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Lion Links: 1/24/18



Good Wednesday morning, Mane Landers. We’ve got a nice serving of soccer news for you on this fine morning, but first, birthday wishes are in order: Earl Edwards Jr. is celebrating his 26th birthday today, while former Lion Tommy Redding — the club’s first ever Homegrown Player — has hit 21. Happy birthday to the lads, now let’s get into it.

Cyle Larin is Playing a Dangerous Game Training with Besiktas

The Cyle Larin saga got even weirder Tuesday as he was spotted training with Turkish club Besiktas.

Our Michael Citro previously broke down the craziness before today, but this is a new twist. As another one of our writers said today in our conversations: “There will be a time when a trade situation will be all over the place, but we’ll all say “is it Larin kind of crazy?”

And that might be the truth. The club hasn't come out with any additional comments on the Larin situation, but this is becoming tenuous (understatement). We’re not sure if this is Larin attempting to strong-arm a transfer or him making a statement that he’s ready to challenge the validity of his contract. The interesting question in all this is: could the Players Union be backing this in a move to open up their options? (I certainly hope so.)

Take solace in the number of new attacking options Orlando City has added and, in the meantime, grab some popcorn and enjoy the circus.

Pride Get The Off-season Moving with a Big Trade

The Pride had been awful quiet this off-season as fans were seeing monster trades with names like Press, Lloyd, Kerr, Dunn, and Hatch all moving among five different NWSL franchises in the past two weeks.

Well, Tom Sermanni has finally stepped into the ring and it was a big first punch, trading away backup goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe and the Pride’s first-round pick in the 2019 draft for Washington Spirit’s Shelina Zadorsky. Zadorsky, 25, played right center back with the Spirit.

“Shelina brings strong defensive qualities [to Orlando],” said Sermanni in a club press release. “The way we play, one of our emphases this year is that we need to be less vulnerable defensively. Bringing in Shelina, who is an out-and-out center back who also has extensive international experience with the Canadian National Team will be a big asset for us.”

This wasn't a massive surprise as Bledsoe appeared to be one of the more valuable — and exposable — pieces on the Pride roster. Her work this past season in Ashlyn Harris’ absence, combined with her recent run of form in the W-League all pointed to her needing a new opportunity that she wasn't going to get in Orlando anytime soon.

The interesting part of the deal is that it was originally rumored to be a three-team deal where potentially the Utah Royals would be involved, but it only turned out to be two-sided. Why that is interesting is because the Spirit have Stephanie Labbé, who, while 31, has shown little signs of needing to be replaced.

Perhaps there’s more on the way, but we cant help but wonder if this was a little too much as Bledsoe looks to be a rising star in the NWSL if her form continues this way. All the best, Aubrey, and just take it easy on us when we see you again!

Newcomers on Showcase in Second Day of MLS Preseason

We were on hand yesterday for City’s second preseason training session, which saw newcomers such as rookie Chris Mueller, veteran forward Stefano Pinho, and goalkeeper Adam Grinwis.

The rust is visible, but all this new blood has brought a great energy to camp. As Assistant Coach Miles Joseph talked about, this preseason was unlike any other so far:

“Everybody now has a chance to prove themselves,” he said. “And I think we’re going into this preseason with a clean slate, more than we ever have. So we’re excited about that.”

We’ll continue to bring you preseason updates, but it sounds like there will plenty of news coming through as the team adjusts with all the new talent.

Sacha Eager in His First Orlando City Preseason

One guy that is experiencing a different style of preseason is the newly acquired Sacha Kljestan. Kljestan has spent the past three years in New York and now he gets a little bit warmer and thrust into a situation with a variety of newcomers.

His first take on all of this: “Definitely the hardest offseason of my life,” he said. “Hard for me and my family.”

The good part about all this was Kljestan wasn't blindsided and had some notice from NYRB and his agent that it was looking increasingly likely that Orlando was his destination:

“Fortunately, [coach] Jesse Marsch was willing to work with me not blindside me with the trade,” Kljestan said. “The common thing that happened was my agent saying, ‘[Orlando City coach] Jason Kreis reached out again. Jason Kreis called again. He’s very interested. He saw me as an important piece and he really wanted me to be there.”

Overall, Kljestan is excited to lead a young group — both in age and City experience — with some exciting pieces at his disposal.

“My job is to go in and build relationships with the guys around me. It’s about coming in and really competing, getting everyone on the same page.”

He is particularly excited to play with include midfielders Yoshimar Yotún, Josué Colmán, and Cristian Higuita. He also already knows forward Dom Dwyer from training together during off-seasons in Los Angeles.

Colorado Rapids Joining Sporting KC as Diversity Leaders in MLS

Recently we saw the first ever Sporting KC technical position awarded to a woman with Meghan Cameron being named as assistant director of player personnel. And now we’re seeing the Rapids joining in on the diversity train by hiring MLS’s first ever female director of player personnel in Ena Patel.

As The Denver Post reports, Patel was hired to oversee player contracts, salary budget, regulatory compliance, and soccer operations protocols under Pádraig Smith, the Rapids said.

“Ena’s hiring is the final piece of the puzzle for us on the front office side,” Smith, the Rapids’ Executive Vice President and General Manager, said in a statement released by the club. “Bringing in a sharp, legal mind who can oversee our contractual processes and complex league mechanisms is a really important part of ensuring that we’re fielding the best possible team. We can’t wait for her to get started.”

This is a great sight for MLS, which could use some influx of female executives on every level. Believe what you will, but diversity needs to be key in an organization and the doors should be equally open to all candidates. Kudos to Colorado and best of luck Ena!

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I’ll leave you today with some feel-good news. Mason Stajduhar was out today in preseason training and looking good alongside his teammates as he continues his battle with bone cancer. We wish you all the best, Mason, and happy to see you out there.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/27/24

Orlando City loses to the Crew, Pride and OCB win, Southampton seals return to Premier League, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

Happy Memorial Day, Mane Landers! I hope you all had a good holiday weekend. I worked at Under Armour all weekend while wrapping up my high school sports coverage for the spring season. It was a mixed weekend for our teams. Orlando City lost, but both the Pride and OCB won their matches. We’ve got plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links. 

Lions Lose at Home to Columbus Crew

Orlando City lost 2-0 to the Columbus Crew on Saturday at Inter&Co Stadium and saw its three-match unbeaten streak end. The match’s first goal was controversial as the referee, Jair Marrufo, initially awarded the Lions a penalty late in the first half but went to the monitor and reviewed a play at the other end of the pitch. He instead awarded Columbus a penalty kick. Diego Rossi scored from the spot to put the Crew ahead 1-0 before halftime. Columbus extended its winning streak to three matches. Orlando has struggled at home, going just 1-3-4 so far this season. The Lions have not scored a goal at home since April 27. Despite the loss, the Lions still remain in 10th in the Eastern Conference with 16 points. Next up for Orlando is a pair of road matches this week, starting Wednesday at the Chicago Fire, followed by a Saturday night matchup against the New York Red Bulls. 

Pride Win at Home Over Portland Thorns

The Orlando Pride won their record-setting eighth straight match with a 2-1 victory at Inter&Co Stadium against the Portland Thorns Friday. Barbra Banda scored two goals in the first half to give the Pride a 2-0 lead going into halftime. Portland pulled one back, but the Pride held on for the victory and claimed three points. Orlando remains undefeated in league play after 11 matches, and the Pride stay atop the NWSL table with 27 points. The Pride are off this week but will return to action on the road next Friday, June 7, against the San Diego Wave.

OCB Win at Home against Huntsville City FC

On Sunday, Orlando City B bounced back with a season-high five goals in a 5-0 win over Hunstville City FC at Osceola County Stadium. Jhon Solis, Yutaro Tsukada, and Shak Mohammed put OCB ahead 3-0, while Yeiler Valencia scored his first two OCB goals to seal the win for the Young Lions. OCB is now in sixth in the Eastern Conference with 16 points. Meanwhile, Huntsville City FC remains winless through 10 matches and stays at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. OCB’s next match will be on the road Sunday at Inter Miami CF II. 

Southampton Clinches Promotion to Premier League

Southampton booked its return to the Premier League with a 1-0 over Leeds United in the EFL Championship playoff final at Wembley Sunday. Adam Armstrong scored the lone goal in this match as the Saints returned to the top flight after being relegated the previous season. Southampton joins Leicester City and Ipswich Town, securing promotion to the Premier League. Despite finishing third in the table, Leeds’ playoff woes continue as this is the sixth time it missed out on securing promotion and finished its season with only one win out of its last six matches. 

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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: 5/24/24

Orlando City prepares for the Crew, Barbra Banda an NWSL MVP favorite, Orlando Pride announce sleeve sponsor, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! The gauntlet of Orlando soccer home games starts tonight when the Orlando Pride take on the Portland Thorns in a clash of win streaks. I’m working for most of the weekend, but am looking forward to watching some soccer and playing my way through the Ace Attorney games during my spare time. For now though, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

Orlando City Gets Ready to Host the Crew

Orlando City is on a three-game unbeaten run and will take on the Columbus Crew Saturday night in an Eastern Conference showdown. The last time these two sides met was in the 2023 Eastern Conference semifinals with the Crew winning in extra time to eliminate the Lions. It’s the third consecutive road game for the Crew after winning 3-1 against both CF Montreal and the Chicago Fire. Saturday’s match is also the Crew’s last match before the Concacaf Champions Cup final on June 1. Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja spoke on how the Lions will be up to the task regardless of which players take the field for Columbus. Pareja also spoke about how Duncan McGuire is working his way back from the injury he suffered last week.

Barbra Banda Named MVP Frontrunner

ESPN updated its rankings of players in contention to be named NWSL MVP this season and Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda tops the list. The Zambian forward hasn’t been with the Pride for long, but she has scored six goals in six games to help the Pride win seven straight games. Opposing defenses haven’t figured out a way to stop her, and it’s fair to think of her as an MVP favorite alongside fellow attackers in the league like Sophia Smith and Temwa Chawinga. Pride defender Emily Sams also earned herself a spot on the list, ranking 11th. It’s nice to see her get some deserved recognition for her role in the Pride’s stellar defense this year.

Orlando Pride Announce Sleeve Sponsor

A partnership was announced between the Orlando Pride and Heart of Florida United Way, a charity that’s supported families in Central Florida for the past 85 years. As part of the partnership, Heart of Florida United Way will become the first sleeve sponsor for the Pride and its logo will be on the right sleeve of both of the Pride’s jerseys this year. A new ticket program is also being created for 50 tickets to be donated to a local charity for each Pride home game.

Orlando City Unveils Watch Party Schedule

The schedule for this Orlando City season’s watch parties is out, along with the lineup of this year’s included pubs. Each pub will have MLS Season Pass access for fans to watch Orlando’s games this year and there will be chances to win tickets and autographed items at the watch parties as well. There are three new pubs added to the lineup this year, including The Castle Irish Pub at College Park, Paddywagon Irish Pub in Dr. Phillips, and Winter Garden’s Hagan O’Reilly’s. The first watch party will be at The Hammered Lamb in Ivanhoe Village on June 1 when the Lions face off against the New York Red Bulls.

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  • Pride midfielder Evelina Duljan was called up to join Sweden’s U-23 team for the upcoming Four Nations Tournament.
  • NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman became the first woman to be named Sports Business Journal‘s Sports Executive of the Year.

That’s all I have for you this time around. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/23/24

Orlando Pride prepare for the Portland Thorns, Pride Brazilian trio called up, Atalanta wins Europa League, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope this Thursday finds you well as we all get ready for a busy next few days of Orlando soccer to enjoy. It’s been a fairly busy couple of days for me, and I plan on knocking out a few errands before enjoying the upcoming matches. Until then, let’s enjoy today’s links!

Pride Prepare to Host the Portland Thorns

The Orlando Pride have a huge home game against the Portland Thorns tomorrow night. It will be a clash of win streaks, as the Pride have won their past seven games and the Thorns have won their last six. Pride Head Coach Seb Hines is well aware that Portland is a formidable foe with talented players such as Sophia Smith, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Sam Coffey. He spoke on how tomorrow will be a challenge, as well as how playing at home will give the Pride a boost during the game.

Pride Trio Called Up by Brazil

The Pride’s Marta, Rafaelle, and Adriana were all called up for Brazil’s pair of friendlies against Jamaica in Brazil on June 1 and June 4.

These matches will help Brazil prepare for a tough group in the Olympics against Spain, Japan, and Nigeria. Angelina, who featured for Brazil during the SheBelieves Cup, was not called up due to an injury sustained while with the Pride. Although these games will take place during an international break, the Pride do have a road game against the San Diego Wave on June 7, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Hines gives them some rest for that match.

Assessing Emma Hayes’ Time With Chelsea

It felt like forever ago that it was announced Chelsea’s Emma Hayes would leave the club to replace Vlatko Andonovski and coach the USWNT. A great article by ESPN broke down what USWNT fans can learn from her time with Chelsea, including how she’s dealt with the adversity she’s faced both on and off the field. Her impending exit put a spotlight on Chelsea’s season, and she still managed to secure the league title despite the pressure. Chelsea also announced that five members of the coaching staff will leave the club to join Hayes at the USWNT. It’s a new era for the USWNT, and Hayes brings plenty of experience and leadership to the position.

Atalanta Crushes Leverkusen to Win Europa League

Italian club Atalanta lifted the Europa League trophy after a 3-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen in Dublin. The day belonged to Nigerian winger Ademola Lookman, who scored a hat trick that included this stunner that doubled Atalanta’s lead in the first half.

It’s Atalanta’s second trophy in club history, and first in 61 years. It’s also the first trophy for manager Gian Piero Gasperini after coaching in Italy for 30 years. This result snapped Leverkusen’s remarkable unbeaten streak at 51 games, and ended the club’s bid at a treble. Bayer Leverkusen will aim to bounce back Saturday when it plays FC Kaiserslautern in the German Cup final.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando City President of Business Operations Jarrod Dillon has issued a challenge to Orlando City fans for the upcoming trio of Orlando soccer home games, so it may be worth your while to get tickets for the Lions, Pride, and OCB this weekend.
  • Pride forward Amanda Allen placed 16th in ESPN‘s rankings of the 17 teenagers currently playing in the National Women’s Soccer League (the author deemed it unfair to assess Milly Clegg without seeing her on the field more). Allen mostly just hasn’t had much playing time, but that could change over the summer.
  • Former Pride player Camille Ashton (known as Cami Levin when she played in the Pride midfield in 2016 and 2017) has resigned as the general manager of the Kansas City Current.

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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