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Lion Links: 5/21/22

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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: 7/19/24

Dagur Dan Thorhallsson signs new contract, Orlando Pride sign National Team Replacement Players, MLS roster rules change, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! I’ll be spending a majority of the day traveling, as I have a flight to Boston this morning and then a drive up to Maine. It should be a nice weekend with friends, and I’m planning on consuming as much lobster as possible while I’m up there. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Dagur Dan Signs New Contract

Orlando City has signed Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to a new contract that will keep him in the City Beautiful through 2026, with an option for 2027 as well. The versatile player joined Orlando before the 2023 season and has flourished at right back since moving there. He’s locked down the position, so it makes all the sense in the world that Orlando would want to keep him around. Thorhallsson has two goals and three assists to his name so far this season and is a key part of the team’s game plan when attacking.

Ramiro Enrique Makes Team of the Matchday Bench

Forward Ramiro Enrique earned a spot on the bench of the latest Team of the Matchday for his efforts in Orlando’s 3-0 win over Nashville SC on Wednesday. Enrique’s rocketed strike capped off a solid performance, as he was also a force in the air and looked dangerous at the top of Orlando’s offense. The 23-year-old forward was also selected as Man of the Match in our Nic Josey’s player grades for the game. Enrique now has three goals in his past three games, so it’s nice to see him get some deserved recognition.

Orlando Pride Sign National Team Replacement Players

Midfielder Claire Winter and goalkeeper Kenna Caldwell were signed by the Pride as National Team Replacement Players for this international break. The Pride are without seven players due to the Olympics and Winter and Caldwell are available for selection for the upcoming  NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup. Caldwell was a non-roster invitee to the Pride’s preseason and has been training with the team since. Winter has played in Denmark, Spain, Ireland, and Puerto Rico over the course of her career, and she was also a National Team Replacement Player for NJ/NY Gotham FC back in 2021.

MLS Makes Changes to Roster Rules

MLS clubs will have a bit more flexibility in terms of roster construction after the league announced changes that go into effect now that the secondary transfer window is open. Teams can now use all three Designated Player slots and all three U22 Initiative slots, eliminating the limitations that hamstrung some of those slots in the past. There’s also now an option for teams to build their roster with two DP slots, four U22 Initiative slots, and $2 million more in General Allocation Money. Speaking of GAM, up to $3 million of total transfer revenues can be converted into it, which is more than double the amount that it was before.

Only time will tell if these changes are enough to make the league more competitive with others, both on the field and in the transfer market. I feel like the increased flexibility is a positive, and I suspect savvy general managers will find ways to optimize their rosters fairly quickly. Let’s hope Luiz Muzzi can work some magic this transfer window.

USMNT Falls in Latest FIFA Rankings

After a disappointing Copa America that included a group stage exit, the United States fell five spots to 16th in the latest men’s FIFA rankings. While the U.S. underperformed, I do think it’s worth noting that strong tournaments from Uruguay, Germany, and Switzerland also played a part in them rising above the U.S. in the rankings. Mexico dropped two spots to 17th, while Panama and Canada both jumped up eight spots to 35th and 40th, respectively.

Spain moved up five places to third in the rankings following its dominant Euro 2024 run, while Argentina remained at the top after winning Copa America. Colombia jumped up three spots to claim ninth place, while Croatia fell out of the top 10 and is now in 12th.

Free Kicks

  • Former Lion Benji Michel will reportedly sign with Real Salt Lake. The Homegrown Player left Orlando on a free transfer to join FC Arouca in Portugal in January of 2023. It’s definitely going to be weird seeing him play for another MLS team if this comes to pass.
  • The Houston Dynamo made a splash by signing German winger Lawrence Ennali as a U22 Initiative Player. The 22-year-old joins from Polish club Gornik Zabrze for a reported transfer fee of $3 million and should give the Dynamo some needed firepower to compete in the Western Conference.
  • The Philadelphia Union traded away $150,000 in 2024 GAM to St. Louis City in exchange for Samuel Adeniran. The 25-year-old forward scored eight goals for St. Louis last season and the club can receive another $300,000 in GAM if conditions are met as well.
  • Toronto FC added American defender Henry Wingo as a free agent. although it gave $75,000 in 2025 GAM to D.C. United for his discovery rights. The 28-year-old has spent the past four years with Ferencvárosi and has MLS experience due to his time as a Homegrown Player with the Seattle Sounders.
  • The three divisions of the English Football League can be watched through CBS Sports this upcoming season. It’s notable news for those who want to watch Wrexham AFC or Americans like former Lion Daryl Dike.
  • Manchester United has officially signed 18-year-old defender Leny Yoro from Lille. Yoro started in 30 games for Lille last season and United reportedly paid a $67.6 million transfer fee for his services.
  • Patrick Vieira and Strasbourg have parted ways, leaving the French club without a manager just a month before the Ligue 1 season starts. Strasbourg finished 13th in the standings in Vieira’s first year with the club last season.
  • Borussia Dortmund has signed Serhou Guirassy, who scored a whopping 28 Bundesliga goals for Stuttgart last season.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 7/18/24

Orlando City beats Nashville SC, Ally Watt signs new contract, Mauricio Pochettino linked with USMNT job, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

An Orlando City midweek win makes this Thursday morning feel a bit more like a Friday. It’s been a pretty busy week for me as I get all my ducks in a row before a weekend trip to Maine. But for now, let’s get this morning started off on the right foot with today’s links from around the soccer world.

Orlando City Wins Fourth Straight

The Lions went on the road and claimed all three points in a 3-0 victory against Nashville SC. Orlando took care of business against a Nashville team that struggled on both sides of the ball. The offense has also continued to enjoy its renaissance this summer, and Orlando’s goal differential is now a positive number. The Lions have won their past four games, only conceding two goals during that stretch. There’s not much time to celebrate though, as they will host New York City FC on Saturday.

Ally Watt Signs New Orlando Pride Contract

Forward Ally Watt is the latest player to sign a new deal with the Orlando Pride. She’s agreed to a new contract through the 2025 season, with an option for 2026 as well. Watt has been a versatile part of Orlando’s attack this year and has two goals and an assist to her name so far. Her speed is a lethal weapon, no matter if it’s when starting up top alongside Barbra Banda or providing fresher legs as a substitute. The Orlando Pride have been taking care of business during this break in the NWSL season, also signing Bri Martinez, Summer Yates, Cori Dyke, and Viviana Villacorta to new deals.

Mauricio Pochettino Linked With USMNT Coaching Job

Another interesting name has been thrown into the mix for the United States Men’s National Team’s head coaching gig. Mauricio Pochettino, who left Chelsea in May after just one season, is reportedly a candidate for the job. He’s had success at the club level with Tottenham Hotspur and Paris Saint-Germain, but he does not yet have experience coaching at the international level. If he does become the next USMNT coach, I’d be interested to see how well he can elevate the U.S. attack. His past teams have featured plenty of pressing and attacking, but he’s also been fortunate to coach the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Harry Kane, and Neymar.

New Owners Claim Majority Stake in Angel City FC

Willow Bay and Bob Iger have bought a majority stake in Angel City FC at a $250 million valuation, making the NWSL club the most valuable women’s sports team in the world. Iger is the CEO of the Walt Disney Company and Bay is the dean at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Bay will have full control of the club’s board of directors and she’ll represent the club on the league’s board of governors. This valuation is a testament to how much the NWSL and women’s soccer as a whole has grown in recent years.

Free Kicks

  • Cucho Hernandez won MLS Goal of the Matchday for his weekend strike from distance in the Columbus Crew’s 5-1 win over LAFC. Orlando’s Facundo Torres finished last in the voting, despite his nice goal against the New England Revolution.
  • Cavan Sullivan became the youngest player to make his MLS debut after coming on late in the Philadelphia Union’s 5-1 win against the Revolution. The midfielder is 14 years old and broke the the record set by Freddy Adu by 13 days.
  • The LA Galaxy is reportedly close to signing German attacker Marco Reus as a free agent. Reus and LAFC’s Olivier Giroud joining the league during the same summer makes me glad that rivalry is in the Western Conference.
  • American forward Alex Zendejas will miss some time after suffering a calf injury in Club America’s match on Friday.
  • Germany will be without one of its best players for the upcoming Olympics, as midfielder Lena Oberdorf will miss out due to a knee injury. It makes things a bit more difficult for Germany in a group that also includes the U.S., Zambia, and Australia.
  • Mexico is on the hunt for its next head coach after firing Jaime Lozano following a disappointing Copa America campaign.
  • There were reports that English defender Lucy Bronze was eyeing a move to the NWSL, but she will be staying in Europe for a while longer after signing a two-year deal with Chelsea.

That’s all I have for you this time around. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 7/17/24

Orlando City’s attendance is up, Viviana Villacorta signs new contract, USWNT draws Costa Rica, and more.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane land

Welcome to Wednesday, Mane Landers. It’s match day for Orlando City as the Lions hit the road once again for a match against Eastern Conference foe Nashville SC. We will have your preview and full coverage of the match later today. To pass the time until then, please enjoy these links.

Orlando City Attendance on the Rise

So far in 2024, attendance at Orlando City matches has averaged 22,632, which is more than last season’s 20,804 average. That total is good enough to put the Lions at 11th best in MLS attendance this season. Attendance is up across the league this season, with some citing the Lionel Messi effect, but I’m partial to the idea that more people are simply finding out about the beautiful game. I also think that the last few successful seasons for Orlando City have much more to do with the increase at home.

Villacorta Signs New Contract

Haley Carter and the Orlando Pride front office continued their trend of locking down current players by extending Viviana Villacorta’s time in purple with a new contract through the 2025 season with an option for 2026. Villacorta has had a rough go of it due to injuries, but the talent is there for her to contribute to the project Seb Hines is building.

Pride Top the Olympic List

The NWSL will send 56 players to the Olympics, setting a record for most players from any women’s league in the world. The Orlando Pride tied NJ/NJ Gotham FC for the most players participating on the women’s side, with seven. The Pride players making the trip are Barbra Banda and Grace Chanda with Zambia, Emily Sams for the USWNT (as an alternate), and four of the Pride’s Brazilians — Marta, Adriana, Rafaelle, and Angelina (as an alternate). If seeing all of those excellent players compete against each other in the Olympics doesn’t get you excited, you should probably see a doctor.

Orlando City/Pride to Host Olympics Watch Parties

If you were wondering where to watch the Orlando City and the Orlando Pride players representing their individual nations, then wonder no more. Orlando City and the Orlando Pride are hosting watch parties in Orlando. If you want to support the club’s internationals, like Duncan McGuire for the USMNT U-23s, and all of the Pride players, you can do so with your fellow Orlando City and Orlando Pride supporters. There will be four watch parties in total. Check out the schedule and venues here.

USWNT Draws, U-20 USWNT Wins

The United States Women’s National Team played its final friendly before the start of the Olympics against a stubborn Costa Rica side at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. Despite having 80% possession and taking 26 shots — with 12 shots on target — the wasteful Yanks were unable to find the net, playing to a scoreless draw. Costa Rica’s low block was effective, as was goalkeeper Noelia Bermúdez, but the U.S. simply squandered too many opportunities. The USWNT will next play against Banda’s Zambian squad in the Olympics.

The U-20 USWNT defeated the U-20 Mexico Women’s National Team 3-0 at the Jack Turner Soccer Complex at the University of Georgia in Athens. Ally Sentnor provided a brace, and Riley Jackson added the third. The Pride’s Ally Lemos got the start in this match and played just over an hour after subbing on in the team’s most recent match on July 13.

Free Kicks

  • Gareth Southgate will torment England supporters no longer as he has stepped down, having failed to “bring football home.”

That will do it for today. Don’t forget to follow @themaneland on Twitter for updates during the match tonight. Vamos Orlando!

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