her time so far, but she wants to do more as a part of the newer generation of stars.
- Brazil defeated Italy 6-4 in the Beach Soccer World Cup on Sunday. The competition took place in Dubai.
That will do it for today. Check back as we get you ready for the match tomorrow night against Cavalry and the trip to Ft. Lauderdale to take on the hated Herons. Vamos Orlando!
Lion Links: 2/23/24
Orlando Pride’s Megan Montefusco placed on season-ending injury list, Orlando City’s chances to win it all, USWNT plays Argentina tonight, and more.
Happy Friday! It’s the final Friday before we spend pretty much every weekend screaming our hearts out for Orlando’s soccer teams. Although I won’t be in Orlando for tomorrow’s game, I’ll be cheering along from Tampa and am looking forward to a strong start to the season from the Lions. Before we get into today’s links, let’s all wish a happy birthday to our favorite octopus, Pedro Gallese!
Megan Montefusco Placed On Season-Ending Injury List
The Orlando Pride suffered a blow to their defense as center back Megan Montefusco was placed on the season-ending injury list after undergoing surgery on her right foot. Montefusco joined the Pride through a trade before the 2022 season and did well coming off the bench last season to keep Orlando’s defense strong as the year wore on. The Pride have options to fill the void, as Carrie Lawrence is back in the fray after missing last season due to injury and Tori Hansen will be back once her time on loan in Australia is up. Orlando could also go out and bring in a veteran to replace Montefusco or sign Cori Dyke, who was drafted by the Pride in the second round. Regardless, losing Montefusco is rough, considering Rafaella will likely be with Brazil for the Olympics this summer.
Orlando City’s Championship Credentials
Joseph Lowery of MLSsoccer.com detailed the strengths and weaknesses of each MLS team in terms of having what it takes to win it all this year. Orlando City followed up a pretty stellar off-season with a nearly perfect preseason. Head Coach Oscar Pareja, winger Ivan Angulo, and midfielder Wilder Cartagena are all sticking around, while Robin Jansson, Facundo Torres, and the front office brain trust of Luiz Muzzi and Ricardo Moreira were locked down as well. Additions of David Brekalo, Luis Muriel, and Nico Lodeiro also ensured this team has few holes. There’s concern that there are too many mouths to feed though, and that no single player can take the reins of the offense. I disagree on that being much of an issue though, as the attack is fluid enough to beat different teams in different ways. The Lions may go without All-Star representation as a result, but they should rack up plenty of points spreading the wealth on offense.
USWNT Takes on Argentina Tonight
The United States Women’s National Team will face Argentina tonight at 10:15 p.m. in its second game of the inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup. The U.S. did well in its 5-0 win over the Dominican Republic, but there were opportunities to score even more. Since there will be reseeding for the knockout stages, scoring plenty of goals will benefit the USWNT. Midge Purce was excellent in the opener and the USWNT will need to be sharper at putting away good service from the wings. Argentina held Mexico to a scoreless draw in its opener and will likely be hungry to score its first goal of the tournament.
Keeping Up With the Europa League
The first round of the Europa League’s knockout stage came to a close after a drama-filled day of soccer. Only one game went to penalty kicks, as AS Roma beat Feyenoord after a 1-1 draw thanks to two saves from Mile Svilar in the shootout. There was a thriller in Azerbaijan as well. A red card reduced Qarabag FK to 10 men and Braga took full advantage, scoring twice to send the game into extra time. They then traded goals until 19-year-old winger Nariman Akhundzade gave Qarabag the winner in stoppage time. In Germany, SC Freiburg came back from a two-goal deficit to beat Lens in extra time as well.
Elsewhere, a red card doomed Galatasaray as Sparta Prague rallied late to win, and AC Milan survived a hat trick from Rennes midfielder Benjamin Bourigeaud to advance on aggregate. Sporting CP, Marseille, and Benfica all booked their spot in the round of 16 as well, with the draw set for today.
- New food vendors will be available for fans at Orlando City and Orlando Pride home games this year, with Flippers Pizzeria Company now a permanent addition. New options for the rotating carts include Pardon My Cheesesteak and Omusubee Japanese Rice Balls.
- Congratulations to Pride defender Emily Madril on getting married!
- Former Barcelona right back Dani Alves was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison after being found guilty of sexual assault.
- Former Lion Greg Ranjitsingh has re-signed with Toronto FC through the 2024 season, with an option for 2025. The 30-year-old sticks around in Toronto’s goalkeeping corps, which also includes Sean Johnson and Luka Gavran.
- The Philadelphia Union loaned forward Joaquin Torres to Club Deportivo Universidad Catolica in Chile’s top flight.
- English goalkeeper Joe Hart will retire following this season with Celtic, ending a 20-year career.
- Luis de la Fuente’s contract as the manager of Spain’s men’s national team was extended through the 2026 World Cup.
That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!
Lion Links: 2/22/24
Orlando City beats Cavalry FC, Lions receive General Allocation Money for Junior Urso’s rights, USWNT gets ready for Argentina, and more.
How’s it going, Mane Landers? It’s nice to start the morning fresh off of a huge win and I’m hoping that becomes a regular occurrence this year. Hopefully the work week has been kind to you as we ride the high of the Concacaf Champions Cup into Orlando City’s first game of the MLS season this weekend. For now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.
Lions Win in Concacaf Champions Cup Opener
Orlando City kicked off its Concacaf Champions Cup campaign with a solid 3-0 win against Cavalry FC in Canada. Some players did better playing on the turf of Starlight Stadium in British Columbia than others, but the Lions ultimately did well on the road to make things less stressful for themselves for the second leg on Tuesday in Orlando at 6 p.m. Orlando’s offense showed little rust and the defense did its part in its first competitive match of 2024. Before the match, Head Coach Oscar Pareja announced that Robin Jansson will serve as the team’s captain this year, so it’s nice to see his tenure start with a clean sheet.
Junior Urso Signs With Charlotte FC
Orlando City received $50,000 in 2025 General Allocation Money from Charlotte FC in exchange for Brazilian midfielder Junior Urso’s right of first refusal. This transaction cleared the way for Urso to sign with Charlotte, joining on a deal through 2024, with an option for 2025. The Bear became a Lion back in 2020 and was an integral part of Orlando’s transformation under Head Coach Oscar Pareja that included winning the 2022 U.S. Open Cup. The 34-year-old impressed as a trialist with Charlotte during the preseason and should give Dean Smith’s side a veteran presence both on and off the field. While it’s never fun seeing a fan favorite playing for another Eastern Conference foe, I wish nothing but the best for Urso and hope he gets a warm reception when Charlotte visits Orlando this season on Sept. 18.
MLS Coaching Changes for 2024
There was a considerable amount of coaching turnover in MLS since last season, adding some intriguing storylines for this year. After a rough time in Miami, Phil Neville has a chance at redemption with a Portland Timbers side that narrowly missed out on the playoffs last year. The Colorado Rapids’ Chris Armas, D.C. United’s Troy Lesesne, and the New England Revolution’s Caleb Porter are other familiar faces in new places who could impress. As for those new to the scene, Dean Smith joined Charlotte from England, while Sandro Schwarz is now at the helm of the New York Red Bulls after years in Germany and Russia. I’m also interested to see how long it takes for John Herdman to turn things around with Toronto FC.
Analyzing Argentina Ahead of USWNT Clash
After a dominant 5-0 win over the Dominican Republic, the United States Women’s National Team will take on Argentina tomorrow in the Concacaf W Gold Cup’s group stage. The U.S. has won the past four meetings between the past two nations, and Argentina is coming off of a scoreless draw with Mexico. The Orlando Pride’s Mariana Larroquette spearheads an Argentine attack that can be a bit inconsistent when it comes to creating chances. That being said, Vanina Preininger can pull strings from the midfield and Argentina has multiple players capable of scoring from distance. Laurina Oliveros will likely start in goal after her clean sheet in the opener, and the defense also includes Kansas City Current center back Sophia Braun.
- The Orlando Pride’s Rafaelle and Adriana both started in Brazil’s 1-0 win over Puerto Rico.
- The LA Galaxy signed Ghanaian winger Joseph Paintsil as their third Designated Player. The 26-year-old joins from Genk in Belgium and signed a contract with the Galaxy through 2027.
- The Revolution beat Panama’s Independiente 1-0 on the road in the Champions Cup opener for both teams.
- The new changes to MLS’ competitive rules, such as in-stadium VAR announcements and off-field treatments, have been postponed amid the league’s referee situation.
- The United Soccer League announced that all 47 of the teams under its umbrella will take part in this year’s U.S. Open Cup.
- Bayern Munich officially announced that Thomas Tuchel will leave once this season is over. Although Bayern is second in the Bundesliga standings, it’s lost its past three games, including a defeat to Lazio in the Champions League.
- Porto scored a stunning goal in stoppage time to shock Arsenal in the UEFA Champions League.
- Manchester United left back Luke Shaw may be done for the season due to a leg injury.
- In the Europa Conference League, Israeli club Maccabi Haifa secured a 1-1 draw with Belgium’s Gent to advance to the round of 16.
That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week!
Orlando City vs. CF Montreal: Player Grades and Man of the Match
Lion Links: 2/26/24
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