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Lion Links: 10/27/19



Howdy Mane Landers, and happy Sunday! With the USL and MLS playoffs in full swing, it sure does hurt to be an Orlando soccer fan, huh? The “what ifs” have really set in for me, but I suggest you don’t fall down that rabbit hole because it sucks having to climb back out of it. Trust me. Regardless, there’s still some quality soccer being played around the States that warrants coverage, alongside some noteworthy news, so let’s dive right in.

You know the deal. Here’s your Sunday serving. Bon appétit.

Vlatko Andonovski Wins NWSL Coach of the Year

The Macedonian-born Andonovski is the first coach to take home the National Women’s Soccer League accolade with two different clubs — first bringing home the honor during his time steering FC Kansas City in 2013, and now this year with Reign FC. Andonovski won with about 53% of the vote, while the North Carolina Courage’s Paul Riley snagged around 27%, and the Washington Spirit’s Richie Burke received about 20% of the vote.

“It was an emotional and challenging year for our team,” said Andonovski. “But also a very satisfying year in that we dealt with a lot of adversity and many of our players performed at their best and gave their best efforts, which is all we can ask as coaches. Success is a team effort and individual awards are of course a reflection of the players and theentire organization, so I thank them, as well as our assistant coaches, our ownership and all the staff.”

An additional interesting tidbit to this award is that Andonovski is set to become Jill Ellis’s successor at the helm of one of the greatest national teams, men or women, of all time: the U.S. Women’s National Team. It appears that the program will be in good hands. I can’t wait to see what he brings to the table for our defending World Cup champions.

Also be sure to catch the NWSL final today between the North Carolina Courage and the Chicago Red Stars at 3:30 p.m. ET. Will Chicago’s Sam Kerr capture her first NWSL crown? I think not. My money’s on the Courage (as per usual).

Christian Pulisic Shines in London

Things started shaky, and I fully anticipate there to be ups, downs, and bumps in the road, but it appears that American phenom and Chelsea starlet Christian Pulisic has finally begun to settle in to his new home in London. Facing off against a stout Burnley side that’s just outside of the top 10 in the Premier League, Chelsea ran rampant thanks to Pulisic’s perfect hat trick (left foot, right foot, header). He’s the second American to ever notch three goals in a single Premier League match. Clint Dempsey holds the honors as the first. The feat had him so excited that he almost forgot to bring the match ball home with him. Something tells me he’ll remember next time.

The USL Championship Playoff Update

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks (or you just don’t care, which is fair I suppose), the 2019 USL Championship season has ended and we’re now in the midst of the playoffs. Yesterday was chock full of USL action, with a total of eight matches being played to narrow the field down to four teams. Here’s what the slate looked like, and how those matches turned out.

The Eastern Conference

  • Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC vs. Birmingham Legion FC: (7-0 Riverhounds)
  • Louisville City FC vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies: (2-1 Louisville)
  • Indy Eleven vs. New York Red Bulls II: (1-0 Indy)
  • Nashville SC vs. Charleston Battery: (3-1 Nashville)

The Western Conference

  • Real Monarchs SLC vs. Orange County SC: (6-2 Real)
  • Reno 1868 FC vs. Sacramento Republic FC: (3-1 Sacramento)
  • Phoenix Rising FC vs. Austin Bold FC: (0 (8)-0 (7) Phoenix on penalties)
  • Fresno FC vs. El Paso Locomotive FC: (3-2 El Paso)

Next up, the USL conference finals and then the big dance. Who do you see taking home silverware?

What’s Happened to Miguel Almiron?

Okay, so I stole Kristen Henage’s headline, but I mean, is there a more accurate headline? What’s happened to Almiron since his move from that team in Georgia to Newcastle United, and how has it gone so wrong? MLS received approximately $27 million from Newcastle to secure the midfielder’s services, which is quite the pretty penny for anyone, let alone a young and inexperienced midfielder coming from MLS. The once-highly touted Almiron has seen his share of successes and setbacks so far in England. Notably, injuries hampered his debut season and then the man who brought him over to Newcastle, former manager Rafa Benitiz, left the club following an impasse with the controversial owner. These two factors are the most likely culprits in Almiron’s decline in form, exposure, and overall public perception.

The man who replaced Benitez hasn’t done Almiron any favors, either, deploying him as a striker or a winger, instead of his preferred position in the middle of the park. I’ll be honest. I’ve always liked Almiron, even when he wore red and black. When you compare his behavior and professionalism with that of players like Ezequiel Barco (See: courting your teammate’s girlfriend), he’s pure class. Couple that with his deft touch and skill on the ball – the dude’s likable. I hope he finds a home that suits him well, or finds a way to succeed with Newcastle.

Free Kicks

  • Here’s your official MLS guide to the potential MLS Cup finals. Spoiler: The Lions aren’t tipped to make it very far. You couldn’t hear it, but I groaned out loud as I typed that.
  • Will Zlatan stay in Los Angeles? I don’t know, you probably don’t know, and I bet these guys don’t either.
  • Stay up to date on the 2019 FIFA Under-17 World Cup and the current standings! The young Americans will be seeing Japan, Senegal, and the Netherlands in the group stage — quite a difficult group to emerge from. Also, here’s the schedule (because that’s also important).
  • It appears the Galaxy’s Uriel Antuna is generating interest overseas, with Benfica reportedly tracking the 22-year-old’s progress. Keep an eye on the Galaxy this off-season. There’s bound to be a lot of change.
  • Check out this absolute gem of a golden goal, scored by Providence University’s Paulo Lima in the 98th minute of extra time.

All right folks, I’m out. Have a great week!

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.



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. 

Free Kicks

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.



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.



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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