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Lion Links: 10/21/18

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Happy Sunday, Mane Landers. Chances are you’re here to bide your time while you await Orlando’s clash with the Columbus Crew, so I’ll do my best to keep your spirits high while you wait. Today’s match should be an entertaining affair, with Justin Meram making a potential eventful return to Orlando City Stadium. I would imagine that it’ll be an emotional one for him…and for the supporters in attendance. Just remember to keep it classy; that’s how you Mane Landers do it.

That said, I’ll do what I can to keep today’s serving of Links classy for you! Let’s dive right in.

Orlando City SC’s Home Finale

There’s bound to be some drama. With the Lions hosting the Crew for their last home match of the 2018 campaign, Meram, if present, will likely be front and center, but that’s not what Head Coach James O’Connor is focused on. He’s acknowledged the event, but certainly will have other things to work on. Namely: winning.

“It’s the same as any other player who comes back,” O’Connor said. “You shake his hand, you wish him all the best and it’ll have no bearing on what we’re trying to do. I think, for us, we’ve been very intentional about trying to make sure that whoever it is that comes here, we focus on what we need to do.”

Clearly, O’Connor doesn’t want the return of Meram to overshadow what’s really at stake for his side — ensuring that his team executes his game plan and ends the home finale with three points in hand. That’s been a difficult thing to do for the Lions since the appointment of O’Connor, and to be frank, there’s no guarantee that Meram will make the trip. Even Orlando’s star players, like Yoshimar Yotún, likely still in contact with their former teammate, have no inkling of whether or not Meram will travel with the Crew.

“If he does come, it’ll be nice,” Yotún said. “It’ll be nice to play against him. They’re a good club that includes an ex-teammate from Orlando City. It’s always good to play against ex-teammates.”

Regardless, O’Connor is well aware of the opposition’s strong season, and need for a positive result to potentially break into the MLS Playoff picture. He anticipates a challenging affair.

“Columbus, obviously, a very experienced team and having a very strong year, as well,” O’Connor said. “So, it’ll be a tough game for us.”

It should be a good one, Mane Landers. So make sure you’re tuned in!

Meram Reflects on his Orlando Tenure, Gives Supporters Credit

Speaking of the controversial former Lion, regardless of whether we see him today or not, he’s certainly reflected upon his time in Orlando. He’s happier now that he’s with the Crew again, and finally provided some insight into the trials and tribulations that he experienced as a Lion.

“Some negative things that happened when I was there made me mentally stronger, so that was a positive,” he said. “[Learning] how to handle situations better – that was positive. I wasn’t perfect; I can be a man about it. I could have done things a little better.”

Meram goes on to express regret over his then-controversial goal celebration of closing his eyes and putting his fingers in his ears; alluding that he’s blocking out the criticism of the supporters. He does, however, give the Lions supporters some credit.

“The fans kind of blow things up, but they’re passionate, and I respect their passion,” he said. “To have a fan base when results aren’t going well and they’re still out there every game, I give them credit…and I’m thankful for a lot of them who were supporting me even when I was in a slump.”

Unfortunately, that’s not where the interview ended. He also took a swipe at his former side, implying that while there was a high level of quality on the pitch, there was a lack of a strong culture that cultivates results.

“There’s a lot of quality in that locker room, and they spent a lot of money to bring in a lot of quality,” he said. “But just putting quality on the field isn’t going to win you games. You have to have a collectiveness, a family mindset. I think that might have been lacking a bit.”

That said, Meram also stated that he doesn’t feel that there’s any beef between he and the club. My opinion? I find that hard to believe. His response when asked if he would celebrate if he scored against his former side: “We’ll see when the time comes, I guess.” Prepare for fireworks, folks.

The Journey: Ashlyn Harris

We all know and love Pride goalkeeping stalwart Ashlyn Harris, but perhaps we all didn’t know of her humble beginnings. Harris began her meteoric rise from Satellite High School here in Florida, and was tabbed as a future goalkeeping prospect at the tender age of 16. In a series from U.S. Soccer, Harris is the feature of a The Journey, detailing the lives, both on and off the field, of USWNT stars as they work towards potential 2019 World Cup glory. Check it out, she’s got quite the story…and you’d never guess who inspired her the most during her formative years.

FC Cincinnati Looks to Enter MLS as Champions X2

Similar to Orlando City SC and its entrance into MLS play, FC Cincinnati is looking to take down the USL Cup before becoming an official MLS club in 2019. The club has already won the regular-season title, and will now attempt to add one more championship notch to its proverbial belt before leaving the league. The Ohio club needed penalties last night to advance. The Lions, who won the USL in 2011 and 2013 while also taking down the Commissioner's Cup in 2014, reveled in glory before entering MLS play to much fanfare. Unfortunately, as we all know, that success has yet to translate to the next level and the Lions have yet to break into the MLS playoffs.

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  • Friendly reminder: be sure to stick around after today’s match to cheer on the Orlando City Special Olympic squad!

  • Ready to catch a glimpse of the Orlando SeaWolves against the Brazil National Minifootball team…with a bonus match? Check this out.

  • Yesterday brought good news for USMNT and Schalke starlet Weston McKennie, as he was back in action as the German side hosted Werder Bremen.

  • Check out a sneak peak of USMNT legend Paul Caligiuri’s (and others’) induction into the National Soccer Hall of Fame, courtesy of Major League Soccer!

  • Don Garber, another Hall of Famer, has done a lot for MLS over the years. And I mean a lot.
  • Wayne Rooney has adjusted quite well to D.C. United and MLS play, as he tells the famed Men in Blazers.
  • The fears have been confirmed…walking icon Lionel Messi broke a bone in his right arm after a collision during the opening stages of yesterday’s match against Sevilla, and will miss three weeks, keeping the Barcelona talisman out of the famed El Clásico against Real Madrid next weekend. That’ll be good news for Madrid, which just recently ended a 465 minute goalless drought courtesy of a strike from (my personal favorite player of all time) Marcelo.


That’s all I’ve got for you today, Mane Landers. Enjoy the 3 p.m. kickoff against the Crew! Hopefully the Lions bring the heat…because lord knows the supporters deserve it for braving this Florida weather to see them play. It’d be one hell of a showing to see the Lions down a Meram-led crew, but it could happen, so do your best to remain positive and show out for your boys in purple.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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