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Lion Links: 8/3/17

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Happy Thursday, Lion Nation. We’re just one day away from the weekend and two days removed from the Lions invading the French part of Canada and the Pride returning to the pitch to take on Chicago in search of that elusive first win against the Red Stars. OCB just played last night (more on that below) but the young Lions will also get back to it on Saturday at Cincinnati.

But there’s still soccer to be played tonight while we wait. Up to seven Pride players could be in action on the final match day of the inaugural Tournament of Nations tonight, with Brazil meeting Australia in the early game, and the United States taking on Japan in the nightcap.

Let’s burn some minutes between now and then with a few morning links.

OCB Unbeaten in Six but Draws Fifth Straight

Orlando City B is good at keeping teams from scoring. The young Lions have conceded just twice in six games during their current 1-0-5 unbeaten streak. The problem is that OCB is bad at scoring goals, having found the net just three times in that same span. The team has gone goal-less in two straight matches as it drew 0-0 against the City Islanders last night, just days after a scoreless draw at Charleston. The good news is that the Lions created more chances after Pierre Da Silva returned from suspension. But the ball has to go home. Is it too good for its home?!

MLS All-Stars Draw Real Madrid but Lose Penalty Shootout

Dom Dwyer’s first goal since being traded from Sporting Kansas City to Orlando City didn’t come in a league game. Dwyer scored to pull the MLS All-Stars level with Real Madrid, 1-1, but the Spanish team won a penalty shootout, 4-2. Here’s Dom’s goal:

Dwyer was one of two MLS players who failed to score in the penalty shootout, however (Gio dos Santos hit the bar), after having his attempt saved. Kaká showed well, nearly getting a first-half assist after setting up David Villa, but the NYCFC man had his shot saved by Keylor Navas from point-blank range. Here’s how Villa ruined a perfectly good assist from the captain:

And, in case you went to bed early Tuesday night, the MLS Homegrown Team scored a stoppage-time equalizer to draw the Chivas de Guadalajara U-20 team, 2-2. Chicago Fire product Djordje Mihailovic also scored for the MLS Homegrowns, who are showing technical improvements.

Pride’s Pressley Reinvented Herself for 2017

If you’ve watched the Orlando Pride these first two seasons in club history, there’s no doubt one player’s improvement from 2016 to 2017 stands out above the rest — defender Toni Pressley. Her play on the field is the result of a physical and mental transformation that started this past off-season. Pressley began a detailed running and lifting program in the off-season in addition to going vegan to transform herself physically. She also has turned to hypnosis videos to help with relaxation, concentration, and confidence. These life changes have paid off this season for the Florida State product, who claimed a starting spot on the back line and scored her first NWSL goal.

Unhappy Ending in Atlanta

Orlando City fans had a disappointing end to the game on Saturday in Atlanta when Hector Villalba scored two minutes into stoppage time to tie the game. But three fans had an even worse end to the day, as they were arrested for damaging metal bleachers at Bobby Dodd Stadium by jumping up and down on them.

The three men were charged with damage to property, according to a Georgia Tech incident report obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Cage and Pandya were booked into the Fulton County Jail. Ambrose was not.

Without having been there, I can only speculate what happened, but many people jump on bleachers in an attempt to make more noise. People jump on the aluminum flooring in the safe standing section at Orlando City Stadium to do just that. But when you do it and the seat breaks…well, there are consequences. I asked about the situation prior to last night’s Orlando City B match and a club spokesman said Orlando City was aware of the arrests but had no official comment. However, whether intentional destruction or not, it’s always important to represent our club in the best possible manner, so thinking through any possible consequences in advance is always a good idea.

Neymar Saga Nears an End

The long transfer saga of Barcelona winger Neymar seems to be coming to a close, as the player informed the Spanish club on Wednesday of his desire to leave. Now it’s all up to PSG to pay the sizable escape clause in his contract to sign the Brazilian. Lionel Messi bade farewell to his teammate on Instagram.

"It was an enormous pleasure to have shared all these years with you friend Neymar," Messi wrote, alongside a video montage of the pair's highlights as team-mates and friends. 

"I wish you luck in this new stage of your life. I love you."

Free Kicks

  • FC Cincinnati’s magical run in the U.S. Open Cup continued last night with a 1-0 win over Miami FC. Cincy is the first non-MLS team to reach the semifinals since 2011. Good riddance, Florida-based NASL team!
  • With VAR coming to MLS this week, Four Four Two’s Andrew King picked out five moments from the first half of the season that would have been different with video replay, including Rafa Ramos’ red card against Chicago.
  • Speaking of Chicago, not only did that city host this year’s MLS All-Star Game, but it’s becoming a hotbed for European clubs seeking to expand their worldwide brands.
  • If you hate the triple-stripe Adidas look, you’re not going to like this story but the athletic apparel company is extending its MLS deal and throwing boat loads of money at the league. Adidas will be on MLS kits through 2024.
  • More and more African-born players are finding success by moving to MLS.
  • Those born on this date include longtime Buffalo Bills coach Marv Levy (1925), legendary crooner Tony Bennett (1926), wrestler Haystacks Calhoun (1934), actor Martin Sheen (1940), noted businesswoman and jailbird Martha Stewart (1941), hockey’s Marcel Dionne (1951), Alan Parsons Project saxophonist Ian Bairnson (1953), football’s Todd Christensen (1956), Scrubs and Office Space actor John McGinley (1959), Metallica’s James Hetfield (1963), Texas A&M football coach Kevin Sumlin (1964), baseball’s Rod Beck (1968), Tom Brady (1977), Lost actress Evangeline Lilly (1979), U.S. swimmer Ryan Lochte (1984), and Rams running back Todd Gurley (1994).

That’s all my time this morning, folks. Enjoy your Thursday, and check back with The Mane Land tonight for coverage of the final round of the Tournament of Nations.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/14/24

Orlando City prepares to take on LAFC, Lions linked with Alan Saldivia, Orlando City B draws against Chattanooga FC, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! I’m working for most of this weekend but am still looking forward to the absurd amount of soccer ahead of us. Both Orlando City and the Orlando Pride have games Saturday, and the 2024 Euros should give us some exciting matches from teams we don’t watch all too often. Let’s dive right into today’s links!

Orlando City Prepares for LAFC

The international break is over and Orlando City is back in action Saturday night for a home game against LAFC. It’s been a difficult season for the Lions so far, and they have been shut out in three of their past five games. Points have been hard to come by at home for Orlando and a match against one of the best teams in the Western Conference won’t make that any easier. With David Brekalo at the Euros, Rodrigo Schlegel is expected to start and it would be his 100th MLS appearance. Ramiro Enrique would also make his 50th appearance across all competitions as a Lion should he take the field.

Lions Linked Reportedly Bow Out of Bid to Sign Defender Alan Saldivia

With the MLS summer transfer window looming, a rumor surfaced of Orlando City making an offer to sign Uruguayan center back Alan Saldivia from Colo-Colo in Chile. The Lions reportedly offered $1.5 million for the 22-year-old, but that doesn’t reach the $2.2 million Colo-Colo wants at minimum. The Lions reportedly would not go higher. While center back isn’t exactly a pressing need for the Lions at this time, Saldivia would have given the team a young and talented player who could anchor the defense for years to come.

Orlando City B Drops Points in Disappointing Draw

OCB hosted Chattanooga FC and had to settle for a 2-2 draw after giving up a lead not once, but twice. The Young Lions had Chattanooga on the ropes late in the match, taking the lead just before the end of normal time, only to get punched in the mouth in stoppage time and then lose the penalty shootout. It was the second straight 2-2 draw at home for the Young Lions and they’re still on the hunt for their first win this month. OCB’s next game will be on the road against New York City FC II on Wednesday.

Getting Ready for the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs

The MLS NEXT Cup playoffs kick off Saturday as the best teams across four age groups compete in a knockout format. Orlando City’s U-15 squad was recognized as one of the title contenders in its age group and will take on Real Salt Lake in the round of 32 on Saturday . The team also did well in MLS NEXT Flex, and Jakob Garcia, who has scored 18 goals in 21 games, is the kind of attacker who can make all the difference in knockout matches. Orlando’s U-17 team is capable of making a run as well, although it faces a tough first match on Sunday against the Philadelphia Union, which won the 2024 Generation Adidas Cup. It should be a fun tournament, and hopefully Orlando’s teams can advance far enough to be included in the games streamed on MLS Season Pass.

Free Kicks

  • Carl Robinson is back in MLS after Atlanta United hired him as an assistant coach. The 47-year-old played for Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls to close out his playing career and also served as the head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
  • Chicago Fire Designated Player Xherdan Shaqiri reportedly wants to return to Europe. The 32-year-old has been with the Fire since 2022 but hasn’t lived up to his billing and his contract is set to expire after this season.

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

Lion Links: 6/13/24

Orlando City B hosts Chattanooga FC tonight, USMNT earns draw against Brazil, MLS’ Juneteenth celebrations, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

How’s it going, Mane Landers? Between my cat finally deciding I’m worth hanging out with and reading a pair of books that have been collecting dust on my shelf, I’ve been having a pretty good week. I’m looking forward to the feast of soccer both in Orlando and abroad over the next few days as well. But for now, let’s get this Thursday started with today’s links!

Orlando City B Hosts Chattanooga FC Tonight

In an enticing midweek match tonight at 7 p.m., Orlando City B will take on Chattanooga FC at Osceola Heritage Park. If not heading to watch OCB in person, you can catch the game on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+. The last time these two teams squared off was on May 4, with Chattanooga winning the penalty shootout for an extra point after a 1-1 draw in Tennessee. The Young Lions are coming off of a 2-2 draw with one of the league’s worst teams this season, Carolina Core FC, but winning the shootout after a late rally could give them the kind of momentum needed to take down Chattanooga. Beating one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference would be quite the statement from OCB during what’s been a middling season so far.

USMNT Draws With Brazil in Orlando

Playing in Orlando at Camping World Stadium, the United States Men’s National Team drew 1-1 against Brazil in a friendly billed as the Continental Clasico. Brazil scored first, but Matt Turner and the USMNT didn’t collapse under the pressure and earned the team’s first ever draw against the South American powerhouse. All in all, it was a much better result than the USMNT’s 5-1 loss to Colombia on Saturday. This was the USMNT’s final match until Copa America later this month. The Yanks will start their campaign against Bolivia on June 23 before playing Panama on June 27 and Uruguay on July 1.

MLS Announces Initiatives for Juneteenth

In partnership with Black Players for Change and Adidas, MLS announced some of the ways the league will be celebrating Juneteenth. Pre-match shirts acknowledging the change players can provide will be worn during warm-ups and fans can buy their own shirts as well, with a portion of the proceeds going toward organizations focused on racial equity and social justice. There will also be a campaign highlighting the connection between professional and academy players, as well as educational content across the league’s social media to raise awareness of the holiday.

Euro 2024 Kicks Off on Friday

A loaded gauntlet of summer tournaments finally begins Friday, as Germany hosts Scotland for the first match of Euro 2024. From Cristiano Ronaldo’s potential swan song to a brutal group that includes Spain, Italy, and Croatia, storylines abound for the tournament and each team brings something worth watching to the table. For Orlando City fans, defender David Brekalo was called up by Slovenia, which was drawn in a group with England, Denmark, and Serbia. I’m looking forward to seeing which underdogs prevail and which players make a name for themselves in this tournament.

2026 World Cup Schedule Revealed

The full schedule for the 2026 World Cup was unveiled, which gives a slight glimpse at the paths each host nation could take in the tournament. If the U.S. wins Group D after matches in Los Angeles and Seattle, it will stay on the West Coast for a knockout game in San Francisco before a potential round of 16 game in Seattle and quarterfinal in Los Angeles. Mexico and Canada have similar incentives to win their groups, as they will then host in their country until heading to the U.S. for the quarterfinals, should they make it that far. Here in Florida, Hard Rock Stadium in Miami will serve as the venue for four group games, a round of 32 match on July 3, a quarterfinal on July 11, and the third-place match on July 18.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando Pride Assistant Coach Yolanda Thomas was announced as a panelist for the Black Soccer Coaches’ summer symposium on July 22. She will also have a field session at the event to discuss the role of the midfield when building out of the back.

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: 6/12/24

Leagues Cup forgets Orlando’s U.S. Open Cup win, USMNT U-23 loses to Japan, NWSL expansion options, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Welcome to Wednesday, Mane Landers. The USMNT plays tonight in Orlando, and I hope that you have tickets. If not, we can still watch as we wait for the Orlando City and Orlando Pride matches this Saturday. On a personal note, this Friday will mark my ninth anniversary with The Mane Land. It’s been a heck of a ride, and I’m glad you’ve been there with us. Here’s to many more years to come. Let’s get to the links.

Leagues Cup Forgets Orlando’s U.S. Open Cup Win

Orlando City is playing in the Leagues Cup starting at the end of July and here’s a nice guide to Orlando’s group for the tournament. Of course, the Leagues Cup organizers want you to be pumped so that you watch and buy tickets. I think that is something we should do simply to support the club. However, I don’t think they went about promoting the competition in quite the right way. In a tweet that has since been deleted, the tournament’s social media team stated the Leagues Cup would be Orlando’s chance to win its first trophy. Did you catch the mistake? Taylor Twellman did.

Good on you, Taylor. Facundo Torres was indeed brilliant in that match, as was Benji Michel. Of course, there were others that caught the faux pas as well.

I think we should also be mentioning the USL Championships, but what do I know? Evidently, more than the Leagues Cup’s social media team.

USMNT to Honor Pulse Victims

There’s plenty of fake, corporate shows of support for Pride Month , but in general I think that the USMNT and USWNT have done a good job of being legitimate allies to the LGBTQIA+ community. Tonight, the USMNT will play a friendly against Brazil at Camping World Stadium on the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting. The players will be wearing Pride jerseys to honor those who lost their lives so senselessly eight years ago.

In terms of the game, the USMNT will be without Josh Sargent for the match, and Tyler Adams will only get limited minutes if he plays, as both are coming back from injuries. Get well before the Copa America, lads.

Lions on International Duty

The United States U-23 Men’s National Team lost 2-0 to Japan in its final friendly match before the Olympics. Orlando City’s Duncan McGuire found himself on a bit of an island up top as the U.S. had difficulty moving the ball through the midfield. Hopefully, the U.S. got such play out of its system heading into the Olympics.

OCB’s Wilfredo Rivera made the most of his time playing in Puerto Rico’s World Cup qualifier against Anguilla, scoring a brace in the 8-0 victory. This win comes after a scoreless draw with El Salvador last week and Puerto Rico’s remaining group games during this round of qualifying will be next June.

Exploring NWSL Expansion Options

The NWSL will be expanding to 16 teams in 2026 with many cities vying for the next franchise. The leaders include Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Minneapolis. Atlanta, Denver, and Jacksonville are potential choices as well. If it was to be given to either Atlanta or Jacksonville they would be regional rivals for the Orlando Pride. The league is expected to make a decision by the fourth quarter of 2024.

Free Kicks

  • Congratulations to the U-15 United States Women’s National Team, which won 4-0 over Germany.
  • Did you ever have one of those dreams that was a little scary, but also absolutely hilarious? This preview of Inter Miami’s new mascot is a bit like that. To misquote Jaws: “Ever seen an Inter Miami mascot’s eyes, Chief? He’s got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes.”
  • The Cayman Islands Men’s National Football Team forfeited its match against Cuba because many of its players are on visas in the United States. If those players were to travel to Cuba, the U.S. may have canceled those visas due to travel restrictions.
  • This is one of the most ridiculous no-calls I’ve ever seen. India got royally hosed.

That will do it for today. Check back as we get you ready for the Orlando City and Orlando Pride matches this Saturday night. Vamos Orlando!

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