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Lion Links: 5/20/18

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Happy Sunday, Mane Landers. A tough road loss in Toronto on Friday night seemed to set the tone for a bleak weekend here in the Central Florida area, and the weather surely didn’t help. But every team has peaks and valleys, and quite frankly, this isn’t much of a valley.

The Lions are still in an advantageous position on the MLS Eastern Conference table, and the more and more experience the boys in purple gain with each other in real-time match scenarios, the better. There’s a lot to be optimistic about with this squad, and I hope our audience here shares that sentiment.

The Pride, too, give us much to be excited about, with a home clash against the undefeated North Caroline Courage coming up Wednesday. A win in that match would be massive, and I can’t wait to tune in for the action.

Other than that, it’s been a pretty slow weekend, folks. But here’s your Sunday serving of Lion Links. Enjoy.

A Win Against the Chicago Fire Critical for the Lions

Orlando’s loss was, well how do you put it…deflating. Losses against teams that are surely going to be in the playoff race deep into the season have been upsetting to say the least, and the Lions must do everything possible to ensure they don’t fall into a slump (as they did around this time last season). The players are well aware of the foreboding possibility of a slump, too.

“We have to be mentally very strong,” said midfielder Cristian Higuita after Orlando City’s match against TFC. “We have a great team and I felt like today, for the first time in four seasons that I’ve been here, we were superior to Toronto here at BMO Field. Unfortunately, they won, but I think that we showed we’re a very mentally strong team. I think we’re going to be able to prevent [another slump].”

The loss sets up what some are calling a must-win match against the Chicago Fire in Orlando City Stadium next week. Regardless, prosoccerusa.com’s Jordan Culver does a great job breaking down some key factors in what the Lions do successfully.

Philadelphia Union Players Wear Names of Fallen Heroes at Training

The Union partnered with the Tragedy Assistance Program For Survivors (TAPS) for an event that was held on Friday ahead of Military Appreciation Night, which was recognized at the Real Salt Lake match last night. The decision to partner with TAPS was a heartfelt move that emphasized the Union’s’desire to remain close to the local community, famous for its military roots. The Union’s players, typically outfitted in normal training gear, were provided specially crafted kits that were branded with the names of fallen soldiers on the back of them. The event also allowed victims of the fallen heroes the opportunity to share their stories of their loved ones with some of the athletes that they admire on match days.

“To see the Union players wearing their loved one’s name on the back of their jersey and just saying their name out loud and recognizing their loss and wanting to honor that is just beyond words, it’s so special for these families,” said Megan O’Keefe, TAPS entertainment and sports coordinator in a video released by the team. “Not that this is filling a void but it’s really giving them a new person to connect with and share their loved one’s story,” O’Keefe said.

NYRB Goalkeeper Luis Robles’ Ironman Streak Set to End

Luis Robles, arguably one of the best MLS goalkeepers of all time, will finally miss a match due to a knee injury. The keeper hasn’t missed a match in 183 straight, going the full 90 minutes in every single one of them. The legend started his first match near the end of the 2012 season, and there was simply no looking back. He seized the spot in between the sticks, and he quickly established himself as a force to be reckoned with, posting 65 clean sheets through all competitions. Andrew Vazzano over at newyorkredbulls.com put together a handy little stat counter that emphasizes just how incredible Robles’ ironman streak was, and he also provides a more in-depth view of the streak ending, and even gets a quick word in with Robles himself. The streak ending is significant for the New York Red Bulls, who travel to face a streaking Atlanta team tonight. Ryan Meara will be the man to replace Robles on the evening. We’re rootin’ for ya, Ryan.

Timothy Weah Handed First-Ever Senior Team Start at PSG

Weah, the son of legendary striker and current Liberian President George Weah, was handed the first start of his senior team career for PSG as they traveled to Caen in the final Ligue 1 match of the season yesterday. The result on the day was a 0-0 draw, but Weah seeing out the full 90 minutes at striker (despite picking up a booking in the ninth minute) is significant and has two major implications. The first is that he’s now viewed as a talent that can break into the starting 11 of an elite European side, and that his ascendancy in exposure and stardom should surely follow suit. The second, which correlates directly with the first, is that the U.S. Men’s National Team may now have the young, budding stars it has lacked — and, most importantly, they’re being trained properly by some of the top clubs in the world. Ultimately, seeing Weah find success could prove vital to the development of the national team, the popularity of the sport in our country, and the future of our own national youth development. Plus, just imagine a fully-developed Weah, Cristian Pulisic, Weston McKennie, and Tyler Adams walking out for the Stars and Stripes together.

Gianluigi Buffon Ends His 17-Year Playing Career with Juventus

The legend’s final match for the The Old Lady couldn’t have gone any better, either. Earning his 301st clean sheet for the club, Buffon was substituted off after an hour of play with tears in his eyes, his teammates at his side, and the entire stadium in complete adulation. The supporters showed their love for their club legend by displaying banners and adoring gifts as he mingled with his fans, and Buffon returned the favor as he took a lap to honor the fans in attendance at his substitution. He ended the day by winning his ninth Serie A title. Nobody truly knows what’s next for the 40-year-old; rumors are that he’s been offered a playing deal with France’s PSG, while others say that he’s been offered an influential role within Juventus’ highest offices. Regardless, the man is a legend, and if his playing days are over I’ll personally be selfishly depressed that he’s no longer making incredible saves on my television.

Free Kicks

  • Everyone’s favorite Italian enigma, Mr. Mario Balotelli, has been called up to the Italian national team for the first time since the 2014 World Cup. Personally, I can’t wait to see him don the famous blue kit again. His former gaffer during their time at Manchester City, Roberto Mancini, is the one who gave him the call.
  • ESPN FC put together an excellent presentation that highlights Barcelona midfielder Andres Iniesta’s impactful career.

  • Chelsea downed Manchester United, 1-0, to win the FA Cup final.
  • Portuguese legend and Real Madrid star striker Cristiano Ronaldo has officially struck 450 times for Real Madrid. That’s just for Real Madrid. Sheesh.


All right, folks. That’s about all I’ve got for you today. Before I go, I want to leave you with a clip of who I think will one day become the greatest football manager of all time. That’s one hell of a bold statement, but I’ll stand by it to my grave. Fergie, José, Pep…you fellas better watch out for this kid:

Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/14/24

Orlando City prepares to take on LAFC, Lions linked with Alan Saldivia, Orlando City B draws against Chattanooga FC, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! I’m working for most of this weekend but am still looking forward to the absurd amount of soccer ahead of us. Both Orlando City and the Orlando Pride have games Saturday, and the 2024 Euros should give us some exciting matches from teams we don’t watch all too often. Let’s dive right into today’s links!

Orlando City Prepares for LAFC

The international break is over and Orlando City is back in action Saturday night for a home game against LAFC. It’s been a difficult season for the Lions so far, and they have been shut out in three of their past five games. Points have been hard to come by at home for Orlando and a match against one of the best teams in the Western Conference won’t make that any easier. With David Brekalo at the Euros, Rodrigo Schlegel is expected to start and it would be his 100th MLS appearance. Ramiro Enrique would also make his 50th appearance across all competitions as a Lion should he take the field.

Lions Linked Reportedly Bow Out of Bid to Sign Defender Alan Saldivia

With the MLS summer transfer window looming, a rumor surfaced of Orlando City making an offer to sign Uruguayan center back Alan Saldivia from Colo-Colo in Chile. The Lions reportedly offered $1.5 million for the 22-year-old, but that doesn’t reach the $2.2 million Colo-Colo wants at minimum. The Lions reportedly would not go higher. While center back isn’t exactly a pressing need for the Lions at this time, Saldivia would have given the team a young and talented player who could anchor the defense for years to come.

Orlando City B Drops Points in Disappointing Draw

OCB hosted Chattanooga FC and had to settle for a 2-2 draw after giving up a lead not once, but twice. The Young Lions had Chattanooga on the ropes late in the match, taking the lead just before the end of normal time, only to get punched in the mouth in stoppage time and then lose the penalty shootout. It was the second straight 2-2 draw at home for the Young Lions and they’re still on the hunt for their first win this month. OCB’s next game will be on the road against New York City FC II on Wednesday.

Getting Ready for the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs

The MLS NEXT Cup playoffs kick off Saturday as the best teams across four age groups compete in a knockout format. Orlando City’s U-15 squad was recognized as one of the title contenders in its age group and will take on Real Salt Lake in the round of 32 on Saturday . The team also did well in MLS NEXT Flex, and Jakob Garcia, who has scored 18 goals in 21 games, is the kind of attacker who can make all the difference in knockout matches. Orlando’s U-17 team is capable of making a run as well, although it faces a tough first match on Sunday against the Philadelphia Union, which won the 2024 Generation Adidas Cup. It should be a fun tournament, and hopefully Orlando’s teams can advance far enough to be included in the games streamed on MLS Season Pass.

Free Kicks

  • Carl Robinson is back in MLS after Atlanta United hired him as an assistant coach. The 47-year-old played for Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls to close out his playing career and also served as the head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
  • Chicago Fire Designated Player Xherdan Shaqiri reportedly wants to return to Europe. The 32-year-old has been with the Fire since 2022 but hasn’t lived up to his billing and his contract is set to expire after this season.

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

Lion Links: 6/13/24

Orlando City B hosts Chattanooga FC tonight, USMNT earns draw against Brazil, MLS’ Juneteenth celebrations, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

How’s it going, Mane Landers? Between my cat finally deciding I’m worth hanging out with and reading a pair of books that have been collecting dust on my shelf, I’ve been having a pretty good week. I’m looking forward to the feast of soccer both in Orlando and abroad over the next few days as well. But for now, let’s get this Thursday started with today’s links!

Orlando City B Hosts Chattanooga FC Tonight

In an enticing midweek match tonight at 7 p.m., Orlando City B will take on Chattanooga FC at Osceola Heritage Park. If not heading to watch OCB in person, you can catch the game on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+. The last time these two teams squared off was on May 4, with Chattanooga winning the penalty shootout for an extra point after a 1-1 draw in Tennessee. The Young Lions are coming off of a 2-2 draw with one of the league’s worst teams this season, Carolina Core FC, but winning the shootout after a late rally could give them the kind of momentum needed to take down Chattanooga. Beating one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference would be quite the statement from OCB during what’s been a middling season so far.

USMNT Draws With Brazil in Orlando

Playing in Orlando at Camping World Stadium, the United States Men’s National Team drew 1-1 against Brazil in a friendly billed as the Continental Clasico. Brazil scored first, but Matt Turner and the USMNT didn’t collapse under the pressure and earned the team’s first ever draw against the South American powerhouse. All in all, it was a much better result than the USMNT’s 5-1 loss to Colombia on Saturday. This was the USMNT’s final match until Copa America later this month. The Yanks will start their campaign against Bolivia on June 23 before playing Panama on June 27 and Uruguay on July 1.

MLS Announces Initiatives for Juneteenth

In partnership with Black Players for Change and Adidas, MLS announced some of the ways the league will be celebrating Juneteenth. Pre-match shirts acknowledging the change players can provide will be worn during warm-ups and fans can buy their own shirts as well, with a portion of the proceeds going toward organizations focused on racial equity and social justice. There will also be a campaign highlighting the connection between professional and academy players, as well as educational content across the league’s social media to raise awareness of the holiday.

Euro 2024 Kicks Off on Friday

A loaded gauntlet of summer tournaments finally begins Friday, as Germany hosts Scotland for the first match of Euro 2024. From Cristiano Ronaldo’s potential swan song to a brutal group that includes Spain, Italy, and Croatia, storylines abound for the tournament and each team brings something worth watching to the table. For Orlando City fans, defender David Brekalo was called up by Slovenia, which was drawn in a group with England, Denmark, and Serbia. I’m looking forward to seeing which underdogs prevail and which players make a name for themselves in this tournament.

2026 World Cup Schedule Revealed

The full schedule for the 2026 World Cup was unveiled, which gives a slight glimpse at the paths each host nation could take in the tournament. If the U.S. wins Group D after matches in Los Angeles and Seattle, it will stay on the West Coast for a knockout game in San Francisco before a potential round of 16 game in Seattle and quarterfinal in Los Angeles. Mexico and Canada have similar incentives to win their groups, as they will then host in their country until heading to the U.S. for the quarterfinals, should they make it that far. Here in Florida, Hard Rock Stadium in Miami will serve as the venue for four group games, a round of 32 match on July 3, a quarterfinal on July 11, and the third-place match on July 18.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando Pride Assistant Coach Yolanda Thomas was announced as a panelist for the Black Soccer Coaches’ summer symposium on July 22. She will also have a field session at the event to discuss the role of the midfield when building out of the back.

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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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/12/24

Leagues Cup forgets Orlando’s U.S. Open Cup win, USMNT U-23 loses to Japan, NWSL expansion options, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Welcome to Wednesday, Mane Landers. The USMNT plays tonight in Orlando, and I hope that you have tickets. If not, we can still watch as we wait for the Orlando City and Orlando Pride matches this Saturday. On a personal note, this Friday will mark my ninth anniversary with The Mane Land. It’s been a heck of a ride, and I’m glad you’ve been there with us. Here’s to many more years to come. Let’s get to the links.

Leagues Cup Forgets Orlando’s U.S. Open Cup Win

Orlando City is playing in the Leagues Cup starting at the end of July and here’s a nice guide to Orlando’s group for the tournament. Of course, the Leagues Cup organizers want you to be pumped so that you watch and buy tickets. I think that is something we should do simply to support the club. However, I don’t think they went about promoting the competition in quite the right way. In a tweet that has since been deleted, the tournament’s social media team stated the Leagues Cup would be Orlando’s chance to win its first trophy. Did you catch the mistake? Taylor Twellman did.

Good on you, Taylor. Facundo Torres was indeed brilliant in that match, as was Benji Michel. Of course, there were others that caught the faux pas as well.

I think we should also be mentioning the USL Championships, but what do I know? Evidently, more than the Leagues Cup’s social media team.

USMNT to Honor Pulse Victims

There’s plenty of fake, corporate shows of support for Pride Month , but in general I think that the USMNT and USWNT have done a good job of being legitimate allies to the LGBTQIA+ community. Tonight, the USMNT will play a friendly against Brazil at Camping World Stadium on the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting. The players will be wearing Pride jerseys to honor those who lost their lives so senselessly eight years ago.

In terms of the game, the USMNT will be without Josh Sargent for the match, and Tyler Adams will only get limited minutes if he plays, as both are coming back from injuries. Get well before the Copa America, lads.

Lions on International Duty

The United States U-23 Men’s National Team lost 2-0 to Japan in its final friendly match before the Olympics. Orlando City’s Duncan McGuire found himself on a bit of an island up top as the U.S. had difficulty moving the ball through the midfield. Hopefully, the U.S. got such play out of its system heading into the Olympics.

OCB’s Wilfredo Rivera made the most of his time playing in Puerto Rico’s World Cup qualifier against Anguilla, scoring a brace in the 8-0 victory. This win comes after a scoreless draw with El Salvador last week and Puerto Rico’s remaining group games during this round of qualifying will be next June.

Exploring NWSL Expansion Options

The NWSL will be expanding to 16 teams in 2026 with many cities vying for the next franchise. The leaders include Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Minneapolis. Atlanta, Denver, and Jacksonville are potential choices as well. If it was to be given to either Atlanta or Jacksonville they would be regional rivals for the Orlando Pride. The league is expected to make a decision by the fourth quarter of 2024.

Free Kicks

  • Congratulations to the U-15 United States Women’s National Team, which won 4-0 over Germany.
  • Did you ever have one of those dreams that was a little scary, but also absolutely hilarious? This preview of Inter Miami’s new mascot is a bit like that. To misquote Jaws: “Ever seen an Inter Miami mascot’s eyes, Chief? He’s got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes.”
  • The Cayman Islands Men’s National Football Team forfeited its match against Cuba because many of its players are on visas in the United States. If those players were to travel to Cuba, the U.S. may have canceled those visas due to travel restrictions.
  • This is one of the most ridiculous no-calls I’ve ever seen. India got royally hosed.

That will do it for today. Check back as we get you ready for the Orlando City and Orlando Pride matches this Saturday night. Vamos Orlando!

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