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Lion Links: 5/30/19

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Happy Thursday, everyone. It’s been a while since I last did Lion Links but here I am, writing them up to drop on the morning of my 16th wedding anniversary (happy anniversary, Jamie!). While we wait for the end of the week to see what fate awaits our teams (OCB on the road Friday at FC Tucson, Orlando City at Montreal on Saturday, and the Pride at home Saturday night against the Courage), here’s some reading material to help you start your day.

There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get started.

Marcelo Neveleff Hired to Lead Orlando City Academy, OCB

On what turned out to be an extremely busy Wednesday for news out of Orlando City SC, one of the biggest items was the hiring of Argentine coach Marcelo Neveleff. The former New England Revolution assistant coach is the new OCSC Academy Director. Neveleff will report directly to Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi and will also oversee OCB’s operations.

During his time in New England, Neveleff worked with U.S. Soccer as both a technical advisor for the Boys’ Development Academy and as an assistant for the U-20 Men’s National Team. In 2017, he was part of a staff that helped lead the U-20s to win the CONCACAF U-20 Championship.

Neveleff has a lot of developmental experience, having served as technical director for powerhouse South Florida youth club Weston FC from 2009 to 2015. On the surface, this looks like an excellent hire by Muzzi and the club.

If you are, like me, wondering what this means for OCB GM Mike Potempa, well, I should be talking with Muzzi in the next couple of days and I’ll be asking about that and lots of other stuff, so stay tuned.

Lions, OCB, and Development Academy All Moving to Osceola Heritage Park

At the end of the 2019 season, Orlando City SC will be moving its MLS side, USL League One team, and development academy all to the club’s new training facility. The two professional teams will move from their current locations at Sylvan Lake Park and Montverde Academy after conclusion of the 2019 season. The academy will relocate at the start of the 2019-2020 academic year. The new facility at Osceola Heritage Park will feature four soccer fields — three natural grass and one artificial turf. The MLS side will use two of the grass fields, with OCB and the academy sharing the other grass pitch and the turf field.

“We are very excited and appreciative that the club has decided to increase its already considerable investment in the new training complex, showing its commitment to the development of our youth players and the future of Orlando City. The move to Osceola is a huge step for this club,” Orlando City EVP of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi said. “I think it’s a huge step for the club, for the first team, for the youth, for OCB and for the whole development pyramid of the club. It gives us the ability to bring the youth together under the same roof – seeing the first team, interacting with the first team and why not training with the first team?”

This total integration of the club has Muzzi’s fingerprints all over it and it should make for a more competitive atmosphere and provide the players at all level with a feeling of connectivity.

Orlando Pride Will Also Get New Customized Training Facility

The facility news doesn’t stop with the academy, OCB, and the MLS side. The club’s NWSL side, the Orlando Pride, will get a new, customized training facility at Sylvan Lake Park after 2019. The club is calling it the “first training facility in the NWSL that is tailored to and used only by a women’s team.”

“I think this [move] is building the sustainability of the club and of the franchise and it shows that, you know what, we’re here to stay,” Orlando Pride General Manager Erik Ustruck said. “We’re showing a commitment to Seminole County, we’re showing a commitment to the Pride and that vision becomes global. This isn’t only for the immediate future and the current team, but it’s also to become a destination for the future of the club, for the future of the franchise and to be able to attract top-class players from around the world and within the NWSL.”

The Pride will have access to the same perks that the MLS team has — two grass fields, a gym, a meal room, a film room, a players’ lounge, and a locker room “designed to replicate the team’s locker room at Orlando City Stadium.”

This is a big upgrade over the team’s current home at Seminole Soccer Complex, a fantastic bit of news for Pride fans, and a great recruiting tool to land players in the City Beautiful.

Nani Would Rather Talk About the Next Game than the Playoffs

Orlando City captain and leading scorer Nani said he gets asked a lot about the playoffs but he wants the focus to be on winning the next match.

“I’ve been learning a lot since I arrived,” Nani, 32, told Omnisport. ”We are ambitious and we want to be more ambitious every season. We want to achieve better goals. ”We want to be among the best teams in the league. But every time I’ve been doing interviews, everyone asked if it’s possible to reach the play-offs. I don’t think it’s a good conversation at the moment because it hasn’t helped until now.

”We must start focusing on each game, play our best because we have a good team. We showed already we can do it. I think it’s better to take some pressure off our team and club and believe we can go far. Obviously, we will arrive there but if we take off this pressure, things will go much better during the season. It will be less stressful on the young players especially and this can help.”

Makes sense to me. If you keep winning the next game, then the next, the playoffs will eventually take care of themselves.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando Sentinel and ProSoccerUSA.com writer Jordan Culver covered his last training session before moving on to a new chapter in his career. I’ve personally enjoyed working alongside Jordan — and his expansive bow tie collection — since he arrived on the Orlando City beat and it was good to see the club honor him.

  • It’s always nice to see the club doing great work in the community, so it was quite heartwarming to hear that members of Orlando City and the Pride paid a surprise visit to a local youth goalkeeper battling cancer.

  • Sports Illustrated is honoring the USWNT with six collectible covers in their World Cup preview issue. Grab yours before they’re gone.

  • MLS and Liga MX have announced the “Leagues Cup,” a new competition consisting entirely of meaningless friendlies that will further congest the fixture schedule.
  • Former Lion Jose Villarreal has landed with Las Vegas Lights FC.
  • Those born on this date include Loony Tunes cartoon voice actor Mel Blanc (1908), restaurant founder Bob Evans (1918), Chicago Bears legend Gale Sayers (1943), actor and podcaster Stephen Tobolowsky (1951), Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine actor Colm Meaney (1953), basketball coach Billy Donovan (1965), Idina “Elsa from Frozen” Menzel (1971), baseball’s Manny Ramirez (1972), NASCAR’s Clint Bowyer (1979), and Steven Gerrard (1980).

That’s all my time for this morning. Enjoy your Thursday, everyone!

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.

Free Kicks

  • 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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Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/22/24

Lions and Pride reflect on victories, Christian Pulisic’s Serie A recognition, the USWNT roster drops, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Welcome to Wednesday, Mane Landers. I know that a lot of you are Orlando Pride supporters as well as Orlando City supporters, but for those of you who aren’t, you are really missing out. Superstar players, undefeated, top of the table, and this team hasn’t even played up to its potential yet. Seriously, you need to get out to a match if you can. For now, let’s get to the links.

Talking About Orlando City

You can tell Oscar Pareja loves his players. He is the type of coach that nearly always has only good things to say regardless of the result. Of course, when the club gets a win on the road in the third match in eight days, thanks to the fourth striker on the depth chart. Jack Lynn takes a professional approach to being the backup and prepares to play in every match. It’s also nice when he scores a match-winning goal.

So how did the MLSsoccer.com power rankings treat the Lions for the road victory? Orlando City moved up three spots to 19, thanks to earning seven points in the last three matches. That’s better than the ESPN rankings we shared yesterday. ESPN also had the Lions at 19 but dropped them a spot in doing so.

Seb and Sams Speak

The Orlando Pride have a chance this Friday to set an NWSL win streak record in the match against the Portland Thorns, but first Seb Hines, Rafaelle, and Emily Sams reflected on the win against the Seattle Reign. Hines was rightly happy with the result but said he still feels his team has room to improve. I agree with him, despite the Pride being on top of the table and undefeated.

Rafaelle felt the victory showed the team how much mental fortitude the Pride have to be able to secure the road win. She also thinks that being at home with a chance to break the win streak record will make the team work that much harder. Sams reflected on her first NWSL goal but said she just wants to focus on getting three points each match.

Pulisic and Wright Shine

Christian Pulisic’s year keeps getting better. He had such a a good season for AC Milan that he has been named a finalist for Serie A Midfielder of the Year. The other finalists are Inter Milan’s Hakan Calhanoglu and Atalanta’s Teun Koopmeiners. Pulisic has 19 goal contributions in 35 appearances for AC Milan.

The USMNT’s pre-Copa America roster dropped Monday, and it looks like Haji Wright will potentially see some action at winger for Gregg Berhalter. The move provides some needed depth at the position and may give Wright more playing time. Of course, Wright and Pulisic aren’t the only players of interest. You can check out a breakdown of the players called up here.

Hayes’ First USWNT Roster Announced

The Olympics are rapidly approaching and new USWNT Head Coach Emma Hayes has announced the 23-player roster for the final two matches against South Korea before the final Olympic roster is named. There are a mix of veteran and younger players in the group. Notably, there are 19 players who won the SheBelieves Cup back in April. It also sees the return of Rose Lavelle, who missed the SheBelieves Cup due to injury. While not altogether surprising, it is still disappointing on one level for Pride fans that Emily Sams didn’t get a call-up.

Free Kicks

  • Congratulations to Orlando Pride midfielder Ally Lemos on her call-up to the USWNT U-20s for the matches against the Korea Republic.
  • Philadelphia Union keeper Andre Blake has reportedly signed a new longterm contract with the club.
  • The USMNT U-15 squad defeated Japan to take first place in the Vlatko Markovic Tournament. Congratulations to the young Yanks.
  • Bayer Leverkusen will play in two cup finals in four days, starting with today’s Europa League championship against Atalanta. The second final is for the German Cup this Saturday against Kaiserslautern.
  • Mauricio Pochettino and Chelsea have parted ways after only one season. Potchettino’s departure was mutually agreed upon. The coaching carousel continues.
  • Emanuel Reynoso from Minnesota United is reportedly headed to Liga MX side Club Tijuana.

That will do it for today. Check back as we get you ready for the matches this weekend. Vamos Orlando!

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