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
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) January 16, 2018
ICYMI: The Lions have a new No. 🔟 in town. #VamosOrlando
— 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.
— 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!
— OC SoccerCast (@OCSoccerCast) January 16, 2018
- Kyle Beckerman is invincible — or at least Real Salt Lake believe so — as he’s garnered a new contract at 35 years old that appears to be at least two years.
- Chelsey Bush of Equalizer Soccer has her wishes for women’s soccer in 2018. Included are quite a few that directly or indirectly involve Pride players.
- Tim Hanley, a much-revered MLS goalkeeping coach, gives his take on the system and American keepers. He has Tim Howard as his No. 6 all-time. Absolutely not, respectfully.
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 😢
— Goal (@goal) January 16, 2018
— 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: 12/1/23
Rodrigo Schlegel fined, MLS roster updates, USWNT faces China tomorrow, and more.
Welcome to December, Mane Landers! It always feels like a good sign when a month starts on a Friday. I don’t have many plans this weekend beyond helping a friend move and trying to make pad Thai for the first time. It should be a nice next few days to reset after a hectic week. But for now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.
MLS Issues Disciplinary Rulings After Playoff Games
Orlando City center back Rodrigo Schlegel was fined an undisclosed amount by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for not leaving the field in a timely manner after receiving a second yellow card in the team’s playoff match with the Columbus Crew. Schlegel did not crowd the referee or plead his case disruptively, but he did linger a bit before exiting the match. It was one of many fines handed out by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for violations during the playoffs, and Crew forward Cucho Hernandez was fined for embellishment for going to ground clutching his face after Schlegel shielded the ball from him.
The Vancouver Whitecaps players and staff received fines and suspensions for their actions during and after their playoff match with LAFC on Nov. 5. Head Coach Vanni Sartini was fined $20,000 and suspended for an additional five games for entering the field of play in a confrontational manner and his comments about the refereeing following his team’s elimination. Vancouver defender Mathias Laborda was also handed a one-match suspension for his actions during the match.
MLS Teams Update Rosters as Deadline Looms
The deadline for MLS teams to decline contract options is today and clubs around the league are getting their affairs in order. The Portland Timbers confirmed that Sebastian Blanco won’t be with the team next year, as he was out of contract after seven seasons with the club. Designated Player Jaroslaw Niezgoda and fellow forward Franck Boli had their options declined by Portland as well. FC Dallas triggered the options on the contracts of midfielder duo Asier Illarramendi and Liam Frasier, while declining the options for midfielder Facundo Quignon and defender Jose Martinez. The New York Red Bulls kept a key part of their defense by signing Dylan Nealis to a contract through the 2024 season. Nashville SC declined seven options, and veterans Dax McCarty and Fafa Picault are out of contract. Both players could be worth keeping an eye on as an Orlando supporter, depending on if Wilder Cartagena and Ivan Angulo will return. According to The Athletic‘s Tom Bogert, McCarty is not likely to return to Nashville.
Racing Louisville Names Beverly Yanez as Head Coach
Beverly Yanez was announced as Racing Louisville’s next head coach after serving as an assistant coach during the 2023 season. The 35-year-old retired as a player in 2020 and was an assistant coach with NJ/NY Gotham FC for two years before joining Louisville prior to this season. Louisville has yet to reach the playoffs since joining the NWSL in 2021 and Yanez is now the club’s third head coach. She’s earned plenty of praise from Louisville’s players and it will be interesting to see how her first season as a head coach goes in 2024.
Alejandro Bedoya Receives Impact Award
Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya won the MLS Impact Award, along with a $100,000 contribution by Audi to The Philadelphia Equity Alliance. Bedoya has worked with the nonprofit to promote inclusive economic growth and reduce poverty. He was also named 2022 MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year for his efforts to make a difference in the Philadelphia community. The Crew’s Darlington Nagbe and Nashville’s Taylor Washington were the other finalists for this year’s award.
Analyzing China Ahead of USWNT Friendlies
The United States Women’s National Team will close out its 2023 schedule with a pair of friendlies against China this month. The two nations will clash tomorrow at 3 p.m. in Fort Lauderdale before playing again in Frisco on Tuesday at 8 p.m. Although China lost all three of its group stage games in this past summer’s World Cup, it recently won the bronze medal in the Asian Games. China fell short in Olympic qualifying though, and 2022 AFC Women’s Coach of the Year Shui Qingxia’s contract was terminated, with Wang Jun taking over in an interim capacity for these friendlies. The USWNT should be able to find success on set pieces and crosses, although China has been working on strength training this year to compensate for that weakness. Tang Jiali, Zhang Linyan, and Shen Menglu are a few of the players in China’s versatile attack that could spell trouble for the Americans.
- Orlando Pride defender Rafaelle started as Brazil’s captain and Marta and Adriana came off the bench in a 4-3 win over Japan in a friendly. In her international debut, 19-year-old forward Priscila gave Brazil the late winner. The two teams will play again on Sunday.
- The Kansas City Current dedicated their press box to journalist and Kansas City native Grant Wahl.
- The New England Revolution have promoted Curt Onalfo to sporting director after four years as the club’s technical director. Onalfo served as the interim sporting director after Bruce Arena’s resignation in September and now gets the job fulltime.
- The MLS Players Association released a statement regarding Matt Miazga’s three-game suspension.
- Pierre Emerick-Aubamayeng scored a bicycle kick and a late winner as part of his hat trick in Marseille’s 4-3 win over Ajax in the Europa League.
- The 2023 Women’s College Cup semifinals kick off tonight, with Florida State facing Clemson and BYU playing Stanford. There are many talented players in action who are worth watching tonight before the NWSL Draft next month.
- Lyon, which is last in Ligue 1 with just seven points from 12 games, has sacked Fabio Grosso after less than three months as head coach.
That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!
Lion Links: 11/30/23
Orlando City faces big questions, Matt Miazga suspended, Emma Hayes meets USWNT for first time, and more.
November is finally coming to a close. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster of a month for me, with highs, lows, and many things in between. All in all, I’m pretty glad it’s nearly over, although I expect December to be similarly hectic. At least this weather is allowing me to break out some winter clothes and turn on the fireplace in this new apartment. I’m not sure why a fireplace was installed in a Floridian apartment, but I’m not complaining. Let’s dive into today’s links!
Big Decisions Await Orlando City
With Orlando City’s season over, attention now turns to a critical off-season for the club. Head Coach Oscar Pareja is out of contract after leading the Lions to the playoffs for the past four years. The club will also need to decide if it will exercise the 2024 options on the contracts of both Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi and Technical Director and Assistant General Manager Ricardo Moreira. All three have orchestrated Orlando’s transformation that’s included winning its first trophy, having its best season this year, and qualifying for both the Concacaf Champions League and Champions Cup. Potentially transferring Facundo Torres to Europe, filling the empty Designated Player slot, and deciding which players to bring back for 2024 are also on the agenda. However, figuring out who will lead the Lions into this exciting next chapter is paramount. Personally, I think the club should do everything in its power to keep the people who brought Orlando to this point.
Matt Miazga Suspended for Three Games
FC Cincinnati will be without MLS Defender of the Year Matt Miazga for Saturday’s Eastern Conference final, as he was suspended by MLS for three games due to his misconduct after the match with the New York Red Bulls on Nov. 4. Miazga was also fined an undisclosed amount and will undergo a behavioral assessment as part of the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. Following that aforementioned playoff match, reports surfaced that Miazga gained unauthorized access to an area reserved for the referees and acted aggressively. Any suspended games not served during Cincy’s playoff run will carry over into the 2024 season, although Miazga can petition for a reduction based on compliance with recommended treatment plans.
Emma Hayes Meets With USWNT Players and Staff
Emma Hayes, who was hired as the next United States Women’s National Team Head Coach earlier this month, made the trip to Florida to meet the team for the first time. Although she won’t be coaching the team for its upcoming pair of friendlies against China, she collaborated with interim head coach Twila Kilgore on the latest training camp roster and will continue to work with her until taking over in May. There won’t be much time between Hayes’ official start date and the 2024 Summer Olympics, making these moments of face time between player and future coach all the more important. USWNT captain Lindsey Horan spoke on the team’s goals after meeting Hayes for the first time.
“There’s so much talent in this team, and I don’t think the world has seen enough of it yet just because we need to go out and show it,” Horan said. “We need to be able to mesh together and show everything that we have, and what we’re all about, and how we can really collaborate and play together — be more of a team and be a powerhouse again.
“It’s going to be exciting for us to have her and see what she can do with this team and how she can help us moving forward.”
Ricardo Pepi Sends PSV Into Champions League Knockout Stage
PSV Eindhoven clinched its spot in the next round of the UEFA Champions League in dramatic fashion, with American forward Ricardo Pepi scoring the winner in a 3-2 comeback win over Sevilla in Spain. Trailing 2-0 in the second half, American left back Sergino Dest provided the assist on PSV’s first goal and Pepi found the winner in stoppage time, with fellow American Malik Tillman also coming off the bench. From his little flick to send a teammate forward to his run and clinical header, it was a great goal by the 20-year-old.
Elsewhere in the Champions League, Arsenal beat Lens 6-0 to advance, Real Madrid won 4-2 against Napoli to win its group, and Real Sociedad played to a scoreless draw with RB Salzburg. Manchester United remains in last place of its group after a 3-3 draw with Galatasaray, with goalkeeper Andre Onana unable to stop Hakim Ziyech from scoring off of two free kicks. All’s not lost for United though, as it can still qualify for the round of 16 by beating Bayern Munich at home so long as the other match ends in the group ends in a draw. It all makes for what should be an exciting final matchday in the group stage.
- The Kansas City Current announced that American midfielder Sam Mewis will not be returning to the club for the 2024 season. The 31-year-old has not played since 2021 as she continues to recover from a knee injury.
- The Utah Royals have signed free agent forward Imani Dorsey on a contract through the 2025 season. Dorsey has most recently played for NJ/NY Gotham FC, although she didn’t participate in this past season due to mental health reasons.
- Manchester United is reportedly ready to move on from Mason Mount just six months after he joined the team from Chelsea.
- Tomasz Kwiatkowski, the video assistant referee involved in a controversial handball that eventually led to Paris Saint-Germain’s equalizer in stoppage time against Newcastle, was removed from his next scheduled duty by UEFA.
- Amidst a four-game winless streak, French club Nantes has fired Pierre Aristouy as its manager, immediately replacing him with Jocelyn Gourvennec.
- We’ll end our links with this interesting article that dives into how Romelu Lukaku unexpectedly arrived at AS Roma and how he’s thriving at the Italian club.
That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week!
Lion Links: 11/29/23
Orlando Pride players called up by Brazil, MLS announces 2023 Best XI, latest MLS roster moves, and more.
Hello, Mane Landers I hope all is well down in Florida. I’ve been very busy working throughout the holiday weekend at Under Armour. This week I’ll be working at Wrigley Field for Winterland while getting ready to cover high school wrestling tomorrow night. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.
Pride Players Called Up By Brazil for Friendlies
Orlando Pride defender Rafaelle and forwards Marta and Adriana have been called up to the Brazil Women’s National Team for its upcoming friendlies.
Brazil will play two matches against Japan on Nov. 30 and Dec. 3 in Sao Paulo before playing Nicaragua on Dec. 6 at Estadio Fonte Luminosa in Araraquara.
MLS Announces the 2023 Best XI
Major League Soccer announced its 2023 Best XI, recognizing the league’s top players at each position. There were no Orlando City players selected for the team and eight players received the honor for the first time. Those players are St. Louis City’s Roman Burki and Tim Parker, FC Cincinnati defender Matt Miazga, Atlanta United duo Thiago Almada and Giorgos Giakoumakis, Houston Dynamo midfielder Hector Herrera, LAFC’s Denis Bouanga, and Columbus Crew forward Cucho Hernandez. Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar made the Best XI for the third consecutive time, while teammate Walker Zimmerman was named to it for the fifth time. MLS MVP Luciano Acosta of FC Cincinnati rounds out the list.
Latest MLS Off-season Roster Moves
The Colorado Rapids announced their latest roster changes as they prepare for the the 2024 season under new Head Coach Chris Armas. The club exercised its options for defender Andrew Gutman, midfielder Ralph Priso, and forward Calvin Harris. The Rapids declined contract offers to seven players, with the most notable names being defender Steven Beitashour and goalkeeper William Yarbrough, although the Rapids are in discussions about re-signing Yarbrough. Elsewhere, the New England Revolution exercised the permanent transfer option on forward Tomas Chancalay, signing him to a Designated Player contract through 2026, with a club option for the 2027 season.
UEFA Champions League Roundup
Champions League action returned in Europe, as we get close to wrapping up the group stage in a couple of weeks. Manchester City overcame a two-goal deficit to beat RB Leipzig 3-2 and win Group G. Newcastle United had a chance to qualify for the round of 16 but gave up a late penalty to Paris Saint-Germain, which Kylian Mbappe converted to end the match in a 1-1 draw. Borussia Dortmund beat AC Milan 3-1 to book its spot in the knockout stage. PSG, Newcastle, and AC Milan are all still alive in Group F heading into the final matchday in December. Shakhtar Donetsk won 1-0 against Royal Antwerp and also still has a shot to advance on the final matchday. Lazio, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, and Young Boys all won their respective matches as well. Today’s matches include Manchester United on the road against Galatasaray, Real Madrid taking on Napoli, and Sevilla facing off with PSV Eindhoven.
- Concacaf has announced that BMO Stadium, Dignity Health Sports Park, Shell Energy Stadium, and Snapdragon Stadium will be the four venues that will host matches for the 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup.
- Barcelona midfielder Gavi will be sidelined for up to 10 months after undergoing knee surgery after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee.
- The International Football Association Board approved a trial for sin bins, meaning players punished for dissent or specific tactical offense would be temporarily removed from the match for a set amount of minutes.
- You have got to see this goal from Cwrt Rawlin FC in the Welsh seventh division.
That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Wednesday and I’ll see you next time.
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