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Lion Links: 5/30/18

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Greetings, Mane Landers! At this point hopefully you've recovered from your holiday hangover and you’ve realized that you only have three more days (or fewer) of work until another weekend!

We have a ton of news on this Wednesday morning. Both U.S. national teams have named new rosters, on which you’ll see some familiar faces. MLS has announced another expansion club for 2019. There’s also news on Jonathan Spector and the usual array of free kicks, so let’s dive in!

Spector Finally Cleared for Full Training

It’s been a while since we've seen Orlando City’s rock at center back, and him coming back couldn't be happening at a better time. Jonathan Spector is back in full training with the team after an extended absence due to a concussion.

It’s been since April 8 that we saw Spector out on the field, so he’ll be working back into match fitness but should hopefully be available in the coming weeks. The Lions need him, as the center back position has taken some serious hits with Amro Tarek out for World Cup duty and Lamine Sané and Chris Schuler sustaining injuries.

As for additional updates:

Meram Sends Message to Iraqi MLS Fan

This story is why I love sports so much. Mustafa Abed is of Iraqi decent and is a huge soccer fan. He's been unfortunate, needing a lot of medical attention after being caught in missile strikes.

Orlando City forward Justin Meram heard of the story and prepared a heart-warming message and surprise for the boy.

Three Pride Players Called in for National Team Duty

The U.S. Women’s National Team roster has been set by Head Coach Jill Ellis for camp ahead of two friendlies vs. China starting June 1. You will see many familiar faces including Alex Morgan and Ashlyn Harris. Additionally, center back Shelina Zadorsky got her own call-up to the Canadian National Team as it prepares for a June 10 friendly against Germany.

While there are no reports on the Canadian camp yet, we do know that U.S. players are supposed to be reporting this Friday, June 1, in advance of the Pride’s match against the Seattle Reign on Sunday. This means Orlando will go without both players as it battles another potential playoff team. If there's any consolation, the Reign will also be without two national team players as Megan Rapinoe and Allie Long will both be at camp as well.

I wrote this week about the issues that come with these call-ups. The idea of a national team camp in the heart of the season for friendlies seems a bit odd when it appears that it could have been avoided.

FourFourTwo’s Jeff Kassouf just wrote a fantastic article on the process of how Ellis and BJ Snow are managing player identification and selection, and I highly recommend taking the time.

Rachel Hill Taking Advantage in Whatever Role Given

I speak for many of us at The Mane Land when I say we are big fans of Rachel Hill and have been a bit shocked at her usage this season. While it was in a younger league, she came back from the Australian W-League this summer on a tear after garnering six assists and ranking third in the league with nine goals.

She’s been utilized as both a starter and super sub and got her third goal of the season in the onslaught 5-2 victory over Chicago this weekend. She’s taking her usage in stride though, as the second-year player is a part of an experienced attacking unit.

“I mean, everyone likes to play as much as they can so obviously I’d prefer starting,” Hill said with a smile. “Whatever’s given to me, I’ll take it. Whether I come off the bench or get the start, either way, doesn’t matter. Whatever my role is, I’ll take it and I’ll do the best I can.”

Here’s hoping for continued success and some more starts for Hill, who will be key this weekend with the absence of Alex Morgan.

Vote for Pride Players in Weekly Awards ; Dash Star Wins Player of the Week

Ashlyn Harris is up for NWSL Save of the Week and Sydney Leroux is up for Goal of the Week. Follow those links to cast your votes ASAP!

Also, Houston Dash Forward and English international Rachel Daly was named NWSL Player of the Week for her brace vs. the Washington Spirit.

USMNT Makes Roster Changes for Upcoming Friendlies

As expected, interim Head Coach Dave Sarachan made a fair amount changes in preparation of the U.S. Men’s National Team friendlies against Ireland and France. With tougher competition on deck, a few more veterans were added to the roster, which should help a team that still is carrying an average age of just over 23.

Seven total players departed while 10 were brought in for the trip. Notable departures include Christian Pulisic (a break that was well needed for him, I might add), Alex Bono, and Walker Zimmerman. The players added include veteran USMNT players DeAndre Yedlin and Bobby Wood. But there is plenty of youth here as well, and we’ll get Kenny Saief back in the side, as well as New York Red Bulls Tyler Adams and Tim Parker, as well as Luca de la Torre, a standout with the U-20s who plays for Fulham.

Cincinnati Officially Approved to Join MLS in 2019

MLS has found its 26th club, as it announced Tuesday that FC Cincinnati will join the league in 2019. In a statement, MLS Commissioner Don Garber noted:

“Major League Soccer is proud to introduce Cincinnati as our 26th team,” said Garber. “The rise of Cincinnati as a passionate soccer market in recent years, coinciding with the city’s growing economy and reputation as a top destination for young professionals makes it an ideal city for our growing league.”

It is not really a huge surprise as Cincinnati was considered a finalist in the recent expansion bids. The announcement of Miami had some worried but the club, which had been fantastic from a local support standpoint, finally got its invitation.

Interestingly, while Cincinnati was announced as the 26th club, it will actually enter in as the 24th. Nashville and Miami, which were announced in December and January, respectively, are both slated to join the league in 2020. This is a huge advantage for FC Cincinnati as it won't have to share assets in the expansion process, i.e. allocation spots, draft picks, expansion draft, etc.

Free Kicks

And I leave you with some interesting music news. If I told you a notable soccer TV personality was about to release an album, how long would it take you to get to this individual?

Not gonna lie. I’ll give it at least one listen on Spotify. Why the hell not?

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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