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Lion Links: 4/11/21

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Happy Sunday, everyone. I am one day away from getting my second vaccination shot and while I’m apprehensive at what that might do to my body, because people I know have reacted about every way imaginable, I’m excited to get it over with.

We’ve officially moved into the Orlando Pride’s competitive soccer season and the first game week of Orlando City’s 2021 MLS campaign. Look for season previews and roundtables and all kinds of cool content this week as we get ready for the Lions’ match-up with Atlanta United next weekend.

But for now, let’s get to the news of the day.

Orlando Pride Drop Two Points in Stoppage Time

The Orlando Pride kicked off their NWSL Challenge Cup Saturday night in Kentucky against expansion Racing Louisville. It appeared the Pride would get run off the pitch as the NWSL noobs threaded ball after ball through the defense and created chances in the first 15 minutes. But the Pride settled in, equalized before the break on a Taylor Kornieck goal, then took a late lead through an absolute screamer by Abi Kim. You have to see this even if you don’t click the link below to read the recap (but honestly, you should read it):

Just when Orlando seemed poised to get its first come-from-behind win since 2018, Ali Krieger conceded a free kick, the Pride failed to win the aerial ball on the service, and absolutely no one marked Brooke Hendrix. So, obviously Hendrix got to the loose ball first and slotted home in stoppage time to cap the scoring in a 2-2 draw.

It was a disappointing end to an entertaining game, but if the order of the final two goals was reversed, it would feel a lot better. It was probably a fair result but now Marc Skinner knows where he needs to make improvements. Meggie Dougherty Howard assisted on both goals.

The Pride will be back in action at home on Wednesday when Gotham FC visits Exploria Stadium at 7 p.m.

Daryl Dike Can. Not. Stop. Scoring.

Orlando City striker Daryl Dike continued his scorching form in the Championship on Saturday, scoring his eighth goal of the season in 14 appearances (nine starts) since joining Barnsley FC on loan. Dike’s header gave Barnsley some insurance late in an eventual 2-0 win over Middlesbrough. The Reds have won 11 games, drawn two, and lost only one since the big man arrived in South Yorkshire. Dike scored eight goals for Orlando City in 17 appearances in 2020, so the only logical conclusions one can draw is that he got even better since arriving in England or the Championship is easier than MLS and Orlando City pretty much would have won the league over there. There can be no other conclusion. I have spoken.

Pride EVP Amanda Duffy Outlines Club’s Commitment

In an open letter to Orlando Pride fans, Executive Vice President Amanda Duffy spelled out the club’s commitment and intentions.

Our commitment locally is to bring Orlando Pride into every business, community, and home that we can reach. Our intention is to elevate and strengthen the Orlando Pride brand and business while driving awareness, visibility, relevance, and value to our fans and to Central Florida at large. We will do this because we understand that athletes, our athletes, can impact the lives of those in our community. We will do this because we understand that through sports, we can inspire and unite.

Duffy asked fans to show up at the stadium and be part of the club’s revival and to show support for the club’s athletes and leadership and made a promise to Pride fans.

Our commitment to all, each day, is for the Orlando Pride to inspire you.

2021 should be a year unlike any other for Orlando Pride. The promise this statement represents is our promise to be more thoughtful, to show progress, and always strive to be the best versions of ourselves – as individuals, as a team, as a business, and as a community.

USWNT Needs Late Penalty to Draw Sweden, 1-1

Look, it’s not an indictment of the U.S. that it required a late Megan Rapinoe penalty to secure a 1-1 draw on the road at Sweden on Saturday. After all, the Swedes are one of the world’s best teams — currently sitting fifth in the FIFA world rankings. Sweden played an excellent defensive game, forcing the USWNT to be sharp to break them down. The Yanks, however, were not sharp. Credit some of that to Sweden but there were far too many bad decisions, poorly weighted — or just plain errant — passes, misses, and shots right at the goalkeeper from the talented U.S. forwards.

Sweden also should have been better, blowing two outstanding chances to put the game away. The hosts’ lone goal came off a corner kick when no one bothered to even stand near striker Lina Hurtig, who sent her free header off the back post and in. Some thought the foul that led to the tying penalty was outside the box, and it was close, but I think the ref got it right. Kelley O’Hara, who also didn’t have a great game, had her run cut off while just inside the line and was knocked outside the box. I watched that play frame by frame about 30 times and O’Hara’s left foot was well inside the box when contact was made and her right foot was in the air. The contact came from inside. Penalty for me, but others saw it differently.

  • Pride striker Alex Morgan entered in the second half but didn’t make too much of an impact on the match.
  • Hurtig’s goal was the first conceded by Alyssa Naeher in 10 matches.
  • The U.S. conceded for the first time since March of 2020 and trailed for the first time since October of 2019.
  • Vlatko Andonovski remains unbeaten as USWNT coach, but his side didn’t win for the first time since he took over for Jill Ellis.
  • The Yanks will face France on the road Tuesday at 3 p.m.

Free Kicks

  • ESPN singled out Orlando City’s Alexandre Pato as a player ready to leave a mark in 2021 as part of their storylines for the upcoming MLS season.
  • Orlando City draft pick Derek Dodson assisted on the game-winning goal with a heads-up quick restart in Georgetown’s 1-0 win over St. John’s on Saturday. Check it out:

  • Tom Bogert from mlssoccer.com gave Orlando City a grade of B+ for the club’s off-season transfers.
  • Trinity Rodman of the Washington Spirit became the youngest player to score in NWSL history on her debut. The Spirit lost to the North Carolina Courage, but check out this beauty:

  • People’s lack of awareness in the year 2021 continues to amaze me. USMNT and LA Galaxy attacker Sebastian Lletget is under investigation by MLS after directing a gay slur at teammate Julian Araujo and then posting it to Instagram. Lletget has apologized.
  • Christian Pulisic is officially in form with three goals in two matches. His brace yesterday helped lift Chelsea to a 4-1 win at Crystal Palace.
  • Those born on this date include Animal House star Peter “Boone” Riegert (1947), late Big Country guitarist and lead singer Stuart Adamson (1958), singer Lisa Stansfield (1966), Spin City’s Jennifer Esposito (1972), and England international Dele Alli (1996).

That’s all for me today. Enjoy what’s left of your weekend, prepare for next Saturday, and get vaxxed up (like me), so we can all be together in greater numbers sooner rather than later.

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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