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Lion Links: 1/17/18

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Greetings, Mane Landers! Happy Wednesday as usual. I usually give you some fun opening about where I’m writing from or about me drinking, but I’m actually home in Orlando, sober, and altogether just on the resolution track. Otherwise known as boring. But, there is so much awesome news, don’t let me being responsible distract you.

City Announces Preseason Schedule…But You Can’t See It

Orlando City has announced its MLS preseason schedule and it has five scrimmages prior to opening day against D.C. United:

  • Saturday, Feb. 3 — Preseason scrimmage vs. Jacksonville University at Southern Oak Stadium, 12 p.m. ET.
  • Saturday, Feb. 10 — Preseason scrimmage vs. Minnesota United FC at Sylvan Lake Park, Time TBD.
  • Wednesday, Feb. 14 — Preseason scrimmage vs. Philadelphia Union at Sylvan Lake Park, Time TBD.
  • Saturday, Feb. 17 — Preseason scrimmage vs. Real Salt Lake at Sylvan Lake Park, Time TBD.
  • Saturday, Feb. 24 — Preseason scrimmage vs. Chicago Fire at Orlando City Stadium, 11:30 a.m. ET.

Unfortunately for all of us, we’re not going to get to see any of it. We’re not sure if this is being driven by the executive level or by Head Coach Jason Kreis, but it’s a bummer that we won’t get to see the new pieces and how they’ll fit prior to the season. Some may not have always loved heading down to ESPN WWOS, but at least we got to see our team.

Stay tuned with us as we hope to give you as much information during preseason as we can!

Pride Learn Their New Season Format

The NWSL has announced its new season format, and here are the highlights:

  • Preseason begins Feb. 19.
  • 24 matches; 12 home/12 away.
  • March 24/25 will be opening weekend.
  • Championship will be played Sept. 22, location TBD.

This is a change from the past but I don’t believe it’s a bad move, as I think getting the championship in before full swing MLB and MLS playoffs is the right decision for gaining as much exposure as possible.

However, if you’re reading Links today and thinking, “Oh man, I’m so behind on hearing this news because it released yesterday,” well, don’t beat yourself up to much. That’s because we knew this news the same time as the players. That’s right, The players didn’t know any of this!

Excited for the upcoming season but VERY disappointed that we as players have to find this out on Twitter. That has been our single request of the league. Please have the courtesy to send us this information before it goes public. https://t.co/5KPYPMxN5M

— NWSL Players Assoc (@NWSL_PA) January 16, 2018

I’m not sure how the NWSL releases a schedule format without informing its players first, but it just continues to show the disconnect between the league and the players. It sends the message that there’s no collaboration or respect being shown by the league for its Players’ Association. But that’s not a surprise, it’s not just the league throwing shade towards the women.

Orlando City Announces Kickoff To Soccer Month

The organization has put out a slew of events to get us all jacked up for the MLS and NWSL seasons. Take a look at the calendar of events:

  • Soccer Ball | Friday, Feb. 23, 7 p.m.
  • Purple Pride 5K | Saturday, Feb. 24, 8 a.m. race start.
  • Kids vs. Pros | Tuesday, Feb. 27, 7:30 p.m.
  • Scarf the City | Tuesday, Feb. 27.
  • (TML Staff Favorite) Orlando City Pub Crawl | Friday, March 2, 5:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.
  • Winning Women in Purple: Networking Event | TBA.
  • Pride in the House | TBA.

Josué Colmán’s First Official Day as a Lion is All Smiles

You should already know by now that we have a new No. 10. And on Monday he got to see a little piece of what it means to be a Lion.

The kid couldn’t stop smiling on his first day at the stadium. 😁 #VamosOrlando

📖 https://t.co/r2qADWEEgE pic.twitter.com/oRwXW2vj6s

— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) January 16, 2018

ICYMI: The Lions have a new No. 🔟 in town. #VamosOrlando

Read 📰 https://t.co/66LPDe53hl pic.twitter.com/ol0Mhc8ohb

— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) January 16, 2018

And the fans look just as happy on Twitter.

MLS Gets 14% of USSF Presidential Vote, NWSL Percentage Equal with USL

You are reading this correctly. We have two professional top-flight leagues in the NWSL and MLS. But the latter means more in the upcoming player election, controlling nine of 16 seats on the Pro Council that overall accounts for 25.8% of the election.

“But,” you say, “the NWSL should at least have the second-highest number of votes? Surely the NWSL gets five, USL and NASL get one apiece.” Nope. The NWSL shares the same three votes the USL holds and the NASL gets the remaining vote. As you can imagine, the NASL isn’t quite happy with it recently being named D-III, and now only having one vote.

All of this said, a president presides over all of U.S. Soccer. They’re not cutting into percentages (per se). This is just another example of the women’s side being marginalized and it’s not a good look for U.S. Soccer as they could use some good PR.

Bombshell Trade Involves Two USWNT Players and the NWSL RotY

Crystal Dunn is headed back stateside. In a shocking move that no one saw coming — as Dunn was reportedly happy on the second-place Chelsea Ladies squad — the North Carolina Courage acquired the rights to Dunn and she’s expected to join them for preseason. While her contract was only until 2018, this still remains a surprise as Dunn had very high praise for the FA Women’s Super League.

The 2017 Shield winners and NWSL finalists didn’t get her for nothing, though. USWNT defender Taylor Smith and 2017 NWSL Rookie of the Year Ashley Hatch go over to the Washington Spirit for Dunn and an additional international spot.

This is a big coup for the NWSL, as the league has been seeing national team players consistently leaving for overseas ventures, i.e. Alex Morgan, Carli Lloyd, Dunn, and, most recently, Morgan Brian. Anytime the league can get back one of its stars, it’s a plus.

I would have to think this has more to do with her rights being moved since Washington hasn’t had a great track record lately of holding onto talent, but it’s still a great move for the NWSL. And Washington is now able to put two quality players next to starlet Mallory Pugh. Also, under the radar of this, they traded for the third overall selection in this week’s NWSL Draft.

However, for us Pride fans, this does mean that the Courage attack gets that much stronger. Hatch and Smith will be losses, that’s without a doubt, but gaining a player like Dunn to combine with Sam Mewis and Lynn Williams in the attack is something no defense wants to see.

CEO Leitão Answers a Fan’s Question

So let’s triple down on Alex Leitão’s response to this fan’s questions and say we can’t wait to see it!

We know the draft is upcoming this week, but this is an encouraging sign as Niki Budalic and Kreis continue to reshape this roster — and, spoiler alert, Budalic is our special guest on the latest episode of the PawedCast, which drops this afternoon. As usual, TML was on top of this with a piece about City’s need for central defenders just yesterday.

And shout out to the social media team and Leitão for the banter. Much appreciated.

Budalic Gives Us Insights on What It Means to be a GM

Niki sits down and gives us business nerds a bit of insight into the role of GM. All in all, after this most recent month of off-season, I’d take a listen to the man who’s been very active — and will continue to be — leading up to the 2018 season.

There are a lot of moving pieces in acquiring a new Lion.

GM Niki Budalic breaks the process all down with @KenzieThirkill. #VamosOrlando pic.twitter.com/PuO6euGujC

— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) January 16, 2018

Orlando City’s SoccerCast Has a New Cast

If you followed Orlando City’s SoccerCast, then there’s some news for you: They’ve got a new team this season! Mackenzie Thirkill, Ryan Martinez, and Rick T. are now your hosts. And in their first cast of the season, you’ll hear from Sacha Kljestan and Tom Sermanni. Enjoy!

New Season, New Hosts, New Episode: “A Tale of Two Mustaches”. Get it while it’s hot https://t.co/Oie8otCQG7 #myfirstTweet pic.twitter.com/nWEKxsWD8v

— OC SoccerCast (@OCSoccerCast) January 16, 2018

Free Kicks

I leave you with news that one of the greatest players to ever touch a ball is officially hanging up his boots. Ronaldinho is finally done, folks. While he hasn’t played for two years, he officially announced his retirement yesterday.

Ronaldinho has officially retired from professional football 😢

Thank you for the memories, @10Ronaldinho pic.twitter.com/qcaNKmIukH

— Goal (@goal) January 16, 2018

.@AleMorenoESPN: “Not only was [Ronaldinho] special on the field, he was also special off the field.” pic.twitter.com/zkUTtbUnA4

— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) January 17, 2018

Thank you, Ronaldinho, for so many amazing memories and best of luck in the future!

That’s it! Until next week, stay with us as we cover the upcoming MLS and NWSL drafts this week!

Lion Links

Lion Links: 3/1/24

Orlando’s girls teams playing in national event this weekend, USWNT will face Colombia, Paul Pogba banned for four years, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Welcome to March! It always feels like a good sign when a month starts on a Friday. Spring may not officially be here, but it definitely feels like winter is truly behind us. I plan on getting plenty of spring cleaning done this weekend before a fairly busy month. Let’s get this month started with today’s links!

ECNL Girls National Event Kicks Off Today

Some of the best youth soccer players are coming to Florida this weekend for the Elite Club National League’s spring event at Lakewood Ranch. It’s a great chance for clubs to play teams outside of their conference and there are plenty of scouts to impress as well. Orlando City will have four youth teams take part and each team will play at least three games over the three days. Orlando’s G07 squad has notably won five of its eight games in conference play and will take on Real Colorado National today. Orlando’s squads in the other age groups have some strong opponents lined up as well, so it should be a great experience for the club.

USWNT Will Face Colombia in Concacaf W Gold Cup

After finishing second in its group after a loss to Mexico, the United States Women’s National Team will take on Colombia this Sunday in the Concacaf W Gold Cup quarterfinals. The U.S. and Colombia squared off in friendlies last fall, with the teams playing to a scoreless draw in Utah before the U.S. won 3-0 in San Diego a few days later. Colombia also finished second in its group, conceding just once so far this tournament. The winner of Sunday’s match will play whichever team advances from tomorrow’s game between Canada and Costa Rica. On the other side of the bracket, Orlando Pride players square off when Rafaelle, Adriana, and Brazil play Mariana Larroquette and Argentina tomorrow. The winner of that match will play the victor between Mexico and Paraguay.

Portland Timbers Cut Ties With Jersey Sponsor

The Portland Timbers have dropped DaBella Exteriors as their jersey sponsor amid allegations that the company’s CEO, Donnie McMillan, Jr., sexually harassed employees. The accusations did not become public until Feb. 23 and the Timbers have removed DaBella’s image from their website as well. It makes sense that the Timbers would want to distance themselves from this. There was an investigation by U.S. Soccer in 2022 regarding former Portland Thorns head coach Paul Riley, and the club was also fined by MLS for not reporting an incident of alleged domestic violence involving former Timbers player Andy Polo in a timely manner. DaBella replaced Alaska Airlines as the team’s shirt sponsor for this season and the Timbers will now go without one until a new sponsor is chosen.

Paul Pogba Banned for Four Years

After testing positive for testosterone while playing for Juventus, French midfielder Paul Pogba was banned for the maximum four years by Italy’s anti-doping court. In response to the ruling, Pogba stated that the verdict was “incorrect” and that he will appeal this decision.

“I am sad, shocked and heartbroken that everything I have built in my professional playing career has been taken away from me,” Pogba said. “When I am free of legal restrictions the full story will become clear, but I have never knowingly or deliberately taken any supplements that violate anti-doping regulations.”

It’s fair to wonder just where this news leaves his career if his appeal is denied and he serves the full ban. Pogba turns 31 later this month and he is still under contract with Juventus through 2026, although this ban may obviously change that. Injuries have limited him in recent years as well, as he missed out on the most recent World Cup with France.

Free Kicks

  • Toronto FC signed English midfielder Matty Longstaff to a contract through the 2025 season. Longstaff has previous played for Newcastle United and should help improve a Toronto team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2020.
  • LA Galaxy midfielder Mark Delgado’s second yellow card he received in his team’s opener has been rescinded and he’s eligible for Saturday’s match against the San Jose Earthquakes. Delgado was sent off while the Galaxy were up against Inter Miami, and the Herons then went on to score and leave with a point.
  • The New England Revolution beat Independiente to advance to the Concacaf Champions Cup’s round of 16.
  • Bay FC forward Racheal Kundananji had to exit Zambia’s Olympic qualifier against Ghana due to an injury.
  • The United States Men’s National Team’s next away kit was reportedly leaked and it sure is something. It’s like a Bomb Pop got mixed into the team’s laundry.
  • The USL Super League’s Fort Lauderdale United unveiled its branding and the colors are pretty nice. However, the logo has a bit too much alphabet soup going on for my liking.

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: 2/29/24

Lions reportedly won’t play in U.S. Open Cup, Cavalry FC reflects on its defeat, gauging the USWNT’s panic meter, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Leap Day, Mane Landers! It’s the rarest day of the year, as we all lean into our procrastination a bit and collectively tell March that we’ll get to it tomorrow. It’s been a pretty busy week for me, but knowing the MLS season is in full swing has helped fuel me a bit. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Orlando City Reportedly Won’t Play in 2024 U.S. Open Cup

The latest reports involving Major League Soccer’s participation in this year’s U.S. Open Cup indicate that Orlando City, along with a majority of MLS teams, won’t be playing their first teams in the tournament. According to ESPN‘s Jeff Carlisle, the Houston Dynamo and the seven best teams from last season that aren’t taking part in the Concacaf Champions Cup will have their first teams take part. The format will reportedly be announced soon and we’ll see if Orlando City B and other MLS NEXT Pro teams will be in the tournament.

It will be pretty disappointing if Orlando’s first team doesn’t end up playing. Even though the Lions suffered an early exit last year, they won in 2022 and Head Coach Oscar Pareja has a penchant for excelling in the U.S. Open Cup.

Cavalry FC Reflects on Loss to Orlando City

Although Cavalry FC lost in both legs against Orlando City in its first Concacaf Champions Cup campaign, the Canadian club can hold its head high. Cavalry Head Coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. spoke on the team’s tactics in the second leg in Orlando to overcome the hefty aggregate deficit.

“Strategically, we wanted to frustrate them in the first half with an extra defender, and often at times we were in a back five,” Wheeldon said. “And second half, we wanted to unleash with more attackers and have a go, because it was 0-0. We thought … one, we wanted to make history with our first goal, and two, we wanted to get a result here.”

That first goal did come with Myer Bevan making some history for his team to take back to Canada. All in all, Cavalry did pretty well as the underdog and it’s unfortunate it didn’t get a true home game in Calgary. Cavalry’s defense is the real deal and I doubt this is the last time it makes an appearance in the Champions Cup.

Assessing the Fallout From the USWNT’s Defeat

The United States Women’s National Team suffered a shocking defeat to Mexico earlier this week that’s brought on varying levels of panic. The clock is ticking before the Olympics and the USWNT struggled to bounce back after trailing in the first half and had difficulties on both sides of the ball. While the issues at center back will likely be solved once Naomi Girma and Tierna Davidson play, the midfield has plenty of question marks and a weird balance of youth and experience. It’s an awkward stage for the USWNT, as Emma Hayes doesn’t arrive until May and won’t have much time to get the team ready for Paris. Of course, the USWNT could still win this tournament and the return of Mallory Swanson may heal most wounds this summer, leaving this loss as just a minor blemish when the year is up. Only time will tell and the USWNT has plenty of opportunity to right the ship.

FA Cup Quarterfinals Are Set

It was a pretty wild day in the FA Cup, with some of England’s top teams fighting their way into the quarterfinals. Chelsea needed a late winner from Conor Gallagher to beat Leeds United 3-2 at Stamford Bridge. Manchester United’s match against Nottingham Forest also had a dramatic finish, as United’s Casemiro scored the game’s only goal in the 89th minute. Wolverhampton ousted Brighton thanks to an early goal, and Liverpool got the job done against Southampton.

In the quarterfinals, Newcastle will travel to take on Manchester City, Wolverhampton will host the second division’s Conventry City, Chelsea will take on Leicester City, and Manchester United will face off against Liverpool. All four matches will take place on March 16.

Free Kicks

  • After getting married, Orlando Pride defender Emily Madril will have a new name on the back of her jersey this season.
  • Former Pride midfielder Becky Edwards is an assistant coach at the University of Tennessee and shared details about her time as both a player and coach with the U.S. U-20 team.
  • Enjoy this captured moment of Orlando midfielder Wilder Cartagena being awesome.
  • LAFC forward Mateusz Bogusz’s strike against the Seattle Sounders won the first MLS Goal of the Matchday of the season, claiming 35.4% of the vote.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a pretty great Leap Day and that the rest of the week goes smoothly.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/28/24

Orlando City moves on in Champions Cup, Orlando Pride unveil new kits, USMNT to play Brazil in Orlando, and more.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope you all enjoyed watching Orlando City’s win Tuesday night in the Concacaf Champions Cup. I’ve been staying busy at Under Armour, while wrapping up covering high school basketball playoff action with the state championship this weekend. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Orlando City Defeats Cavalry FC in Concacaf Champions Cup

The Lions took care of business on Tuesday, defeating Cavalry FC 3-1 at Inter&Co Stadium to advance 6-1 on aggregate and reach the round of 16 in the Concacaf Champions Cup. Forward Luis Muriel got his first start as a Lion, and there was plenty of rotation from the lineup Head Coach Oscar Pareja used against CF Montreal this past weekend. It was Orlando’s first home win in the continental tournament and the Lions will face Tigres in the next round in a rematch of their series in last year’s Concacaf Champions League. The first match will be in Orlando on Tuesday, with the second leg taking place in Mexico on March 12.

Orlando Pride Unveil New Phoenix and Citrus Kits

The Orlando Pride unveiled two new kits on Tuesday as part of the NWSL’s league-wide kit reset ahead of the upcoming season. The first kit is called the Phoenix kit, which features the Pride’s two recognizable colors, purple and blue. The Phoenix kit also features a two-toned purple gradient that goes from the top right to bottom left on the jersey.

The secondary Citrus Kit is an all new color scheme that pays tribute to Florida’s citrus industry. The Citrus Kit features a new orange and iced-out green color scheme with oranges and leaves, while the letters and numbers have the same green coloring. The socks have “Pride” handwritten on the back, while a stylized “OP” is on the lower end of the jersey.

Both kits will be unveiled during the kit party at the Orlando Regional History Center later today. Fans can purchase replicas of the two new jerseys at ShopOrlandoPride.com, in the Den at Inter&Co Stadium, and on NWSLShop.com.

Philadelphia Union Advance Past Deportivo Saprissa

The Philadelphia Union survived a wild match against Deportivo Saprissa at Subaru Park, securing a 3-3 draw to advance to the next round on aggregate. There were four goals in the first 30 minutes of the match, and Mariano Torres gave Saprissa a needed third goal in the second half to send the game to extra time. Despite playing a man down after defender Jack Elliot was sent off, the Union’s Mikael Uhre scored in extra time and the defense held on to advance. There is more Concacaf Champions League action tonight, as FC Cincinnati takes on Cavalier SC, already up 2-0 on aggregate, while Nashville SC faces Moca FC with a 3-0 aggregate lead. The New England Revolution will host Independiente tomorrow.

USMNT to Play Brazil at Camping World Stadium

The United States Men’s National Team will play Brazil in the second edition of the Continental Clasico on June 12 at Camping World Stadium. Both teams will use this match to test themselves in preparation for the Copa America this summer. This will be the first meeting between these two sides since 2018, when the USMNT lost 2-0 to Brazil in a friendly at MetLife Stadium. In the first edition of the Continental Clasico last April, the USMNT played Mexico in a thrilling 1-1 draw. The USMNT has only beaten Brazil once in 19 matches, but its record in Orlando has been stellar, with a 7-2-0 record in recent years. The 2024 Copa America will kick off on June 20.

Free Kicks

  • The latest MLS power rankings have been released after opening week. Orlando City dropped three places to eighth after a scoreless draw against CF Montreal this past weekend.
  • The Orlando Pride’s Rafaelle started and scored a goal in Brazil’s win against Panama in the Concacaf W Gold Cup. Pride forward Adriana came off the bench for Brazil as well.
  • USMNT captain Tyler Adams is back at training with AFC Bournemouth. Adams has been sidelined since last September with a hamstring injury.

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

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