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Lion Links: 10/21/18



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.

Free Kicks

  • 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: 12/1/23

Rodrigo Schlegel fined, MLS roster updates, USWNT faces China tomorrow, and more.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Welcome to December, Mane Landers! It always feels like a good sign when a month starts on a Friday. I don’t have many plans this weekend beyond helping a friend move and trying to make pad Thai for the first time. It should be a nice next few days to reset after a hectic week. But for now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

MLS Issues Disciplinary Rulings After Playoff Games

Orlando City center back Rodrigo Schlegel was fined an undisclosed amount by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for not leaving the field in a timely manner after receiving a second yellow card in the team’s playoff match with the Columbus Crew. Schlegel did not crowd the referee or plead his case disruptively, but he did linger a bit before exiting the match. It was one of many fines handed out by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for violations during the playoffs, and Crew forward Cucho Hernandez was fined for embellishment for going to ground clutching his face after Schlegel shielded the ball from him.

The Vancouver Whitecaps players and staff received fines and suspensions for their actions during and after their playoff match with LAFC on Nov. 5. Head Coach Vanni Sartini was fined $20,000 and suspended for an additional five games for entering the field of play in a confrontational manner and his comments about the refereeing following his team’s elimination. Vancouver defender Mathias Laborda was also handed a one-match suspension for his actions during the match.

MLS Teams Update Rosters as Deadline Looms

The deadline for MLS teams to decline contract options is today and clubs around the league are getting their affairs in order. The Portland Timbers confirmed that Sebastian Blanco won’t be with the team next year, as he was out of contract after seven seasons with the club. Designated Player Jaroslaw Niezgoda and fellow forward Franck Boli had their options declined by Portland as well. FC Dallas triggered the options on the contracts of midfielder duo Asier Illarramendi and Liam Frasier, while declining the options for midfielder Facundo Quignon and defender Jose Martinez. The New York Red Bulls kept a key part of their defense by signing Dylan Nealis to a contract through the 2024 season. Nashville SC declined seven options, and veterans Dax McCarty and Fafa Picault are out of contract. Both players could be worth keeping an eye on as an Orlando supporter, depending on if Wilder Cartagena and Ivan Angulo will return. According to The Athletic‘s Tom Bogert, McCarty is not likely to return to Nashville.

Racing Louisville Names Beverly Yanez as Head Coach

Beverly Yanez was announced as Racing Louisville’s next head coach after serving as an assistant coach during the 2023 season. The 35-year-old retired as a player in 2020 and was an assistant coach with NJ/NY Gotham FC for two years before joining Louisville prior to this season. Louisville has yet to reach the playoffs since joining the NWSL in 2021 and Yanez is now the club’s third head coach. She’s earned plenty of praise from Louisville’s players and it will be interesting to see how her first season as a head coach goes in 2024.

Alejandro Bedoya Receives Impact Award

Philadelphia Union midfielder Alejandro Bedoya won the MLS Impact Award, along with a $100,000 contribution by Audi to The Philadelphia Equity Alliance. Bedoya has worked with the nonprofit to promote inclusive economic growth and reduce poverty. He was also named 2022 MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year for his efforts to make a difference in the Philadelphia community. The Crew’s Darlington Nagbe and Nashville’s Taylor Washington were the other finalists for this year’s award.

Analyzing China Ahead of USWNT Friendlies

The United States Women’s National Team will close out its 2023 schedule with a pair of friendlies against China this month. The two nations will clash tomorrow at 3 p.m. in Fort Lauderdale before playing again in Frisco on Tuesday at 8 p.m. Although China lost all three of its group stage games in this past summer’s World Cup, it recently won the bronze medal in the Asian Games. China fell short in Olympic qualifying though, and 2022 AFC Women’s Coach of the Year Shui Qingxia’s contract was terminated, with Wang Jun taking over in an interim capacity for these friendlies. The USWNT should be able to find success on set pieces and crosses, although China has been working on strength training this year to compensate for that weakness. Tang Jiali, Zhang Linyan, and Shen Menglu are a few of the players in China’s versatile attack that could spell trouble for the Americans.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando Pride defender Rafaelle started as Brazil’s captain and Marta and Adriana came off the bench in a 4-3 win over Japan in a friendly. In her international debut, 19-year-old forward Priscila gave Brazil the late winner. The two teams will play again on Sunday.
  • The Kansas City Current dedicated their press box to journalist and Kansas City native Grant Wahl.
  • The New England Revolution have promoted Curt Onalfo to sporting director after four years as the club’s technical director. Onalfo served as the interim sporting director after Bruce Arena’s resignation in September and now gets the job fulltime.
  • The MLS Players Association released a statement regarding Matt Miazga’s three-game suspension.
  • Pierre Emerick-Aubamayeng scored a bicycle kick and a late winner as part of his hat trick in Marseille’s 4-3 win over Ajax in the Europa League.
  • The 2023 Women’s College Cup semifinals kick off tonight, with Florida State facing Clemson and BYU playing Stanford. There are many talented players in action who are worth watching tonight before the NWSL Draft next month.
  • Lyon, which is last in Ligue 1 with just seven points from 12 games, has sacked Fabio Grosso after less than three months as head coach.

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: 11/30/23

Orlando City faces big questions, Matt Miazga suspended, Emma Hayes meets USWNT for first time, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

November is finally coming to a close. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster of a month for me, with highs, lows, and many things in between. All in all, I’m pretty glad it’s nearly over, although I expect December to be similarly hectic. At least this weather is allowing me to break out some winter clothes and turn on the fireplace in this new apartment. I’m not sure why a fireplace was installed in a Floridian apartment, but I’m not complaining. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Big Decisions Await Orlando City

With Orlando City’s season over, attention now turns to a critical off-season for the club. Head Coach Oscar Pareja is out of contract after leading the Lions to the playoffs for the past four years. The club will also need to decide if it will exercise the 2024 options on the contracts of both Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi and Technical Director and Assistant General Manager Ricardo Moreira. All three have orchestrated Orlando’s transformation that’s included winning its first trophy, having its best season this year, and qualifying for both the Concacaf Champions League and Champions Cup. Potentially transferring Facundo Torres to Europe, filling the empty Designated Player slot, and deciding which players to bring back for 2024 are also on the agenda. However, figuring out who will lead the Lions into this exciting next chapter is paramount. Personally, I think the club should do everything in its power to keep the people who brought Orlando to this point.

Matt Miazga Suspended for Three Games

FC Cincinnati will be without MLS Defender of the Year Matt Miazga for Saturday’s Eastern Conference final, as he was suspended by MLS for three games due to his misconduct after the match with the New York Red Bulls on Nov. 4. Miazga was also fined an undisclosed amount and will undergo a behavioral assessment as part of the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program. Following that aforementioned playoff match, reports surfaced that Miazga gained unauthorized access to an area reserved for the referees and acted aggressively. Any suspended games not served during Cincy’s playoff run will carry over into the 2024 season, although Miazga can petition for a reduction based on compliance with recommended treatment plans.

Emma Hayes Meets With USWNT Players and Staff

Emma Hayes, who was hired as the next United States Women’s National Team Head Coach earlier this month, made the trip to Florida to meet the team for the first time. Although she won’t be coaching the team for its upcoming pair of friendlies against China, she collaborated with interim head coach Twila Kilgore on the latest training camp roster and will continue to work with her until taking over in May. There won’t be much time between Hayes’ official start date and the 2024 Summer Olympics, making these moments of face time between player and future coach all the more important. USWNT captain Lindsey Horan spoke on the team’s goals after meeting Hayes for the first time.

“There’s so much talent in this team, and I don’t think the world has seen enough of it yet just because we need to go out and show it,” Horan said. “We need to be able to mesh together and show everything that we have, and what we’re all about, and how we can really collaborate and play together — be more of a team and be a powerhouse again.

“It’s going to be exciting for us to have her and see what she can do with this team and how she can help us moving forward.”

Ricardo Pepi Sends PSV Into Champions League Knockout Stage

PSV Eindhoven clinched its spot in the next round of the UEFA Champions League in dramatic fashion, with American forward Ricardo Pepi scoring the winner in a 3-2 comeback win over Sevilla in Spain. Trailing 2-0 in the second half, American left back Sergino Dest provided the assist on PSV’s first goal and Pepi found the winner in stoppage time, with fellow American Malik Tillman also coming off the bench. From his little flick to send a teammate forward to his run and clinical header, it was a great goal by the 20-year-old.

Elsewhere in the Champions League, Arsenal beat Lens 6-0 to advance, Real Madrid won 4-2 against Napoli to win its group, and Real Sociedad played to a scoreless draw with RB Salzburg. Manchester United remains in last place of its group after a 3-3 draw with Galatasaray, with goalkeeper Andre Onana unable to stop Hakim Ziyech from scoring off of two free kicks. All’s not lost for United though, as it can still qualify for the round of 16 by beating Bayern Munich at home so long as the other match ends in the group ends in a draw. It all makes for what should be an exciting final matchday in the group stage.

Free Kicks

  • The Kansas City Current announced that American midfielder Sam Mewis will not be returning to the club for the 2024 season. The 31-year-old has not played since 2021 as she continues to recover from a knee injury.
  • The Utah Royals have signed free agent forward Imani Dorsey on a contract through the 2025 season. Dorsey has most recently played for NJ/NY Gotham FC, although she didn’t participate in this past season due to mental health reasons.
  • Manchester United is reportedly ready to move on from Mason Mount just six months after he joined the team from Chelsea.
  • Tomasz Kwiatkowski, the video assistant referee involved in a controversial handball that eventually led to Paris Saint-Germain’s equalizer in stoppage time against Newcastle, was removed from his next scheduled duty by UEFA.
  • Amidst a four-game winless streak, French club Nantes has fired Pierre Aristouy as its manager, immediately replacing him with Jocelyn Gourvennec.
  • We’ll end our links with this interesting article that dives into how Romelu Lukaku unexpectedly arrived at AS Roma and how he’s thriving at the Italian club.

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: 11/29/23

Orlando Pride players called up by Brazil, MLS announces 2023 Best XI, latest MLS roster moves, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers I hope all is well down in Florida. I’ve been very busy working throughout the holiday weekend at Under Armour. This week I’ll be working at Wrigley Field for Winterland while getting ready to cover high school wrestling tomorrow night. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Pride Players Called Up By Brazil for Friendlies

Orlando Pride defender Rafaelle and forwards Marta and Adriana have been called up to the Brazil Women’s National Team for its upcoming friendlies.

Brazil will play two matches against Japan on Nov. 30 and Dec. 3 in Sao Paulo before playing Nicaragua on Dec. 6 at Estadio Fonte Luminosa in Araraquara.

MLS Announces the 2023 Best XI

Major League Soccer announced its 2023 Best XI, recognizing the league’s top players at each position. There were no Orlando City players selected for the team and eight players received the honor for the first time. Those players are St. Louis City’s Roman Burki and Tim Parker, FC Cincinnati defender Matt Miazga, Atlanta United duo Thiago Almada and Giorgos Giakoumakis, Houston Dynamo midfielder Hector Herrera, LAFC’s Denis Bouanga, and Columbus Crew forward Cucho Hernandez. Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar made the Best XI for the third consecutive time, while teammate Walker Zimmerman was named to it for the fifth time. MLS MVP Luciano Acosta of FC Cincinnati rounds out the list.

Latest MLS Off-season Roster Moves

The Colorado Rapids announced their latest roster changes as they prepare for the the 2024 season under new Head Coach Chris Armas. The club exercised its options for defender Andrew Gutman, midfielder Ralph Priso, and forward Calvin Harris. The Rapids declined contract offers to seven players, with the most notable names being defender Steven Beitashour and goalkeeper William Yarbrough, although the Rapids are in discussions about re-signing Yarbrough. Elsewhere, the New England Revolution exercised the permanent transfer option on forward Tomas Chancalay, signing him to a Designated Player contract through 2026, with a club option for the 2027 season.

UEFA Champions League Roundup

Champions League action returned in Europe, as we get close to wrapping up the group stage in a couple of weeks. Manchester City overcame a two-goal deficit to beat RB Leipzig 3-2 and win Group G. Newcastle United had a chance to qualify for the round of 16 but gave up a late penalty to Paris Saint-Germain, which Kylian Mbappe converted to end the match in a 1-1 draw. Borussia Dortmund beat AC Milan 3-1 to book its spot in the knockout stage. PSG, Newcastle, and AC Milan are all still alive in Group F heading into the final matchday in December. Shakhtar Donetsk won 1-0 against Royal Antwerp and also still has a shot to advance on the final matchday. Lazio, Atletico Madrid, Barcelona, and Young Boys all won their respective matches as well. Today’s matches include Manchester United on the road against Galatasaray, Real Madrid taking on Napoli, and Sevilla facing off with PSV Eindhoven.

Free Kicks

  • Concacaf has announced that BMO Stadium, Dignity Health Sports Park, Shell Energy Stadium, and Snapdragon Stadium will be the four venues that will host matches for the 2024 Concacaf W Gold Cup.
  • Barcelona midfielder Gavi will be sidelined for up to 10 months after undergoing knee surgery after suffering a torn ACL in his right knee.
  • The International Football Association Board approved a trial for sin bins, meaning players punished for dissent or specific tactical offense would be temporarily removed from the match for a set amount of minutes.
  • You have got to see this goal from Cwrt Rawlin FC in the Welsh seventh division.

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Wednesday and I’ll see you next time.

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