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Lion Links: 2/9/20



Happy Sunday, Mane Landers. As you read this, I’m most likely playing a match with my own club team, Orlando United FC! Today marks the season opener for the Central Florida Soccer League, and I couldn’t be any happier. Adding to that happiness? A Nani backflip! That’s right, the Portuguese star was shining brightly last night, as Orlando City SC won a preseason match. Ah, the positivity and optimism is flowing. What a time to be alive.

All right, let’s do this thing. Here’s your Sunday helping of Lion Links. Enjoy!

Lions Down the Impact in Open Door Scrimmage

The Lions played host to the Montreal Impact last night in preseason play at Exploria Stadium and managed to walk out with a 1-0 win courtesy of a peach of a goal from Nani. He notched a goal for the Lions with a free kick and followed it up with his favorite celebration: the Nani backflip (which, I love, but holy hell do I get nervous when he does this). The match was a back and forth affair, but the Lions looked strong and appeared to be the deserved winners. The last few minutes of this one were particularly chippy, which is an interesting takeaway from a preseason match that doesn’t actually mean anything, but I expect nothing less from both professional clubs.

Nani Beat the Odds

Speaking of Nani, the man himself opened up in a recent interview, touching on the long, crazy, and unlikely path he took to become a professional soccer player. Apparently, young Nani fell in love with the sport at the tender age of seven thanks to his brother. Due to a friend of his in school, he decided to join a club and begin training. It wasn’t an easy journey for a young child, as his new training ground wasn’t close to him and he was forced to walk or run to the facility, which was about an hour and a half from his home. Upon arrival, he wasn’t received as you would expect. He was laughed at and mocked initially, but he quickly proved himself and turned his doubters into believers. He didn’t stick around there for long, though, as he revealed that it wasn’t sustainable on an everyday basis. Nani then reveals that, against his mother’s demands, he found a new group of friends that he could travel with to a different club in order to train. That club quickly recognized the inherent talent that the young Nani brought to the pitch, and in the middle of a training session, he was taken away to sign his first soccer contract. The club promised to work with he and his mother to ensure that it works out for all parties involved. The rest is history that we’re all more than aware of. Legend.

The U.S. Women Face Off with Canada Today

With qualification for the Olympics already in the bag, the U.S. Women’s National Team will host the Canadian National Team in Los Angeles in qualification play. I would expect to see a few fresh faces in this one, as the Yanks have already qualified. This should, ideally, serve as a valuable experience for some of the women on the roster who don’t see regular minutes for the national team. Canada has also qualified, meaning this could be a match with new names on the pitch for both sides — and an exciting opportunity to look into the future of each team. It’s definitely one to keep an eye on, and I can only hope that both sides avoid injuries in the buildup to what’s bound to be an exciting Olympic tournament this summer.

MLS Standing Sections: Orlando Set the Trend

They say imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, right? Orlando City was first! That’s right, we won something! Orlando City created the first large-scale safe standing section in North America when the club’s grounds opened in 2017. And now? The LA Galaxy, D.C. United, the New York Red Bulls, and MLS newcomers Inter Miami will all include similar standing sections for their respective stadiums in 2020. It should be noted that the San Jose Earthquakes have had a section for standing that they’ve dubbed the “Supporter’s Terrace,” but it’s quite small in comparison to Exploria Stadium’s famed purple wall. The trend may pick up even more steam in 2021, as Austin FC should feature a similar section. But hey, the Lions did it in MLS first. Just saying.

Free Kicks

  • In case anyone was wondering, former Lions captain Kaká still has that magic touch in his boots. If you listen closely, you’ll hear someone directing him to “cut back.” As Mr. T would say, “I pity the fool.”

  • Andres Iniesta lifted the Japanese Super Cup yesterday in historic fashion, as both Vissel Kobe and Yokohama F. Marinos performed dreadfully in the penalty kick shootout, with the two teams missing a combined nine consecutive pens. Iniesta’s Vissel Kobe finally claimed the win on pens, 3-2. Iniesta, of course, made his.
  • The Italian Serie A race is now considered to be wide open, as Juventus dropped to Hellas Verona yesterday, 2-1. Cristiano Ronaldo did, however, set a record at Juve by scoring in a 10th consecutive league match.
  • I’m sure you’ve heard about the coronavirus and its fatal impact, so this shouldn’t really be too surprising. New Manchester United loanee Ighalo won’t be making it to the club’s warm weather training camp in Spain due to his possible (major emphasis on possible) exposure, as he was in China prior to his recent move to Manchester. The fear from the club is that he’ll have his travel restricted, as everyone coming from the area are at the moment.
  • Let’s end on a funny, shall we? Everton’s Djibril Sidibe was forced to make a quick substitution when Theo Walcott went down due to an injury, and well, let’s just say that it wasn’t actually quick. The man forgot his left sock in the dressing room, so he ran back to grab it before jumping out onto the pitch minutes later. Carlo Ancelotti was left fuming, at least at first, but I’m confident that the three points taken away from the match will calm that a bit. Let this be a lesson to all of us: always have your gear ready to go!
  • Also, what a play by the father here…cheeky is an understatement, but the lads walked away with a souvenir that’s priceless! Well played, sirs, well played.

All right folks, that’s it for me today. Vamos Orlando (City and United!) and have a great week.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/20/24

Orlando City draws against Charlotte FC, Wilfredo Rivera joins first team, Ally Watt speaks on Black Women’s Player Collective, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City B / Mark Thor

How’s it going, Mane Landers? Last night’s Orlando City match featured plenty of ups and downs, but it was a pretty exciting way to spend a Wednesday night. Hopefully the Cardiac Cats weren’t too hard on your heart. Before we dive into today’s links, let’s all wish a happy birthday to Orlando Pride defender Celia!

Orlando City Draws Against Charlotte FC

The Lions went on the road for a match against Charlotte FC and earned a point with a 2-2 draw. Matches between the two teams are usually close affairs and this one was no different, as neither team did enough to claim victory. One one hand, equalizing twice on the road against a stingy defense isn’t the worst outcome for Orlando. On the other hand, Charlotte played most of the match a man down and a win was definitely in the cards for the Lions. Hopefully Orlando can break this five-game winless streak when it hosts the Chicago Fire on Saturday.

Wilfredo Rivera Available for the First Team

Orlando City B midfielder Wilfredo Rivera is with the first team this week after signing a short-term agreement with Orlando City. He was an unused substitute in Wednesday’s match in Charlotte and will be available for selection in Orlando’s match against the Chicago Fire on Saturday. The 20-year-old signed a similar agreement in March of this year, but has yet to make his MLS debut. Rivera came off the bench in OCB’s match against Chattanooga FC on Thursday and scored a brace earlier this month while on international duty with Puerto Rico. The signing was necessary as Ramiro Enrique is on an excused absence for a personal matter.

Ally Watt Discusses Black Women’s Player Collective

Orlando Pride forward Ally Watt talked about her role as the team’s representative for the Black Women’s Player Collective, which is a non-profit organization created by Black players in the NWSL. Watt spoke on how the collective allows her and other players to provide opportunities for young girls that they didn’t have. One such initiative is the creation of mini-pitches to give more safe and equitable spaces for Black girls to play soccer.

Copa America is Upon Us

This year’s Copa America, which will pit the top 16 nations in the Western Hemisphere against each other, kicks off tonight. Here’s a great guide to each team’s notable players and chances to win the tournament. Orlando City goalkeeper Pedro Gallese was noted as the star to watch on Peru’s squad. He has his work cut out for him though in a group that includes Argentina, Canada, and Ecuador. As for the U.S., Christian Pulisic and Giovanni Reyna are key players for the team’s aspirations at a deep run.

Chuck Booth over at CBS Sports also ranked each team heading into the tournament, placing the U.S. fifth on the list. Argentina tops the rankings, and I was a bit surprised to see Brazil in fourth. Peru is last, but hopefully Gallese and Wilder Cartagena can help prove the doubters wrong.

Germany Advances in Euro 2024

Germany followed up its opening win against Scotland with a 2-0 win over Hungary to become the first team to clinch a spot in the knockout round of Euro 2024. In the other Group A matchup, Switzerland and Scotland battled to a 1-1 draw that included a great goal from Xherdan Shaqiri after a bad giveaway by Scotland.

It looked like Albania was headed towards another frustrating loss after giving up the lead in the second half, but a late strike by Klaus Gjasula salvaged a 2-2 draw against Croatia. Today’s slate of matches features a showdown between Spain and Italy, along with Denmark’s clash with England. We also may get to see Orlando City center back David Brekalo take the field in Slovenia’s match against Serbia.

Free Kicks

  • Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Ryan Gauld won MLS Goal of the Matchday for his strike in stoppage time against the New England Revolution.
  • FC Cincinnati’s Luca Orellano scored one of the best goals of the season with a pinpoint strike from downtown.
  • NJ/NY Gotham FC extended its unbeaten streak to nine games, with rookie Maycee Ball scoring a late winner to beat the San Diego Wave 2-1.

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: 6/19/24

Orlando City needs to score, Duncan McGuire in demand, Orlando City B match postponed, and more.



Nick Leyva, The Mane Land

Happy Juneteenth, Mane Landers. It is a day to celebrate the end of chattel slavery in the United States and the progress of the Black community in this country. There is always more work to be done, but celebrating the progress to date is worthwhile. Today is also a match day for Orlando City, but for now let’s get to the links.

Scoring Goals is Important

Former Orlando City gaffer Adrian Heath is known for saying that goals change games. Orlando City has not scored many goals this season, making it hard for the club to change games and get results. Head Coach Oscar Pareja is taking the positives from the last match, but he will need to turn things around in Orlando’s attack if he’s to snap the club’s four-game winless streak. The first opportunity is tonight against Charlotte FC.

Competition Grows for Duncan McGuire’s Services

Following the Blackburn Rovers debacle in the last transfer window, we know that Duncan McGuire has interest in moving abroad. If not for incompetence on Blackburn’s part he would already be in Europe. The other interested party in that saga was Sheffield Wednesday, a club that is reportedly still interested in signing the young striker. Now, the English club may have some competition from Torino in Serie A, with other Serie A clubs interested as well. Hopefully, Orlando City will be able to secure McGuire’s services, though I expect he wants to go abroad.

Tonight’s Orlando City B Match Postponed

Orlando City B was set to take on New York City FC II today, but the match has been postponed. The new date and kickoff time have not yet been announced.

It’s not the first time this game’s date has been changed, as it was originally set for June 29 when the season’s schedule was announced. The Young Lions may not be complaining much about not having to play on the road on relatively short rest. As it stands, OCB’s next match will now be against Atlanta United 2 on June 26.

Hines Remembers Match After Pulse Shooting

It’s been a week since the eighth anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub tragedy. Yesterday, it was eight years since Orlando City played the San Jose Earthquakes in the first Orlando City match following the shooting. Orlando Pride Head Coach Seb Hines was a starting center back for the Lions in that match. He remembers the emotions of that day. Hines spoke on how it felt to get up for a match, but also taking time in the 49th minute to honor the 49 people whose lives were taken away too soon. He still has the rainbow sweatbands from that match that he was wearing when he scored a header for Orlando City. Hines remembers the good and the bad, and so should we.

Upgrading the NWSL Match Experience

NWSL clubs are trying to improve the matchday experience for their fans. That looks different everywhere, but at Inter&Co Stadium that experience includes local food vendors as a part of the “Orlando Made” initiative by Orlando City and the Orlando Pride. Of course, great food will only get attendance to a certain level. The real crowd pleaser is winning, and the Pride have been doing a lot of that so far this season.

Free Kicks

That will do it for today. Check back as we get you ready for the match tonight. As always, Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/18/24

Euro 2024 roundup, MLS transfer happenings, U.S. stars on Copa America prep, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Tuesday, everyone. It was a mixed bag for Orlando’s soccer teams over the weekend, as none of Orlando City, the Orlando Pride, or Orlando City B managed to win, with a loss and two draws. The only way out is through though, and there are plenty of chances to get back to winning ways this week. Before we get to today’s links, let’s all wish a happy birthday to Pride defender Rafaelle!

Euro Results Roundup

It was another pulsating day of action at Euro 2024, with the theme of early goals and exciting contests continuing. The early contest saw Romania beat Ukraine 3-0 with a trio of very well-taken goals. Nicolae Stanciu opened the scoring in the 29th minute and a pair of second-half goals just four minutes apart sealed Romania’s first win at the Euros in 24 years. In the second game of the day, Slovakia grabbed a goal in the seventh minute courtesy of an ill-advised Belgian attempt to play out of the back, and managed to hang on for a 1-0 win. The game wasn’t without controversy, as Romelu Lukaku missed several excellent chances, and also had two goals correctly ruled out by video review. The last game of the day saw France beat Austria 1-0 courtesy of an own goal in the first half, but the biggest talking point was Kylian Mbappe’s broken nose that will reportedly require surgery.

MLS Transfer Happenings

We have several important MLS transfers to catch up on this morning. First, the Houston Dynamo have broken the club’s transfer record to sign Argentine striker Ezequiel Ponce from Greek club AEK Athens. The 27-year-old will be a Designated Player, and although he can’t play for Houston until the secondary transfer window opens on July 18, he should help a Dynamo team that’s scored the fewest goals in the Western Conference. Moving to the Eastern Conference, the Columbus Crew are reportedly closing in on a trade to acquire Aziel Jackson from St. Louis City in exchange for $650,000 of General Allocation Money, in addition to other incentives.

Finally, Tom Bogert has identified Brighton and Hove Albion’s Marc Leonard as a player who could move stateside this summer. His loan spell at Northampton Town last season saw him named the club’s player of the year.

U.S. Players Speak About Copa America Prep

The Copa America kicks off on Friday, and Weston McKennie and Tyler Adams recently spoke about how they and the rest of the United States Men’s National Team have been preparing for the tournament. McKennie spoke on how this team has never been in camp for this long before, and that the extra time is helping them iron out little issues. He also talked about his willingness to fill in wherever needed on the field, something that could be relevant for both him and Adams given the injury to Sergino Dest. For his part, Adams discussed how a bright spot to missing so much time last year due to injury was that it allowed him to spend plenty of time with his newborn son.

UEFA Investigating Racism at Euro Match

UEFA is probing an alleged incident of racial abuse that took place in the match between England and Serbia. While the complaint did not come from the English Football Association, UEFA released a statement that it was investigating Serbia for objects that were thrown and the “transmission of a provocative message.” If the charges are proven, then Serbia could face sanctions from UEFA.

Free Kicks

  • The sensor placed inside the ball was instrumental in overturning what would have been an equalizing goal for Belgium.
  • Polish television is doing some very cool things with its soccer coverage.
  • An English fan woke up still in the stadium well after his team’s win over Serbia.

That does it for me this morning. Vamos Orlando!

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