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Lion Links: 6/17/21

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How great is it that it’s game week again? Two games in Orlando this weekend (technically Orlando City is on the “road” but it’s in the same stadium), full Major League Soccer and National Women’s Soccer League weekends, plus all the international action from around the world. It’s a busy weekend coming, but we’ve got things to discuss now.

USWNT Beats Nigeria in Final Summer Series Match

The United States Women’s National Team ended its 2021 Summer Series before the Olympics this July with a 2-0 win over Nigeria. It was a momentous occasion as it was the first match in the history of Q2 Stadium, home of MLA expansion outfit Austin FC, as well as the first match for the new secondary jersey. While the Texas side will hope to see the stadium filled with “verde” it opened as a sea of Red, White & Blue.

Before the match, the legendary Carli Lloyd was honored for hitting the 300-match milestone. Christen Press scored the first goal of the match — assisted by Lloyd — with a beautiful finish before the end of the first half. Lynn Williams made it two for the U.S. in second-half stoppage time. Orlando Pride star Alex Morgan played the last 37 minutes of the match, but didn’t find her way onto the scoresheet.

Daryl Dike Back in Orlando

We touched on it briefly yesterday, but Daryl Dike is officially back in training with Orlando City. The former Virginia Cavalier’s stock has risen meteorically since his debut with Orlando City last August, becoming one of the top young players in MLS before making his U.S. Men’s National Team debut, and further raising his profile with a highly successful loan to the English Championship.

Most media outlets seemingly have him with one foot out of the door already, with countless rumors connecting the young striker to Premier League clubs, including Watford and Everton. Despite the noise, Dike’s focus is still on Orlando City.

“In terms of all the extra things happening, that’s just something when the time comes. For me right now, it’s focusing on acclimating back to the team and seeing how I can be able to affect the games in the next couple of weeks.”

Whether Dike stays the full season or leaves in the summer, don’t expect a lack of commitment in his remaining time with Orlando City.

MLS a Tougher League than Gonzalo Higuain Expected

Inter Miami’s most famous player, Gonzalo Higuain, made headlines yesterday for all the wrong reasons for an interview where he talked about his move to Inter Miami. Like most European superstars, Higuain claimed he was going to easily dominate MLS, but that it’s a hell of a lot more difficult than he realized.

“To tell you the truth, I thought that I could have played with a cigarette here,” said Higuain. “I struggled at first because it is a difficult league. I have learned that it is similar to Italian football. In Italy, football is a battle and here it is the same thing. It is a league that you have to understand to succeed, it is new to me and it is very physical.

“All the teams that win here have a strong American core that understands the league. I struggled at first. I am starting to get to know the league better, but you will struggle if you are not physically fit.”

This is an incredibly unsurprising revelation, given the obvious lack of effort on the field in his turbulent start to MLS life, but it has been seen as an unintentional dig at his brother, Federico Higuain. Federico has spent the last 11 seasons as a star in this league, but I guess Gonzalo never talked to his very close brother about the difficulty here? Anytime a quote like this comes out it just leaves me angry, because anyone who watches MLS knows it’s a hard place to succeed, especially right away, but there always seems to be this level of arrogance from players, particularly coming from Europe.

Union’s Curtin Gets 2-Year Extension

The second-longest tenured coach in MLS will be extending that tenure a further two years after the Philadelphia Union agreed on a new extension with head coach Jim Curtin. Curtin, who won MLS Coach of the Year over Oscar Pareja last season (debatable), has been with the Union as their head coach since 2014, and is the franchise leader in wins and matches coached, as well as leading the side to its first ever trophy last year.

Free Kicks

  • We send our condolences to Rodrigo Schlegel and his entire family as they mourn the loss of Rodrigo’s father, Adrian.

  • Orlando City’s Chris Mueller is releasing a book called Bet On Yourself, “which teaches athletes how to build confidence, habits, and a stronger mentality to achieve goals.”
  • Real Madrid captain and club legend Sergio Ramos is confirmed to be leaving Los Blancos after 16 years. The 35-year-old will have a whole host of suitors, and has previously been linked with Inter Miami.

Thank you all for reading. Have a great one everybody!

Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/22/24

Orlando City beats Cavalry FC, Lions receive General Allocation Money for Junior Urso’s rights, USWNT gets ready for Argentina, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

How’s it going, Mane Landers? It’s nice to start the morning fresh off of a huge win and I’m hoping that becomes a regular occurrence this year. Hopefully the work week has been kind to you as we ride the high of the Concacaf Champions Cup into Orlando City’s first game of the MLS season this weekend. For now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

Lions Win in Concacaf Champions Cup Opener

Orlando City kicked off its Concacaf Champions Cup campaign with a solid 3-0 win against Cavalry FC in Canada. Some players did better playing on the turf of Starlight Stadium in British Columbia than others, but the Lions ultimately did well on the road to make things less stressful for themselves for the second leg on Tuesday in Orlando at 6 p.m. Orlando’s offense showed little rust and the defense did its part in its first competitive match of 2024. Before the match, Head Coach Oscar Pareja announced that Robin Jansson will serve as the team’s captain this year, so it’s nice to see his tenure start with a clean sheet.

Junior Urso Signs With Charlotte FC

Orlando City received $50,000 in 2025 General Allocation Money from Charlotte FC in exchange for Brazilian midfielder Junior Urso’s right of first refusal. This transaction cleared the way for Urso to sign with Charlotte, joining on a deal through 2024, with an option for 2025. The Bear became a Lion back in 2020 and was an integral part of Orlando’s transformation under Head Coach Oscar Pareja that included winning the 2022 U.S. Open Cup. The 34-year-old impressed as a trialist with Charlotte during the preseason and should give Dean Smith’s side a veteran presence both on and off the field. While it’s never fun seeing a fan favorite playing for another Eastern Conference foe, I wish nothing but the best for Urso and hope he gets a warm reception when Charlotte visits Orlando this season on Sept. 18.

MLS Coaching Changes for 2024

There was a considerable amount of coaching turnover in MLS since last season, adding some intriguing storylines for this year. After a rough time in Miami, Phil Neville has a chance at redemption with a Portland Timbers side that narrowly missed out on the playoffs last year. The Colorado Rapids’ Chris Armas, D.C. United’s Troy Lesesne, and the New England Revolution’s Caleb Porter are other familiar faces in new places who could impress. As for those new to the scene, Dean Smith joined Charlotte from England, while Sandro Schwarz is now at the helm of the New York Red Bulls after years in Germany and Russia. I’m also interested to see how long it takes for John Herdman to turn things around with Toronto FC.

Analyzing Argentina Ahead of USWNT Clash

After a dominant 5-0 win over the Dominican Republic, the United States Women’s National Team will take on Argentina tomorrow in the Concacaf W Gold Cup’s group stage. The U.S. has won the past four meetings between the past two nations, and Argentina is coming off of a scoreless draw with Mexico. The Orlando Pride’s Mariana Larroquette spearheads an Argentine attack that can be a bit inconsistent when it comes to creating chances. That being said, Vanina Preininger can pull strings from the midfield and Argentina has multiple players capable of scoring from distance. Laurina Oliveros will likely start in goal after her clean sheet in the opener, and the defense also includes Kansas City Current center back Sophia Braun.

Free Kicks

  • The Orlando Pride’s Rafaelle and Adriana both started in Brazil’s 1-0 win over Puerto Rico.
  • The LA Galaxy signed Ghanaian winger Joseph Paintsil as their third Designated Player. The 26-year-old joins from Genk in Belgium and signed a contract with the Galaxy through 2027.
  • The Revolution beat Panama’s Independiente 1-0 on the road in the Champions Cup opener for both teams.
  • The new changes to MLS’ competitive rules, such as in-stadium VAR announcements and off-field treatments, have been postponed amid the league’s referee situation.
  • The United Soccer League announced that all 47 of the teams under its umbrella will take part in this year’s U.S. Open Cup.
  • Bayern Munich officially announced that Thomas Tuchel will leave once this season is over. Although Bayern is second in the Bundesliga standings, it’s lost its past three games, including a defeat to Lazio in the Champions League.
  • Porto scored a stunning goal in stoppage time to shock Arsenal in the UEFA Champions League.

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: 2/21/24

Orlando City takes on Cavalry FC tonight, Lions sign Jeorgio Kocevski, USWNT wins in Concacaf W Gold Cup, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you in Florida as we get to watch the Lions in action tonight in the Concacaf Champions Cup. There’s not much new with me this week other than staying busy covering high school basketball and hockey. Let’s wish a happy birthday to Orlando Pride forward Amanda Allen. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Orlando City Takes on Cavalry FC Tonight

Orlando City will be in action tonight in the first round of the Concacaf Champions Cup, as it takes on Cavalry FC at Starlight Stadium at 10 p.m. This matchup will be the Lions’ first competitive match of 2024, with their MLS season opener against CF Montreal set for Saturday. The Lions were knocked out by Tigres due to away goals in last year’s Concacaf Champions League. Cavalry FC will make its debut in this competition tonight and qualified by winning the 2023 Canadian Premier League Shield. The second leg between these two sides will be on Feb. 27 in Orlando.

Orlando City Signs First-Round Draft Pick Jeorgio Kocevski

Orlando City signed 2024 MLS SuperDraft pick Jeorgio Kocevski to a contract through the 2024 season with club options for 2025, 2026, and 2027. Kocevski scored the game-winning goal in stoppage time in Orlando’s final preseason match against the Colorado Rapids this past weekend. The midfielder was selected 21st overall in the first round of the MLS SuperDraft by the Lions in December. He played four years for Syracuse, recording seven goals and 18 assists in 71 matches. Kocevski is the only player the club has signed from the Lions’ 2024 draft class and will likely get some minutes with Orlando City B this season.

St. Louis City and Philadelphia Union Win in Champions Cup

Orlando City isn’t the only MLS team kicking off its Concacaf Champions Cup campaign this week. St. Louis City edged out the Houston Dynamo 2-1, with rookie Hosei Kijima scoring the winner in stoppage time. The Philadelphia Union were on the road in Costa Rica to face off against Deportivo Saprissa and won 3-2, thanks to a hat trick from Julian Carranza in the second half. As for other tournament matches this week, the New England Revolution face Independiente in Panama tonight, with Nashville playing Moca FC in the Dominican Republic and FC Cincinnati taking on Jamaica’s Cavalier SC tomorrow.

USWNT Beats the Dominican Republic in W Gold Cup

The United States Women’s National Team got its Concacaf W Gold Cup campaign off to a great start with a 5-0 win against the Dominican Republic in Group A. Olivia Moultrie scored her first USWNT goal to give her team an early lead, with Lynn Williams giving the U.S. another goal before halftime. Moultrie scored another in the second half to earn her brace, and Jenna Nighswonger converted a penalty for her first USWNT goal as well. Former Pride forward Alex Morgan replaced Mia Fishel on the roster due to injury and scored from the penalty spot in stoppage time. The USWNT’s next game will be against Argentina on Friday at 10:15 p.m.

UEFA Champions League Roundup

The UEFA Champions League had plenty of drama as the round of 16 continued. Inter Milan won 1-0 in its first leg against Atletico Madrid at home, with Mark Arnautovic scoring the only goal in the match. In the Netherlands, PSV Eindhoven and Borussia Dortmund played to a thrilling 1-1 draw. The second legs for both matchups will be played on March 13. There is more Champions League action today, as FC Porto hosts Arsenal while Napoli takes on Barcelona.

Free Kicks

  • The latest MLS power rankings are out just before the regular season begins. Orlando City begins the season in the fifth spot.
  • Orlando City and the Orlando Pride announced fan experience upgrades at Inter&Co Stadium featuring Amazon’s Just Walk Out technology in merchandise shops, stadium Wi-Fi upgrades, and a jersey history experience.
  • The MLS Players Association released a statement on the ongoing referee lockout.
  • Here is the list of MLS Season Pass commentator assignments for opening week.

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Wednesday and I’ll see you next time.

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Lion Links: 2/20/24

The Wall sells out for opening night, Robin Jansson earns recognition, Concacaf W Gold cup preview, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Tuesday, everyone! We’re now just one day away from the first competitive Orlando City game of the year, and it can’t get here fast enough. As usual, we have plenty to cover this morning, so let’s jump straight into it.

The Wall Sells Out for Orlando City’s Season Opener

The Wall, the supporters’ section of Orlando City’s stadium, has sold out of single-match tickets ahead of Saturday’s home opener against CF Montreal. Limited tickets for the match are still available for the rest of the stadium, and hopefully it will fully sell out for the first match of the season. This Saturday will be the 10th consecutive time in which the Lions start their MLS season at home. It should be a great match and a chance for Orlando to get its season off to a good start between Concacaf Champions Cup matches against Cavalry FC.

Robin Jansson Praised as a Top Defender in MLS

Orlando City center back Robin Jansson was recognized as one of the best center backs in MLS by MLSsoccer.com‘s Joseph Lowery. The 32-year-old has been an integral part of Orlando’s defense since joining the league in 2019 and should continue anchoring the team’s back line this season. Not only is he excellent in terms of defense, but the Beefy Swede can also make an impact on offense with his passing and surprising runs up the field. Jansson is one of the most consistent defenders in the league and agreed to a new contract with the club earlier this month.

MLS Transfer News Roundup

The 2024 Major League Soccer season might kick off tomorrow, but transfers are still flying thick and fast, which means we have things to catch up on. We start with one of the teams opening the season tomorrow, Inter Miami, which has officially transferred midfielder Gregore to Botafogo in the Brazilian top flight. We move on to NYCFC, which has completed the signing of striker Jovan Mijatović from Red Star Belgrade. The 18-year-old Serbian youth international has inked a deal that runs through the 2028 season with an option year for 2029. We finish up with the Houston Dynamo, which has signed Coco Carasquilla to a contract extension. The Panamanian midfielder’s deal now runs through the 2025 season and has option years for 2026 and 2027.

Concacaf W Gold Cup Preview

The inaugural Concacaf W Gold Cup kicks off later today, so make sure you get up to speed on everything you need to know about the competition. The United States Women’s National Team has been grouped with Argentina, the Dominican Republic, and Mexico and will be looking for a strong showing following a disappointing campaign at last summer’s World Cup. The tournament will feature a total of 12 teams, with eight Concacaf representatives and four from CONMEBOL. The top two finishers in each of the three groups advance to the knockout round along with the top two third-place finishers. The USWNT begins play tonight against the Dominican Republican at 10:15 p.m. from Dignity Health Sports Park.

Americans in Midweek Action

With a number of American players taking part in games during the work week, get everything marked down on your calendar so you don’t miss anything. Things get started this afternoon with a huge game, as Malik Tillman, Ricardo Pepi, Sergino Dest, and PSV Eindhoven take on Borussia Dortmund in the UEFA Champions League. European competition continues on Thursday as well, with Christian Pulisc, Yunus Musah, and AC Milan facing Rennes in the Europa League play. Things finish out on Friday as the red-hot Brandon Vazquez and Monterrey face Juarez in Liga MX competition.

Minnesota United Close to Coaching Hire

A coaching search that will surely go down as one of the most thorough (or at least lengthy) in MLS history is nearing its conclusion, as Minnesota United is reportedly close to naming Manchester United assistant Eric Ramsay as the team’s new skipper. While nothing is official yet, Ramsay is said to be the leading candidate, and The Athletic‘s Tom Bogert says that the team is closing in on the hire. If he joins, Ramsay will become the youngest coach in league history at the tender age of 32, and he will also become Minnesota’s second coach following Adrian Heath’s departure in October of last year.

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That’s all I have for this morning. Vamos Orlando!

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