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Lion Links: 8/10/21

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Happy Tuesday, everyone. It should be an interesting week for Orlando City as the Lions will take part in the Leagues Cup for the first ever time. As usual, there is a lot to discuss today, so let’s get straight into it.

Nani Honored Again

Once again, Nani was recognized for his performance in Orlando City’s most recent game with his inclusion in the latest edition of the MLS Team of the Week. Orlando’s captain was named to the bench of this week’s squad after a substitute appearance that helped the Lions rescue a point on the road at FC Cincinnati. Barely a minute after entering the game Nani latched onto a wildly questionable flick in midfield from FCC’s Allan Cruz, drove at the Cincy defense and coolly slotted past Kenneth Vermeer from the edge of the area. Congrats and keep up the good work!

Sargent Transfer Complete

It was announced yesterday that Josh Sargent has completed a transfer to Norwich City from Werder Bremen. The $11 million fee takes the young American to the Premier League as opposed to playing in the 2. Bundesliga after Bremen was relegated at the end of the 2020-2021 Bundesliga campaign. The move is a bit of a risky one for Sargent. On the one hand, he’ll be playing against some of the best opposition in the world, which means he’ll certainly be forced to grow and get better if he’s going to survive. If he does survive and thrive then he’ll be poised for even bigger and better things. On the flip side though, he’s joining a newly promoted club with an established first choice striker in Teemu Pukki, all ahead of World Cup qualifying about to start. Either way, it’s an exciting opportunity and I’m interested to see how he adapts.

Perez Given Toronto Job through 2021

Toronto FC announced yesterday that Javier Perez will take charge of the team as head coach until the end of the 2021 season, removing the “interim” moniker from ahead of his name. Perez replaced Chris Armas in the top job on July 7 and while the team has only taken 10 points from seven games, the Reds have also only lost one game and nabbed an impressive road win over the New England Revolution. Perez has also brought Jozy Altidore back into the fold and has managed to get him scoring and assisting again — an important difference from the end of the Armas era.

Octagonal Dates Confirmed

The dates for the final round of matches in Concacaf World Cup qualifying have been confirmed by the regional federation and FIFA itself. The “Octagonal” will begin on Thursday, Sept. 2 with the United States kicking off its campaign on the road against El Salvador. Matches will be played during the FIFA windows scheduled during September, October, and November of 2021 and January, February, and March of 2022. This more or less confirms what we already knew, but now things are set in stone, so to speak. Each of the eight nations in the Octagonal round will play each other home and away, and the top three teams at the end will directly qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup, with the fourth placed team advancing to an Intercontinental Playoff.

Free Kicks

  • Erika Tymrak spoke about the Orlando Pride’s identity.

  • Ashlyn Harris is again a finalist for NWSL Save of the Week. Get your votes in!


That will do it for me today. Y’all stay safe out there.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/19/24

Orlando Pride host the San Diego Wave, Orlando City B faces Crown Legacy FC, Europa League action, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

Happy Friday! Make sure to get your night plans in order as both the Orlando Pride and Orlando City B have games tonight. Figure out your drink of choice, charge those devices if you don’t plan on heading to the stadium for the Pride game, and knock out any chores before things get rolling. It should be a fun day, so let’s get it started with some links!

Orlando Pride Host the San Diego Wave Tonight

After earning their first win last week in Utah, the Orlando Pride are back in the City Beautiful for tonight’s game against the San Diego Wave at 8 p.m. The Pride’s four-game unbeaten run is on the line and will be put to the test against a Wave team that has four points from three games. San Diego has only scored two goals this season, but it has also secured a pair of clean sheets so far. The biggest storyline heading into the match is whether or not Barbra Banda will make her Pride debut. Hopefully Orlando can light it up at home and keep former Pride forward Alex Morgan and the rest of the Wave’s offense in check.

Orlando City B Takes On Crown Legacy FC

The Young Lions are also in action tonight at 7:30 p.m., with a match against Crown Legacy FC in North Carolina. Crown Legacy is only a point behind OCB, but is still searching for its first win of this MLS NEXT Pro season. OCB has played every game away from the Orlando area so far and ground out a 1-1 draw against Philadelphia Union II last weekend. Orlando hasn’t won a game since its season opener on March 16, but has been proven capable of getting points on the road. Wilfredo Rivera and Yutaro Tsukada linked up for the equalizer in that match, so hopefully they can keep that momentum rolling into tonight’s game.

Americans to Watch This Weekend

European soccer seasons and tournaments are nearing their ends and there are many Americans in important games this weekend. Haji Wright’s heroics put Coventry City into the FA Cup semifinals, and he will have a chance to impress again on Sunday against Manchester United. Elsewhere in England, Fulham duo Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream could put a dent in Liverpool’s title hopes, while Nottingham Forest’s Matt Turner and Giovanni Reyna will square off against Everton, as both sides aim to avoid relegation. Over in Italy, AC Milan duo Christian Pulisic and Yunus Musah will try to stop Inter Milan from claiming the Serie A title in a rivalry match at San Siro. There’s also a showdown between Americans in the Scottish Cup semifinals, with Celtic’s Cameron Carter-Vickers going up against Aberdeen and Dante Polvara.

Europa League Quarterfinals Come to a Close

The Europa League quarterfinals are done and dusted and only four teams remain in contention for some silverware. West Ham United took the lead against Bayer Leverkusen, but couldn’t overcome the aggregate deficit and the German club advanced. Leverkusen also scored a late equalizer to make it a 1-1 draw and extend its unbeaten streak to 44 games. Marseille scored at home against Benfica to send the game to extra time and then won the eventual penalty shootout. Atalanta did enough in a 1-0 loss to Liverpool to advance on aggregate, with Liverpool’s lone goal coming from an early Mohamed Salah penalty kick. AS Roma is also through to the semifinals after a 2-1 win against AC Milan, despite a red card in the first half. In the semifinals, Marseille will face Atalanta and Leverkusen will take on Roma.

Free Kicks

  • Houston Dynamo Head Coach Ben Olsen has agreed to a new contract that will keep him with the club through 2026. Olsen has quietly dragged the Dynamo out of the Western Conference’s basement and won last year’s U.S. Open Cup as well.
  • New York Red Bulls defender Andres Reyes was suspended an additional match for violent conduct in the team’s match against the Chicago Fire. This means Reyes will miss tomorrow’s match against LAFC and the home game against the Vancouver Whitecaps on April 27.
  • American left back Jorge Villafana is hanging up his cleats. He won the MLS Cup with the Portland Timbers back in 2015 and the Concacaf Gold Cup with the U.S. in 2017.
  • Replays won’t be a part of the FA Cup for the next six years. This will ease some of the schedule congestion for English Premier League teams, but it denies lower-division sides the chance at more revenue.
  • The folks over at Stars and Stripes FC shined a spotlight on forward Jubilo Iwata, who currently leads Japan’s J1 League in scoring after eight games. It’s always cool to learn more about some of the lesser-known players in the U.S. player pool.
  • An NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers will be played in Brazil at Corinthians Arena. However, there’s an unofficial rule at the stadium that green can’t be worn, as it is the color of Corinthians rival, so we’ll see if that’s adhered to come September.
  • Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird’s production company will adapt Cleat Cute, a romance novel by Meryl Wilsner about love between teammates on a women’s soccer team. As someone who’s read it and loved it, I’m pretty excited for the show to say the least.

That’s all I have for you today. Stay hydrated and enjoy the games today. Go Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/18/24

Barbra Banda’s opportunity in Orlando, Omar Gonzalez’s mental health struggles, UEFA Champions League quarterfinals finish, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope this week has been treating you well as we gear up for another weekend packed with Orlando soccer. It’s been a fairly busy week for me as I juggle work with keeping an eye on my cat. He’s a bit of a menace, but at least in a cute way. I’ll spare you my rambling on how great he is, and instead give you today’s links from around the soccer world.

Opportunity Knocks for Barbra Banda

Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda landed in the City Beautiful and spoke on how her first week with the team has been going. While there’s plenty of buzz surrounding the Pride on how Banda should improve the team’s offense, playing in the NWSL will also help the 24-year-old further develop her game.

“I think the league is quite good. I’ve been following it from way back,” she said. “I think it’s a very interesting league, very strong. All the teams are very physical, fast. So I think it’s good for myself to improve.”

Now that she’s with the Pride, soccer fans around the world will now have better access to watch one of the best forwards in women’s soccer. Banda also talked about the warm welcome she received at the airport and you can check out more of her reaction to that and some of her first few days in Orlando in the video below.

Portland Thorns Head Coach Reassigned

Mike Norris is no longer the head coach of the Portland Thorns after the club made him a technical director instead. The Thorns have never had a worse start to an NWSL season, losing three of their four games this year and still searching for their first win. Rob Gale will serve as the team’s interim head coach while the club does a global search for a replacement. I’m a bit surprised that Norris wasn’t given a few more weeks to turn things around, considering Portland is just a win away from being back in the thick of things. We’ll see if the Thorns will get that win with Gale at the helm when they take on the struggling Houston Dash Saturday.

Omar Gonzalez Shares His Mental Health Journey

American defender Omar Gonzalez discussed the difficulties he’s had over the course of his year and the toll it has had on his mental health. His own goal in the USMNT’s loss to Trinidad & Tobago that cost the team its chance to qualify for the 2018 World Cup would be rough for any player to overcome, but Gonzalez stated that head injuries made a stressful few years of his life much more difficult. Gonzalez admitted that he had daily suicidal thoughts until he reached out for needed help while with Toronto FC. Things have since improved and he’s currently with his hometown team, FC Dallas. I think it’s helpful for players like Gonzalez to be open about the mental health problems athletes face. Hopefully this lets other athletes know they aren’t alone in these struggles and encourages them to reach out for help if needed.

UEFA Champions League Semifinals Are Set

Only four teams are still standing in the UEFA Champions League after the quarterfinals wrapped up with plenty of dramatic soccer. The matchup between Real Madrid and Manchester City lived up to expectations with a penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw in England. Real Madrid prevailed and ended City’s run, with Andriy Lunin making two saves in the shootout. In the other quarterfinal, Bayern Munich advanced after beating Arsenal 1-0, thanks to Joshua Kimmich’s head.

It all sets up for a thrilling pair of semifinals and potential storylines for the final. Will Bayern and Borussia Dortmund reach the final for a rivalry match for the ages? Can Kylian Mbappe finally give Paris Saint-Germain a Champions League title, and will it be at the expense of Real Madrid? If the semifinals are anything like the quarterfinals, it will be great soccer to enjoy.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando City Director of Equipment Operations Charles Raycroft received some deserved recognition after reaching an impressive milestone in his career.
  • Romario, who was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 1994 after helping Brazil win a World Cup, has registered himself as a player for America Football Club. The 58-year-old has been the president of the club since 2009 and now has the chance to play alongside his son Romarinho.

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: 4/17/24

Orlando City rises in power rankings, Orlando Pride waive two players, Champions League results, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

Welcome to Wednesday, Mane Landers. Time to start your day with some tasty links. It’s shaping up to be an exciting weekend with Orlando City, the Orlando Pride, and Orlando City B all playing. Last week, Orlando’s teams ended up with seven out of nine possible points. Here’s hoping we see nine out of nine this weekend. Let’s get to the links.

Orlando City Moving On Up

Starting the season 0-3-1 is a good way to be in the cellar of the utterly meaningless MLSsoccer.com power rankings. Orlando City is now starting to climb up the rankings thanks to three straight results. The Lions moved up four spots to 21st after the 3-2 victory over DC United. It was Duncan McGuire’s goal that secured the win, and his performance off the bench was a talking point for this week as well.

Farewell Kaylie Collins and Tori Hansen

The Orlando Pride announced that goalkeeper Kaylie Collins and defender Tori Hansen were waived on Tuesday. Both players were on loan in Australia’s A-League Women ,with Collins at Western Sydney Wanderers FC and Hansen with Melbourne Victory FC. Collins and Hansen were both NWSL draft picks for the Pride, though neither saw significant minutes with the club.

Barbra Banda Begins Training

Barbra Banda participated in her first training with the Pride Tuesday. It’s uncertain how much playing time she may get this week, but it’s possible she makes her first appearance against the San Diego Wave this Friday. Please remember that it sometimes takes new players time to get used to a new club, a new city, and a new league. Of course, I’m still hoping she comes on and scores a brace against the Wave.

Wild Matches in Champions League Quarterfinals

Paris Saint-Germain and Borussia Dortmund both overcame deficits in the first leg to advance to the UEFA Champions League semifinals. PSG dropped four goals on Barcelona to win 6-4 on aggregate. Barcelona scored first, but made things hard on itself when Ronald Araújo was sent off.

Borussia Dortmund also scored four goals, defeating Atletico Madrid 5-4 on aggregate. Dortmund gave up an own goal, but battled back to take the lead in the match and then the lead in the tie thanks to goals scored in the 71st and 74th minutes. It was a wild, fun match to watch. Dortmund and PSG will meet in the semifinals.

Free Kicks

  • MLS will now start implementing the new rules for off-field treatments, timed substitutions, and in-stadium VAR announcements. The idea is to maximize effective match time.
  • The International Football Association Board (IFAB) will test new time limit rules during the 2024-2025 season for how long keepers can hold the ball with potential consequences including giving the opposing team a corner or a throw-in.
  • Finally, our thoughts are with the friends and family following the passing of Joel McKell.

That will do it for today. Check back later in the week as we get you ready for the Orlando City, Orlando Pride, and OCB matches this weekend. Vamos Orlando!

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