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Lion Links: 10/18/17

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It’s the last week of the regular season with no hope, the USMNT is out, and a long NBA season of me listening to whether or not LeBron is leaving or not kicking off has me super enthused for this week. But that doesn't mean there aren’t plenty of topics to keep you all busy! Seriously. We’re starting today off on one hell of a rumor. Read on!

Orlando City B Gone? Are Others Following Suit?

A bombshell, late-night tweet, from Sports Illustrated’s Brian Straus just dropped out of nowhere, and it appears that OCB may be on the outs:

This is interesting if you consider the following:

  • Orlando City offered free OCB tickets for 2018.
  • No development academy players were offered contracts in 2017.

While we have no confirmations from the club, OCB isn’t the only club supposedly in danger:

There has been a lot of talk lately of the independent USL owners vs. the MLS/USL owners, and this could be a product of those conversations behind close doors. While again, we have nothing confirmed, this is worrisome — stay tuned for more news from the club.

Orlando City Focusing on the Future in Final Match

With nearly nothing to play for in its last week, Orlando City Head Coach Jason Kreis still believes there’s merit to the final match this weekend against Philadelphia, as Alicia DelGallo reports:

Kreis said he’s still looking for “reactions” from players in the final match. He wants to see whose got life and is still fighting when there’s nothing on the line.

Life without Kaká is on the horizon, and when you combine that with a team at the bottom of the table, you’re sure to see a lot of new faces next year. While Kreis can’t confirm anything, you can infer by this message that you probably want to watch this weekend if you want to see some of your favorite Lions:

“There’s still some evaluating to do, but if you’re asking me a direct question, I’m not going to lie and say that Ricky is going to be the only one that’s not back next year,” Kreis said, referring to Kaká by his first name. “That’s part and parcel of playing professional sports and being a part of a team that’s not successful.”

Hackworth Believes the U-17 USMNT Has World Class Qualities

Could we be upon a “Golden Generation” of U.S. Soccer? We can only hope that is the case as the U.S. U-17s just won 5-0 against Paraguay in the U-17 World Cup knockout round. This could very well be the best team since Landon Donovan, DaMarcus Beasley, and Kyle Beckerman’s fourth-place finish in the 1999 competition.

Coach John Hackworth talks very highly of his side as the Baby Nats look to move past the bar set by what so far has been the best U-17 generation to date:

"I think [the victory] validates the fact that this group of young men and that this particular pool of players we have in the U.S. right now is a special group. I think it also validates the fact that player development in the country is on the right path. This is a team that has quality, that is coachable, that has the grit when it comes to these kind of games. If you look at the goals that we scored tonight, it’s hard to argue that some of those weren’t world class."

Here’s hoping that Hackworth is right and the road to U.S. Soccer recovery is quick with a ground-breaking performance at the U-17 World Cup.

Compensation Pay to Come in U.S. Youth Soccer?

Lance Reich, attorney for the Crossfire Premier on the an ongoing landmark case for compensation pay in the USA, gives his updates to SoccerAmerica on the current state of training compensation and solidarity payments possibility into the U.S. youth scene.

The USMNT flaming out spectacularly has put the limelight on development and the revamping of the U.S. system. The introduction of FIFA-mandated training compensation and solidarity payments could be a great first step in helping development academies in both their reach and their ability to improve training situations.

As we keep a close eye on a new presidential race for the U.S. Soccer Federation, I’m wondering if this topic doesn't play an important role in the coming months.

Drones Are Cool. Especially When You Get to Hit One

Marta and Alex Morgan recently featured with COPA90 U.S. in trying to hit a drone with a soccer ball. Spoiler, it’s not easy.

NWSL Championship has a Dilemma on its Hands

Last Saturday, Orlando City Stadium hosted the 2017 NWSL Championship match as the Portland Thorns beat the reigning champion North Carolina Courage 1-0 in front of a crowd of 8,124. While Orlando continues to be a benchmark for soccer fandom with great to respectable crowds for multiple teams and U.S. National Team events, this attendance was both under the season average of the Thorns — nearly 18,000 — or the semifinal attendance in North Carolina the week before, which was just over 10,000.

This presents a problem for the NWSL moving forward as it continues to weigh media and logistics vs. attendance, with the added variable of giving home-field advantage in your league’s most important match.

FourFourTwo discusses the challenges involved and offers solutions to many potential outcomes. Notably, one idea — one I agree with — is the disbanding of playoffs. In a league of 10 teams, why is this even needed? It’s a constant American-vs.-European sports debate that they continue to push again.

Sights and Sounds from Kaká’s final match

He will be missed. You can have your opinions, but I’m very happy to have had the opportunity to watch him. If you didn't get a chance to be there last Sunday, then see Kaká in his final match for the Lions (and for those on Apple News):

Is Columbus Really Leaving? Don't Be So Sure

There has been a lot of chatter about the Columbus Crew and owner Anthony Precourt on the potential of relocation to Austin, TX. Our own Michael Citro, my Ohio native in arms, weighed in with his own thoughts, and much to my agreement. But as a fellow Ohioan, and one who cares deeply for his childhood team, and one of the MLS’s original franchises, I had to look into this more.

The key topic appears to be around public stadium funding — a topic, to this point, Columbus has shut down on all occasions. However, we have to wonder if the public nature of Precourt’s statement isn't a political play. If you look into Austin and where their government has positioned itself on multiple occasions, it would seem very odd for Precourt to look at Austin as a viable source.

The mayor has gone on record, once right before the return of the Aztex announcement, and another yesterday morning, saying that he and the city are not in favor of publicly funding a stadium.

If you add that together with the fact that Austin has failed before as a professional soccer city, that getting trademarks is just good business practice so you don't have to buy them later, and the news above, then it is safe to assume that there may be more smoke than fire in this instance. Either way, one side isn't giving the full story.

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And if you’re looking for a team to root for in the next World Cup, why not start by following a team in the UEFA qualifying playoffs?! The draw has happened and here are your options:

Personally, I’m pulling for Switzerland, Croatia, Rep. of Ireland, and Italy. Some of that is business, some of that is for friends. None will be my No. 1 team come next summer, as that distinction goes to my 50% Polish heritage. But if you don't have a strong heritage to fall back on, why not start now? At least you buy yourself some time to watch and find that supporting option.

So enjoy the last week of the regular season, my friends, and may the off-season be swift.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/16/24

Nico Lodeiro earns recognition, Marta up for Goal of the Week, MLS stock watch, and more.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I hope you had a good weekend and got your taxes filed correctly and on time. It was a good weekend for Orlando soccer, as the Orlando Pride, Orlando City B, and Orlando City went undefeated and picked up seven of the nine points on offer. As always, we have a lot to talk through today. Before we get into today’s links, let’s all wish Luis Muriel a happy birthday!

Nico Lodeiro Makes Team of the Matchday Bench

Midfielder Nico Lodeiro has earned recognition for his part in Orlando City’s 3-2 win over D.C. United, making the bench of the latest edition MLS Team of the Matchday. The Uruguayan entered the fray in the 72nd minute and helped OCSC come back and take all three points. He took the corner kick that David Brekalo equalized from, (even though he was not initially credited with the assist) and provided an outstanding through ball for Duncan McGuire’s game-winner. Sean Rollins graded him a 6.5/10 and named him Man of the Match in his player grades as well. Here’s hoping he keeps up the good work!

Marta’s Goal Nominated

Marta’s game-winning strike during Friday’s contest against Utah Royals FC has been nominated for NWSL Goal of the Week. On the road and in the game as a substitute, it didn’t take long for the Brazilian to make her mark on the match. She was barely on the field for five minutes when she met a ball that was rolling across the box with a first-time strike that she powered in off the back post. It proved to be the game’s only goal and was enough to give the Pride their first win of the season. Make sure you vote for her to win this week’s honor!

MLS Stock Watch

The fortunes of Major League Soccer teams are in constant flux, and it’s always nice to keep track of how your enemies are doing. Former Lion Sacha Kljestan weighed in on which clubs’ stock went up and which went down after the weekend’s games. We start on a good note, as a resilient performance from Orlando City saw the good guys pick up their second win of the season. The LA Galaxy hammered the Vancouver Whitecaps by a score of 3-1, and proved that their place atop the Western Conference standings is no fluke. On the other side of the coin, Toronto FC has given up 10 goals in its last three matches, and Jon Herdman needs to find a way to keep things from getting worse until the Reds’ group of injured players can return to the field.

Americans in Midweek Action

There are two big matches featuring American players this week, so get them marked down on your calendar and don’t miss any of the action. Thursday sees Christian Pulisic, Yunus Musah, and AC Milan travel to the Italian capital to try to overturn a 1-0 first leg deficit to Roma in the Europa League quarterfinals. Musah started Sunday’s match against Sassuolo and Pulisic subbed on in the second half as Milan clawed its way back to a 3-3 draw. Friday then has Juventus and Weston McKennie traveling to Cagliari for a Serie A tilt. Juve is currently third in the league and needs to keep picking up results to secure a UEFA Champions League place for next season.

UEFA Champions League Preview

Speaking of the Champions League, the quarterfinals wrap up today and tomorrow and there are a number of storylines to keep an eye on. Luis Enrique is strong in his belief that Paris Saint-Germain can overcome a 3-2 loss in the first leg to advance past Barcelona. Xavi has promised that Barca will look to attack rather than sitting and protecting its lead. Elsewhere, Bayern Munich will be without the suspended Alphonso Davies and likely Kingsley Coman due to injury, and their replacements will be hard pressed to contain Ben White and Bukayo Saka. Finally, Edin Terzic’s substitutions gave Borussia Dortmund a spark in the team’s 2-1 loss to Atletico Madrid in the first leg, which means the coach may have a selection headache on his hands as he tries to lead his side to a comeback.

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That’ll do it for me this morning. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/15/24

Lions beat D.C. United, Pride pick up road win over Utah Royals, Barbra Banda arrives in Orlando, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you down in Florida. Orlando City and the Pride both won over the weekend, and there has been plenty of action in European soccer. Over the past week, I’ve been busy covering high school sports like lacrosse and softball. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Lions Top D.C. United

Orlando City overturned a late 2-1 deficit to win 3-2 against D.C. United at Audi Field over the weekend. David Brekalo scored the equalizer in the second half to tie the match at 2-2. Duncan McGuire came off the bench in the second half and scored in stoppage time, as the Lions beat D.C. United for the first time since Oct. 2, 2021. The Lions were 0-3-1 against D.C. United over the last two seasons prior to Saturday’s win. Orlando has now picked up points in each of the last three matches. Orlando City will be on the road again this weekend when it takes on CF Montreal on Saturday.

Orlando Pride Defeat Utah Royals; Help Arrives

The Orlando Pride got their first win of the 2024 NWSL last Friday with a 1-0 against the Utah Royals. Marta came off the bench in the second half and scored the lone goal to seal the win for Orlando. The Pride drew each of their first three matches to start the season against Racing Louisville, Angel City FC, and the Chicago Red Stars. Friday’s result means the Pride have six points through four league matches and are fifth in the NWSL table.

Despite needing four matches to pick up their first win of the year, the Pride are ahead of last year’s pace at the same point in the season, and remain undefeated (1-0-3) despite still waiting to play with this off-season’s marquee signing, Zambian international striker Barbra Banda. The new Pride forward arrived on Sunday to a warm welcome at Orlando International Airport.

It will be interesting to see how quickly Seb Hines can get Banda acclimated to the club and the league. Orlando could use Banda’s offensive firepower, as the club has struggled to score goals in the early part of the season. The Pride will be back in action against the San Diego Wave this Friday.

Bayer Leverkusen wins Bundesliga; Manchester City Leads EPL Title Race

Bayer Leverkusen cruised to a 5-0 win against Werder Bremen on Sunday to win its first ever Bundesliga title with five league matches left to spare. Xabi Alonso’s side won the league title by a 16-point margin, ending Bayern Munich’s 11-year run as title holders. Leverkusen is also unbeaten through 43 matches across all competitions. Meanwhile, in England, we have a new Premier League title race leader as Manchester City crushed Luton Town 5-1 on Saturday. On Sunday, Arsenal lost 2-0 to Aston Villa and Liverpool lost 1-0 to Crystal Palace. There are six match days remaining and this race could go down to the wire. Manchester City is at the top of the table with 73 points, while Arsenal and Liverpool remain two points behind in second and third, respectively, with 71 points.

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  • Houston Dash winger Maria Sanchez has reportedly requested a trade four months after signing a record-breaking deal in NWSL history in the off-season to remain with the club.
  • Manchester United edged Chelsea 2-1 to beat the Blues for the first time ever. Making the win even bigger was that it took place in the Women’s FA Cup semifinal. United will play Tottenham in the final at Wembley on May 12.
  • The EFL Championship is three weeks away from its finale, with a few clubs featureing Americans still in the mix for promotion. Josh Sargent’s Norwich City side holds the final playoff spot, while Haji Wright’s Conventry and Duane Holmes’ Preston North End in the hunt for a shot at promotion.
  • The AS Roma versus Udinese match was suspended after defender Evan Ndicka collapsed away from play and had to be stretchered off. The game was tied at 1-1 with about 20 minutes remaining when Ndicka went down. The club shared this update on social media.

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Monday, and I’ll see you next time.

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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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