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Lion Links: 1/5/18

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It’s casual Friday here at Mane Land Towers, and as usual that means pants are optional. It also means that the weekend is upon us and even though many of us have enjoyed a couple of short work weeks, the weekend is always a welcome sight.

Hopefully you’re staying warm. We wouldn’t want you falling out of trees like the iguanas in South Florida.

While we anxiously await even more announcements from Orlando City, let’s kick back, put our feet up, and sink luxuriously into today’s links.

Budalic: More to Come

Alicia DelGallo spoke with Orlando City GM Niki Budalic and he said a lot of great things, but none greater than “There will be more announcements this week.” It’s already been a heck of a first week of 2018, with the Lions locking up Dom Dwyer for three more years and acquiring MLS assist king Sacha Kljestan. But about that more to come…

“That is the plan, yes,” Budalic said when asked if a centerback signing was coming. “We’re still looking to bringing in several players. We’re down the line with each of those positions. This window, a lot of players are in the middle of their seasons in Europe and because of that you can’t speak too soon.”

Budalic also spoke about Kljestan, not wanting to trade Tommy Redding, and a lot more, so check out the full story linked above. And you can check out how MLSsoccer.com’s Charles Boehm broke down the Kljestan deal and what it means for both teams. Boehm’s fellow MLS writer Sam Stejskal called the move the No. 4 deal of the off-season so far.

Orlando City’s 2018 Schedule Drops

The Lions’ schedule for 2018 came out yesterday and there are good and bad points to it. One of the bad things is that we’ll have to wait until 2019 to welcome LAFC to Orlando City Stadium. One of the good things about it is that City will get a bunch of home games early to try to build some momentum. Hopefully the team will be able to hold onto it this year. Other highlights:

  • Three games each against Atlanta United and New York City FC.
  • Very few midday summer games.
  • Only seven games in the heat of August and September combined, with four at home and all at night.
  • 13 nationally televised games.
  • The return of Adrian Heath in Week 2.

It’s shaping up to be an interesting and pivotal year for the Lions. I can’t wait to get this thing started.

Florida Cup to Support Hurricane Evacuees

The devastating hurricane damage in Puerto Rico has left many people without power and forced the evacuation of countless others. This year, Florida Cup is stepping up to help those who were evacuated from the island in the wake of the storm. The tournament will work with Orlando’s Hispanic Office for Local Assistance (HOLA) and the Department of Families, Parks and Recreation, and will offer more than 1,500 free tickets to Puerto Rican evacuees displaced to Central Florida, as well as children who participate in local after-school programs.

Additionally, the tournament will host evacuees at the Florida Cup Fan Fest at Universal on Jan. 13, and will collect sporting goods, coats, sweaters, quilts, and comforters at the Florida Cup All-Star Game at Montverde Academy on Jan. 9 (8 p.m., free admission). Fans are asked to bring any of the listed items for donation. Montverde Academy graduate and Cleveland Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor will be on hand. The donated items will benefit CASA (Coordinadora de Apoyo, Solidaridad y Ayuda), which provides support to families still dealing with the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. Florida Cup and Adidas will also donate uniforms to local youth development soccer programs. It’s a lot of good deeds and everyone should come out to support the tournament in these efforts.

Will USMNT, Mexico Fight Over Jonathan Gonzalez?

Monterrey midfielder Jonathan Gonzalez, an 18-year-old dual citizen, is apparently on the radar of the Mexican National Team. and could be called in for a friendly Jan. 31 against Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Our friends over at Stars and Stripes FC lay it out like this:

It was widely reported that the USMNT considered Gonzalez but decided not to call him up due to Monterrey’s playoff schedule. Gonzalez said he didn’t get that call. That, coupled with the fact that the USMNT cannot cap-tie Gonzalez until possibly the 2019 Gold Cup means that every bit of news that links Jonathan Gonzalez to Mexico will only make us wonder what he will decide.

The USMNT January Camp roster will be announced on Monday at noon, so that will likely shed some light on whether Jonathan Gonzalez will remain in the United States player pool, but until then, fans just hope Mexico doesn’t beat the USMNT to the punch.

Hopefully the U.S. won’t lose a promising young player to its most bitter rival.

Free Kicks

  • One of the things lost in last weekend’s W-League action is that Orlando Pride defender Steph Catley played in her 100th league game.
  • It got so cold that Orlando City’s grounds crew covered the field at the stadium on Thursday.

  • One of Orlando City’s founding fathers, Steve Donner, has taken over as president and CEO of the ECHL’s Greenville (SC) Swamp Rabbits after the minor league hockey team was sold to a new ownership group.
  • Apparently it’s not just Orlando fans who yell “Knights!” in place of “night” during the national anthem at MLS matches (although not for the same reasons). So, congrats to those of you who do it, you’re just like Atlanta fans!
  • Details about Memphis’ USL team are expected on Monday.
  • Columbus unveiled a new black secondary kit that some Crew fans are referring to as the “funeral kit” in a bit of dark humor about the continuing dire possibility of the club moving to Austin, TX, after this season.

  • Those born on this date include TV’s Superman of the 1950’s, George Reeves (1914), Jane Wyman (1917), Robert Duvall (1931), longtime Steelers coach Chuck Noll (1932), legendary sound engineer and record producer Phil Ramone (1934) — his work on Billy Joel’s 52nd Street is top notch and won him one of his 14 Grammys — Diane Keaton (1946), The Love Boat actor Ted Lange (1948), Blondie guitarist Chris Stein (1950), Marilyn Manson (1969), Bradley Cooper (1975), and January Jones (1978).

That’s all I’ve got for you this morning. Bundle up, enjoy your weekend, and check The Mane Land regularly for those additional announcements Niki Budalic mentioned.

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.

Free Kicks

  • 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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