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Lion Links: 5/21/22



Happy Saturday, Mane Land fam! While there are no first-team matches for Orlando today, Orlando City B will be hosting Inter Miami II at 6 p.m. this evening. Orlando City will be traveling to Austin tomorrow while the Orlando Pride will be playing host to Chicago Red Stars at Exploria Stadium. No matter what you do with your Saturday, I hope you take the time to catch some European action as there are lots of storylines wrapping up today. It is sure to be an awesome, soccer-filled weekend. Now, your links from around the soccer world!

Orlando City Visits Verde

Orlando City finishes its three-game MLS road trip with Austin FC at Q2 Stadium. Not only does Sunday mark the first first trip the team has made to the venue, it will also be the first match between the two clubs in history. Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja should have a plan for stopping some of the potent Austin FC attack, as Maxi Urruti played under Pareja for three years at FC Dallas. Urruti is in great form with four goals and 11 starts. However, the main wild card for Pareja will be slowing down Austin’s Argentine playmaker Sebastián Driussi. An early MLS MVP candidate, Driussi already has seven goals and four assists thus far this season in only 12 matches.

Austin finished its expansion season last year in 12th place but has seemingly turned the corner this year. The team sits currently first in the league with 23 points and will surely look to extend that lead when the Lions kick off at 8 p.m.

Orlando Pride Host Chicago Red Stars

The Orlando Pride have announced the continuation of the Mission Program campaign, which was started last year to honor and pay tribute to the many pioneers who have made groundbreaking contributions in our society. The first match in the 2022 edition of the program is this Sunday, when the Pride and the Chicago Red Stars are set to kick off at 7 p.m. in Exploria Stadium. The match will be “Mission Planet Earth.” The Pride will highlight how the effort of our club, stadium, partners, and fans contribute to conservation by working together towards a more sustainable, greener future for our planet.

Orlando will be looking to continue its three-game unbeaten streak, which is a breath of fresh air from its earlier 2022 Challenge Cup games. On the other side of the ball, Chicago has won four straight road games against the Pride and is unbeaten in its seven all-time away matches in this series, which is the longest current streak of games on the road without a loss against a single team in NWSL. Another win would tie for the longest road streak against a single opponent in NWSL history — currently held by the Reign against both the Houston Dash and former league club, the Boston Breakers.

So far this season, Sydney Leroux leads the Pride with two goals while Gunny Jónsdóttir, Mikayla Cluff, and Toni Pressley have all also found the back of the net. The scoresheet for the Red Stars includes rookie Ava Cook, Bianca St. Georges, and Ella Stevens.

USMNT Summer Roster Released

USMNT Head Coach Gregg Berhalter has chosen 27 players for the country’s final set of home matches before the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The U.S. will play four matches this June as it prepares for the sport’s biggest stage. The team will open the international window on June 1 against Morocco at TQL Stadium in Cincinnati, followed by Uruguay on June 5 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City.

Later, matches continue with the launch of the 2022-2023 Concacaf Nations League as the U.S. will attempt to defend its inaugural title. It will play group stage matches against Grenada June 10 at Q2 Stadium in Austin and at El Salvador June 14.

“We are excited to get the group back together as we prepare to compete against two fellow World Cup participants and begin the defense of our Concacaf Nations League title,” Berhalter said. “With the World Cup six months away, we aim to maximize these opportunities and continue to progress as a team. We are looking forward to experiencing the incredible support of our home fans for the last time before we represent them in Qatar in November.”

Be sure to check out the full roster and let us know in the comments below who you think should have been added or should have stayed home.

Conor Doyle and Union Omaha Eye Open Cup

Union Omaha captain Conor Doyle knows what it takes to win the Open Cup, as he was on the 2013 D.C. United winning team. The Nebraska club from third-division USL League One, only in existence for two years, has nothing to fear according to the 30-year-old journeyman and team leader.

“It’s a win-win situation for us,” said Doyle, the only player with an Open Cup winner’s medal in the Union Omaha locker room. “We’re expected to lose (against MLS’ Minnesota United, Cup runners-up in 2019) and we can play loose and just try to enjoy it rather than be uptight and nervous.”

Everyone loves a great “Cupset” but few have been there to see it through. Doyle finds himself as a leader in the locker room, whether he wants to be or not. He is a veteran who has played abroad, internationally, and in the U.S. top flight. His experience is invaluable to a team with 14 players under the age of 25.

Doyle was able to lead the Owls all the way to the USL League One championship in 2021 during his first season with the club. The team finished as regular-season champions and clinched the top seed for the playoffs. Later, Union Omaha finished the season winning its first-ever championship, beating defending champion Greenville Triumph SC 3–0 in the final.

This year, the club is making waves in the U.S. Open Cup. On April 19, Union Omaha defeated the Chicago Fire in a penalty shootout in the third round of the tournament to become the first USL League One team to defeat an MLS team in the competition’s history. Only time will tell if the underdogs from Union Omaha can continue this incredible run at Allianz Field in St. Paul when the side takes on Minnesota United next Wednesday.

UEFA Champions League Overhaul

The UEFA Champions League as we know it is set to change for the 2024-2025 season and beyond. The latest favorite in the revamp shows a tournament that mirrors the format of Grand Slam tennis tournaments. What exactly does that mean? All 24 clubs that progress into the knockout stages of the competition will have their route right through to the final seeded and pre-drawn, based largely upon their group ranking. Country protection is also going to be eliminated, meaning clubs of the same league could face each other in the early knockout rounds. The top two teams in the group stage would not be able to meet each other in the knockout rounds until the final, as they will be on opposite sides of the draw. The current plan features:

– A final, 36-team group-stage table, that ranks teams from 1-24 based on how well they performed

– Teams that rank 1-8 in this group-stage table are effectively seeded and enter in the round of 16 — just like the group-stage winners are under the current format

– Teams ranked 9-24 play a knockout playoff round to reach the round of 16 and teams that finish 25-36 will be eliminated from Europe altogether

– The knockout bracket will be split in two. The best performing clubs in the group stage, ranked 1 and 2, will be drawn into positions at the opposite end of the bracket, thus unable to meet each other until the final

– Teams ranked 3 & 4, 5 & 6 and 7 & 8 will also be paired and have set positions in opposite halves of the bracket, determined by the draw

The calendar is also expected to be reworked. The Champions League group stage is to be played across eight of the 10 midweeks reserved for European football. The Europa League (September) and Europa Conference League (December) will each have one standalone set of games in the two spare midweeks. Both the Champions League and Europa League group stages will complete a month later at the end of January, while the Europa Conference League, which has two fewer group-stage fixtures, will still end in December.

Free Kicks

  • Raul Ruidiaz of Seattle Sounders FC won the Week 12 AT&T Goal of the Week finishing a 22-pass team buildup in the 28th minute.
  • Goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina of the Chicago Fire has chosen to represent the USMNT in goal. The 18-year-old opted not to go with Poland and discussed his difficult decision on social media.

  • The U-16 USWNT defeated France 3-1 in the UEFA Development Tournament.

Let’s finish today with a fun fact that some MLS-era City fans might not know: Austin FC is the first top-flight professional soccer team in the Austin area. The city’s previous experience with professional soccer includes the Austin Aztex, which moved to Orlando in 2008 and eventually became your Orlando City SC! Don’t call it a rivalry, but there is some distant blood between the two clubs. Vamos Orlando!

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.



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.



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.



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 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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