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Lion Links: 6/6/18

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It is another Wednesday here at The Mane Land and I am currently reporting to you from Houston, TX for no other reason than that I was sick of the rain in Florida. So I plan on enjoying some quality new breweries (for me) like St. Arnold, hoping my Cavs might actually win a game, and maybe hunting down J.J. Watt and fanboy a bit.

Today we’ve got a look at tonight’s Open Cup match vs. Miami United FC, a look at why Orlando City is struggling, and Pro Soccer USA evaluates the big trades from the off-season — including the Sacha Kljestan deal. We’ve also got updates on Pride Month events and some interesting free kicks as always.

Orlando City Begins U.S. Open Cup Play Tonight

The Lions kick off their U.S. Open Cup play down in South Florida tonight against Miami United FC. Miami United has won three matches to get to the point of facing its in-state brethren in the fourth round of the competition. And if you're unfamiliar with Miami United FC and the NPSL, you can catch up here.

If you’re not familiar with the tournament, the Cup is a domestic competition where clubs from all professional leagues — including MLS, NPSL, USL — and amateur leagues alike compete for a piece of silverware and a place in the Concacaf Champions League. The age-old question is whether to prioritize this competition over the regular season and MLS playoff potential. Orlando has never really gone for it in this tournament since its USL days. With a lot of injuries and a tough run of form lately, I’ll be intrigued to see what type of lineup Head Coach Jason Kreis puts out there.

Some of us here think that any silverware should be the priority and that this event has the best chance for the Lions to garner some. Others believe the MLS playoffs, somewhere City hasn't ventured, have to be priority No. 1. I guess we’ll see tonight where the club stands on the season’s priorities.

Who is the Real Orlando City?

Benjamin Baer of MLSSoccer.com wonders about the cause of the Lions’ struggles over the past four matches. He does take a quick dive into some pretty geek-driven stats if you’re into expected goals and such. He touches on a lot of the obvious things with strength of schedule and injuries as well. Simply put: If Orlando was healthy, it probably doesn’t see four straight losses. Plain and simple. But it goes to show that a season will be up and down and Kreis may need to look to the transfer window for some additional help.

However, there are still 21 matches to go! That’s right, we are barely one-third of the way through the schedule and Orlando basically hasn't had its full team available at any point and still sits above the cut line with a game in hand. So take solace in that and breathe.

If MLS wants to knock Orlando down to No. 17 in its power rankings, so be it. I like this team with its back against the wall and with no one believing. The good news is that Kreis has stated the entire squad will be traveling this week minus Yoshimar Yotún who is on World Cup duty with Peru. So it looks like we’ve got the band back together and should see many of them this week against Miami, Vancouver, and Montreal.

Haley Kopmeyer Takes Save of the Week

In her first start of the season, backup goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer took the NWSL’s Save of the Week with this nice save and parry over the bar to preserve a shutout this weekend.

I will fully admit that I voted for the Emily Boyd’s fantastic save on the 1-v-1 in space, but it doesn't matter what I think. The fans have spoken.

Additional awards were:

Congrats to everyone on their weekly awards. In other news, the Pride stayed at No. 3 in the NWSL power rankings.

Orlando Supports Pride Month in a Variety of Ways

If you did not know, it is Pride Month across the country — an annual celebration of tolerance and acceptance for all, but namely those in the LGBTQ community. Orlando’s community, which includes its soccer fan base, has never been shy about its support, especially after the tragic events of the Pulse shooting. The city is bonded in this cause with a booming voice nationally.

Orlando City, in my opinion, has been a benchmark for professional franchises with its support. Orlando City and Pride will be supporting the local event on June 12 to remember those lost in the tragic events with a few additional activities:

  • The stadium will open its doors on June 12 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 4-6 p.m., allowing fans to visit the 49 permanent #OrlandoUnited rainbow seats.
  • They will be releasing designated Pride merchandise on June 11, the proceeds from which will go back to five pride organizations.
  • Each organization will receive a unique ticket link available here, with $5 from every ticket purchased at each link donated to the respective nonprofit.

Please show your support in any way you can. To be honest, click here if you don’t want to support this and really give it some thought.

Sacha Kljestan Trade Evaluated After 11 Matches

Tutul Rahman from Pro Soccer USA takes an early look at MLS’s biggest off-season deals as we enter the second third of the season. One of the biggest deals obviously involved Orlando City and the New York Red Bulls in a blockbuster move for midfielder Sacha Kljestan. A reminder of that deal: Orlando City got Kljestan and $150,000 in General Allocation Money; New York Red Bulls got Carlos Rivas and Tommy Redding.

Again, this is very early in the season to be looking at this, especially considering how young Rivas and Redding are, but one can say that Orlando is certainly winning this deal if you must evaluate it today. Rahman brings up some good stats that have Kljestan projecting to have a better season in 2018 than 2017. Sacha may not be living up to the Designated Player impact level, but he's still there. However, Redding and Rivas are not contributing on just about any level.

Redding has been dealing with a labrum injury preventing him from getting minutes even at the club’s USL team, RBII, after a dreadful 90-minute showing in his only MLS match, while Rivas has only appeared in five matches to date. Maybe neither team is getting true value on the salaries, but at least Kljestan is on the field.

Free Kicks

  • Jordan Culver (ProSoccer USA) sat down with Jose Villarreal — acquired from LA Galaxy this season — on his first minutes of the season.
  • Yaya Touré going on the Pep Revenge Tour. I love it. Come on over to the Red Devils, sir.
  • FourFourTwo ranked every World Cup Kit. I vehemently disagree with Nigeria not being No. 1 and, considering it sold three million units in minutes, so do the fans.
  • And finally, I leave with a video of from the GK Nation. While it didn’t amount to much, I still enjoy any time a keeper wants to have a little fun.

That’s it for today! Have a great rest of the week. Find yourself a new beer like I’m doing. And just pray your sports teams win. Because really, what else can you do? Cheers!

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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