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USA vs. Australia, International Friendly: Final Score 5-3 as U.S. Offense Explodes in Second Half



In the final test against a top 10 team before the start of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, the United States Women’s National Team exploded for four second-half goals to beat No. 6 Australia 5-3 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, CO. Orlando Pride striker Alex Morgan opened the scoring and contributed to one of Mallory Pugh’s two second-half goals, with Tobin Heath and Megan Rapinoe also chipping in on the offensive explosion.

Morgan became the seventh player in U.S. history to reach 100 goals, tying Tiffany Milbrett on the all-time list.

The U.S. snapped a two-game winless streak against the Aussies and improved to 26-1-3 in the all-time series. The Yanks are now 3-1-2 in a 2019 filled with opponents that are already World Cup-bound.

Jill Ellis deployed these players to start the game in the usual 4-3-3:

Orlando Pride teammates Alanna Kennedy and Emily van Egmond both started for Australia, along with former Pride forward Lisa De Vanna.

The United States won some early corners and hemmed Australia into its own end but couldn’t really threaten goal in the opening minutes. The game then settled into a struggle between the boxes for about 10 minutes before Morgan broke the deadlock.

On a Crystal Dunn ball sent over the top, Morgan out-muscled Clare Polkinghorne to take possession, then dribbled into the area, losing Kennedy in the process. With only goalkeeper Lydia Williams to beat, Morgan fired a right-footed effort into the far side of the net from the left side, scoring her 100th career international goal and putting the USWNT up 1-0 at the 15-minute mark.

The Matildas nearly pulled that goal right back only seconds later. Sam Kerr found the ball at her feet in the area but fired over the bar, letting the U.S. defense off the hook.

Morgan tried to help her team double the lead in the 22nd with a great cross into the area that Lindsey Horan headed down for Heath, but the ball was just a smidge too far in front and she couldn’t get on it.

Australia leveled the game in the 29th. The Matildas broke four-on-four down the pitch and for some reason Emily Sonnett had strayed so far from her right back position that she looked like she was playing center back. Australia saw the gaping hole on the left and got the ball to De Vanna, who had time to scope out where she wanted her shot to go and deposited it inside the far post, beating Alyssa Naeher and making it 1-1.

Rapinoe should have restored the lead in the 32nd minute. Heath drove to the end line, slowed the game down, then sent a cross in to the middle. Rapinoe hit her shot right at Williams, who spilled it to her right. As the spin of the ball was carrying it into the goal, Ellie Carpenter swept it off the line to prevent Australia from conceding.

A minute later, Kerr nearly put the Matildas on top. De Vanna curled a cross in behind the U.S. back line and Kerr got away from Becky Sauerbrunn. She got a foot on the cross but could only knock it wide of the back post.

Horan then forced a Williams save on a high shot in the 35th that would have gone just under the bar. That set up a series of corners on which Rose Lavelle nearly scored, only to see Williams get a touch on her shot and send it spinning wide.

The Aussies got another good chance in the 39th. Van Egmond sent a long ball to Kerr, who got in well behind the defense but somehow stayed onside. Her shot was deflected and Naeher couldn’t reach it but fortunately it bounced just wide of goal. Kennedy then sent a free kick over the bar in the 43rd.

The last good opportunity of the half was on Heath’s foot as she torched Kennedy and cut toward goal but had almost no angle from which to shoot. Heath shot anyway, chipping Williams, only to see it float tantalizingly close to the goal line but stay out as it made its way across the face of the net.

The teams went to the break tied at 1-1.

It only took two minutes for the Aussies to take the lead after the restart. A midfield turnover on a ball intended for Morgan started a quick counter that ended up on the foot of Caitlin Foord. She made a quick move that forced second-half sub Sam Mewis to slip, then took advantage of Abby Dahlkemper’s poor closeout, beating Naeher to the far post to make it 2-1 in the 47th.

The U.S. knotted things up in the 53rd minute. Morgan had just sent a cross through the area for Heath but the Portland Thorns star couldn’t reach it for the easy tap-in. The Yanks stayed with it and Sonnett sent the ball back across the area where Heath nodded home to equalize at 2-2.

The Heath goal started the U.S. onslaught. Rapinoe worked from left to right across the top of the box in the 61st minute and finally squared and fired home to restore the U.S. lead.

Three minutes later, Sam Mewis headed wide on a great cross from Morgan out on the right side. Rapinoe pulled up with an apparent calf injury on the play and was subbed off for Pugh, who officially entered in the 66th minute at the next stoppage in play.

All the Washington Spirit star did was score on her first touch. Morgan pushed the ball into the area for Sonnett with a beautiful backheel pass. Sonnett laid off for Pugh, who fired home to make it 4-2 in the 67th minute.

Christen Press forced a diving save out of Williams in the 73rd minute as the U.S. continued to find holes in the Australia defense. Williams palmed the ball away to her right where her defense got to the ball before any of the attacking U.S. players could.

The Matildas pulled pack a goal in the 81st. Press overcommitted trying to defend, which allowed a free cross into the area for Kerr to head home. Dahlkemper and Crystal Dunn were near(ish) to Kerr but they allowed far too much space for arguably the world’s most dangerous striker.

The U.S. tried to close out the game defensively but a series of really odd substitutions — including not playing Ali Krieger when the team didn’t have another natural right back on the bench — allowed Australia to keep prolonged pressure in the Yanks’ end. The Matildas ultimately couldn’t find the final ball to equalize and the U.S. put it away in the fifth minute of stoppage time.

Naeher booted a long kick over everyone and Pugh was the first to arrive, chipping Williams on nearly the last kick of the game to complete her brace in front of her hometown crowd in Colorado.

While Australia is going to be one of the toughest teams in the World Cup, the United States must be better defensively. It was not a banner night defensively for Sonnett or Dahlkemper, and it’s clear this team has no better plan than “outscore the other team” at this point. But Ellis isn’t helping matters with the substitutions, taking Dahlkemper off for Carli Lloyd at one point and sliding Julie Ertz into the back line. This was shortly after putting Tierna Davidson on for Sonnett and moving Dunn to right back with Krieger available.

The USWNT will be back in action Sunday night at 9 p.m. ET against Belgium.


Reflecting on Eight Years with The Mane Land

A look back over my time with The Mane Land (so far).



Nick Leyva, The Mane Land

As of last week, I have been a contributor at The Mane Land for eight years. That’s longer than I’ve ever been at any of my actual jobs in my life. There are literally only a couple of people who have been with the site longer, but I’m still amazed at how long it’s been. This is not to say I’m going anywhere, but rather I wanted to take the opportunity to look back at the past eight years, and look ahead to the future.

Unlike some, I didn’t come to be a supporter of Orlando City until it was announced that the club was joining MLS. At the time, I was contemplating picking a club to follow in MLS, but being in Tallahassee, there were no nearby options at that time. I considered FC Dallas and D.C. United, given the two were geographically closer in proximity to me than any others. Fortunately, it was literally while I was considering my options that the announcement was made regarding Orlando City’s jump to MLS. It was an easy decision.

As I do in many aspects of my life, I immediately started researching my new club, which led me to the content being produced by The Mane Land. There was also an article on the site titled “Join The Mane Land Staff.” I had often over the years internally bemoaned that I rarely used my Bachelor’s degree in English, and the desire to write welled up in me so much that I emailed the staff. 

In response, one of our former editors, Andrew Marcinko, contacted me and said “I think your voice would be a great fit on TML.” He asked me to submit a Fan Post (those went away with our presence on SBN), and then another piece for review. Following that, our founder and managing editor, Michael Citro, emailed me to welcome me to the staff. I had no idea at the time how big a part of my life this blog would become.

I started out writing Monday’s Lions Links — often one of the more difficult days to write — and a feature piece. It’s been many years gone by now, but there was a time when the feature piece was “Pride Pub,” an ongoing series that paired craft beer and good food based on Orlando City’s opponent. I can tell you that the research for that was very enjoyable, and I still use some of the recipes I found to this day.

Eventually, I started contributing more match coverage and analytical pieces. Staff came and went, but I never thought to leave since I was enjoying myself. Sometime after that, I was promoted to senior columnist, for which I’m grateful. I can without reservation say that I’m a better writer thanks to my time with the site, and from working with such excellent staff.

In November of 2016, Michael asked if I wanted to give co-hosting The Mane Land PawedCast a try. My first recording was for Episode 71. We just recorded Episode 354, and with the exception of maybe two or three episodes, I have been on every single one of 283 episodes over the last six plus years. Michael and I have spent a lot of time talking on and off the podcast over the years, and I’m proud of what we have produced and to call him my friend.

We recently added an Orlando Pride-specific podcast called Skopurp: An Orlando Pride PawedCast. For years we wanted to give the Pride the time and attention the club deserves. Now, it is a reality, but one that I ask you to listen to and share. I’ll even put out that although Michael and I are the current hosts, we merely consider ourselves stewards and are hoping to get others to come onboard and eventually take it to the next level.

When I started with The Mane Land, the site had just made the move from a free WordPress site to the SBNation network. It was a big deal, and for many years it was a good partnership. Of course that all came to an end not too long ago, and our blog went the independent route thanks to the incredibly generous support of our readers and listeners. In fact, if you want to be one of those supporting our efforts, please go to our Buy Me A Coffee site to become a member. The move has allowed a flexibility we didn’t have before, but I really want others to have the same sense of joy and accomplishment that I have as a member of our staff. 

At one point we had nearly twice the staff that we do now, and as you know, many hands make light work. The opposite of that is also true. I genuinely believe that there must be others out there with the same passion for Orlando City as I have — with the same desire to have their voice heard, whether through the written word or on a podcast. I promise you there is an opportunity to contribute here with us. Our internal discussions are informative, engaging, and often funny. Please consider joining us, as I did eight years ago. I haven’t regretted it and I know you won’t either.

I want to thank all of those who contributed to The Mane Land over the years. There are many that I am still in touch with, though they are no longer a part of the staff. Of course, the current staff are a pleasure to work with, and I appreciate their dedication to what we are trying to do.

Finally, I want to thank the readers and listeners over the years. From those who regularly comment on our articles, to those that I’ve personally met at matches or even randomly on the street, you are a big reason that we do all of this. You are a big reason why I’ve been doing this for the better part of a decade. it is always a genuine pleasure hearing your thoughts or simply sharing a moment of joy together — U.S. Open Cup final, anyone?

So, thank you. I look forward to many more years of this journey together.

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The Mane Land Announces Membership Program

Maximize your Mane Land experience with our new TML membership program while supporting our independent efforts.



Hello, readers of The Mane Land and listeners of our podcasts. Before you start reading this, please note that the most important part of this post is at the end. So, don’t stop until you get to the bottom.

You may recall that when we left SBNation to become independent, we really weren’t sure the best way to go about that. Many of our readers and listeners generously offered to help us make that transition, but we still weren’t sure the best path forward, so we took a poll.

The poll was pretty much split down the middle between those who preferred a one-time, Kickstarter-style campaign (which we did, and those of you who stepped up to help completely blew us away!) and those who favored a Patreon-style, subscription-based membership with extra perks. In fact, the member subscriptions option got a few more votes in our poll.

The folks who took part in our GoFundMe fundraiser were fantastic and are now immortalized on this very site on the “Our Founders” page. But we had always planned to give folks the option to choose whichever method of support they preferred and we tried to communicate that throughout the process. It took a little longer than expected to get up and running, but our membership subscription program is now in place! (You may notice the fancy new banner ad about it on the home page, echoed below.)

Supporting TML helps build a better TML for you to enjoy, so you’re really subscribing to your own Orlando soccer fandom.

Part of that delay was thinking up something that didn’t encroach on the benefits we gave our Founders. Those folks helped us get started and deserve the exclusivity of the perks they got. The other part of the delay is that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. (However, for you guys, I’m willing to be cloned.)

We have utilized the popular Buy Me a Coffee platform to run this program. You can find the basics here. The Mane Land premium membership program includes three tiers of membership, as well as the option to click on the “Support” tab for those who just want to help us out whenever, without joining the program or adding any recurring “appointment-based” payments to their budgets. We love that feature of Buy Me a Coffee (or “Buy Us a Beer” in our case…you drink what you like).

For those who do choose to become members, we hope we have provided value and we are planning to add benefits along the way, in addition to providing special giveaways, events, etc. (more on that below). We have also provided subscription options — with monthly or annual memberships. The annual cost essentially gives you 12 months for the price of 10.

Current Benefits

The current membership benefits depend on which level of support you choose — Homegrown Player, TAM Player, or Designated Player level. Each level includes all benefits from the lower tiers, with additional benefits for each higher level.

Homegrown Player: This is a basic set-it-and-forget-it level of support for The Mane Land, providing a way for our readers and podcast listeners to contribute to the success of TML‘s independence goals. We want to compensate our current volunteers, replace lost income of those who previously received small stipends from being part of the SBNation network, add photographers, attract new writers, and expand our coverage. Additionally, each Homegrown Player Level member will be recognized in a Lion Links column, which is still typically our most widely read post of each day and one of the top daily links columns among soccer sites. Homegrown Player Level members will also be included in any future prize drawings we have or events we host and may be subject to future benefits as they are added.

TAM Player: In addition to Homegrown Player benefits, TAM Players will receive a new weekly e-newsletter in their inbox (unless you opt out…some people hate email). These will be informal missives from myself, other TML writers, or a combination, discussing what’s on our mind regarding Orlando City, the Pride, OCB, or soccer in general. Think of it as an extra post from our site that may cover multiple topics. Additionally, you’ll get a 10% discount from our web shop items that we control (presently, that means everything except our listed MLS Shop items). We will definitely have more benefits coming for this level soon and will look for opportunities to include additional benefits as they become available.

Designated Player: This limited availability level of support includes all perks from the Homegrown and TAM levels, but it goes beyond. Your discount at our webshop (for items we control) will be 15% off. Additionally, we’ll send you Zoom links to watch us “make the doughnuts” whenever we record the podcast. This includes when we interview guests. You’ll see how the sausage is made behind the scenes and everything that we say, some of which will end up on the cutting room floor before the final podcast is sent out. This includes both The Mane Land PawedCast and SkoPurp Soccer: An Orlando Pride PawedCast. And after two months of membership you can commission a bonus episode of either podcast simply by letting us know what topic you want us to cover. Think of this as an extended Ask Us Anything. We’ll do a whole show about your topic and you can even join us to discuss it if you wish.

The DP Level will certainly have additional benefits tacked on as we move forward. It is currently limited to 40 members but could be expanded slightly depending on demand and our Zoom attendance.

Future Benefits / Benefits Under Consideration

While we won’t be able to schedule these due to the random nature of items falling into our hands, there will be periodic prize giveaways in drawings that include all of our members, regardless of level. The catch is that you get one entry per level of support, meaning Homegrown Player Level members will get one entry per prize drawing, TAM Player Level members will get two entries per drawing, and Designated Player Level members get three entries for prize drawings. Some of the kinds of items we have come across in the past include match tickets, trinkets, posters, scarves, and so on.

We are planning to add a message board to our website, well…soon-ish is the word that comes to mind. The plan for the message board is to build our community and further the discussion about the club. As part of this, we’re planning an exclusive, members-only area of that message board that TAM and DP members can access. This will be a place our staff can share informational nuggets we can’t necessarily write stories about for various reasons and interact with our members on a daily basis.

Other things in the works include meet-and-greets/watch parties where you can chat with TML staff members and catch a road match with a bunch of like-minded Orlando City/Pride fans while we all cheer on the team together. There may also be other informal outings with one or more members of the staff, organized fantasy leagues, random Zoom calls for Q&A sessions, and perhaps even some organized group outings for Orlando City / Pride matches, national team games, etc.

The Most Important Part of This Post

Remember at the top of this post, when I said the most important part is at the bottom? Well, that seems like a long time ago, now, so it’s OK if you’ve already forgotten.

The most important part of our membership program is you. We want your feedback so we can make this program something that interests and excites you. We want to know what you like and dislike about this program. We want to know if there are some things we didn’t think of that interest you. If you like what we’re offering, tell us! If you hate what we’re offering, we want to know what you’d prefer instead or in addition. If you want to go drinking with Dave, we can probably arrange that, but it’ll be a unique tier and we’ll have to figure out the cost of that.

No idea is too crazy to suggest, even if it’s too insane for us to actually offer. Let us know what you want from your subscription and we’ll see if that’s something we can do. We’ll make it easy for you by putting the form right here below this post, which is now concluded.

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Welcome Home!



Where do I even start? When we were told in January that SBNation was pulling its support of The Mane Land and other MLS and NHL blogs — and many podcasts — I was devastated. The site had become my new baby in September of 2014 and after eight and a half years, I wasn’t ready to let it go.

I was in a pickle. I couldn’t afford to lose the monthly stipend I had been getting from SBNation to manage the site and provide a steady stream of content. It wasn’t that it was a huge monthly sum, but it mostly covered my car payment. That car was purchased when my salary was higher. The pandemic hit my day job like it did to many, and after a four-month layoff, I got my old job back but not at the same rate. So, imagine taking a pay decrease at work and then, on top of that, losing the amount you spend per month on your car payment. There was simply no way to launch The Mane Land independently, I thought, because I simply couldn’t cover the startup costs. Even with some generous offers from the staff to pitch in, there simply wasn’t a way.

Once we took the news public, there was an outpouring of support on social media. We appreciated both the pledges to help out that we got from the community and the signal boosting that the national media gave blogs like ours. Those national folks rely on local reporting for background.

Encouraged by this outpouring of public support, I met with the TML staff and we threw some ideas around. We polled our Twitter followers to see how our community would prefer to show their support. We got pretty close to a 50/50 split between those who wanted to provide a one-time donation via a Kickstarter or GoFundMe crowdsourcing effort, and those who would prefer some sort of premium subscription add-on service like Patreon or Buy Me a Coffee.

We didn’t get a lot of responses to that poll, but we decided as a group that since the results were so similar, we would offer both and let the public choose one path, the other, or even both. (Stay tuned for news soon-ish on the premium subscription level, but rest assured, everything you’ve been getting for free at TML will remain free!)

I was, admittedly, skeptical that we could raise enough startup money to create a private business, pay for hosting a new site and two podcasts (having long wanted to give the Orlando Pride their own unique show), registering a domain, paying for some design work and consulting, and any unexpected expenses that might come up. However, I thought we’d at least give it a try.

Then the amazing Orlando City, Orlando Pride, and TML community got involved. You guys pushed us past our bare minimum goal in just four and a half hours when our fundraiser went live on March 1. We reset our goal and you met that by midnight. We reset our goal again, to the dream total we discussed on our initial staff Zoom chat and you met that by that first weekend.

Stunned. Humbled. Amazed. Touched. All of these words apply to how that made us feel, but they don’t quite cover it. I think we all felt an enormous responsibility, as well. We felt a mandate to provide you the best site and the best coverage we can.

We got everything we needed to run the site for two years, even if we don’t earn a penny after our launch — and we plan to try, via advertising, a Patreon (or similar) program, an online shop, affiliate links, and anything else we can think of. But we decided to leave the GoFundMe open through the end of March, just in case there were folks who wanted to contribute but needed to wait for payday, or if more people wanted to become founding members of this new site.

Now, here we are. You guys did this. We’re here because of you. And this site isn’t quite what it will become. I’m still learning my way around WordPress, after being away from it for years. There’s more to build, and some of the things you’re seeing on this site now will be improved in the future. We’ll continue to tweak it, add things, and upgrade as we go.

For now, I just want to welcome you to your new online home. On behalf of our entire staff, I thank our founding members, who are now immortalized on this site in our founders section. If you weren’t able to contribute to our transition from SBNation’s network to an autonomous and independent, new version of The Mane Land, you can thank the folks on our founders page, because without them, we wouldn’t be here. And if you still want to help out, we’ve got more things on the way.


Michael Citro
Managing Editor

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