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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: 3/1/24

Orlando’s girls teams playing in national event this weekend, USWNT will face Colombia, Paul Pogba banned for four years, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Welcome to March! It always feels like a good sign when a month starts on a Friday. Spring may not officially be here, but it definitely feels like winter is truly behind us. I plan on getting plenty of spring cleaning done this weekend before a fairly busy month. Let’s get this month started with today’s links!

ECNL Girls National Event Kicks Off Today

Some of the best youth soccer players are coming to Florida this weekend for the Elite Club National League’s spring event at Lakewood Ranch. It’s a great chance for clubs to play teams outside of their conference and there are plenty of scouts to impress as well. Orlando City will have four youth teams take part and each team will play at least three games over the three days. Orlando’s G07 squad has notably won five of its eight games in conference play and will take on Real Colorado National today. Orlando’s squads in the other age groups have some strong opponents lined up as well, so it should be a great experience for the club.

USWNT Will Face Colombia in Concacaf W Gold Cup

After finishing second in its group after a loss to Mexico, the United States Women’s National Team will take on Colombia this Sunday in the Concacaf W Gold Cup quarterfinals. The U.S. and Colombia squared off in friendlies last fall, with the teams playing to a scoreless draw in Utah before the U.S. won 3-0 in San Diego a few days later. Colombia also finished second in its group, conceding just once so far this tournament. The winner of Sunday’s match will play whichever team advances from tomorrow’s game between Canada and Costa Rica. On the other side of the bracket, Orlando Pride players square off when Rafaelle, Adriana, and Brazil play Mariana Larroquette and Argentina tomorrow. The winner of that match will play the victor between Mexico and Paraguay.

Portland Timbers Cut Ties With Jersey Sponsor

The Portland Timbers have dropped DaBella Exteriors as their jersey sponsor amid allegations that the company’s CEO, Donnie McMillan, Jr., sexually harassed employees. The accusations did not become public until Feb. 23 and the Timbers have removed DaBella’s image from their website as well. It makes sense that the Timbers would want to distance themselves from this. There was an investigation by U.S. Soccer in 2022 regarding former Portland Thorns head coach Paul Riley, and the club was also fined by MLS for not reporting an incident of alleged domestic violence involving former Timbers player Andy Polo in a timely manner. DaBella replaced Alaska Airlines as the team’s shirt sponsor for this season and the Timbers will now go without one until a new sponsor is chosen.

Paul Pogba Banned for Four Years

After testing positive for testosterone while playing for Juventus, French midfielder Paul Pogba was banned for the maximum four years by Italy’s anti-doping court. In response to the ruling, Pogba stated that the verdict was “incorrect” and that he will appeal this decision.

“I am sad, shocked and heartbroken that everything I have built in my professional playing career has been taken away from me,” Pogba said. “When I am free of legal restrictions the full story will become clear, but I have never knowingly or deliberately taken any supplements that violate anti-doping regulations.”

It’s fair to wonder just where this news leaves his career if his appeal is denied and he serves the full ban. Pogba turns 31 later this month and he is still under contract with Juventus through 2026, although this ban may obviously change that. Injuries have limited him in recent years as well, as he missed out on the most recent World Cup with France.

Free Kicks

  • Toronto FC signed English midfielder Matty Longstaff to a contract through the 2025 season. Longstaff has previous played for Newcastle United and should help improve a Toronto team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2020.
  • LA Galaxy midfielder Mark Delgado’s second yellow card he received in his team’s opener has been rescinded and he’s eligible for Saturday’s match against the San Jose Earthquakes. Delgado was sent off while the Galaxy were up against Inter Miami, and the Herons then went on to score and leave with a point.
  • The New England Revolution beat Independiente to advance to the Concacaf Champions Cup’s round of 16.
  • Bay FC forward Racheal Kundananji had to exit Zambia’s Olympic qualifier against Ghana due to an injury.
  • The United States Men’s National Team’s next away kit was reportedly leaked and it sure is something. It’s like a Bomb Pop got mixed into the team’s laundry.
  • The USL Super League’s Fort Lauderdale United unveiled its branding and the colors are pretty nice. However, the logo has a bit too much alphabet soup going on for my liking.

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: 2/29/24

Lions reportedly won’t play in U.S. Open Cup, Cavalry FC reflects on its defeat, gauging the USWNT’s panic meter, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Leap Day, Mane Landers! It’s the rarest day of the year, as we all lean into our procrastination a bit and collectively tell March that we’ll get to it tomorrow. It’s been a pretty busy week for me, but knowing the MLS season is in full swing has helped fuel me a bit. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Orlando City Reportedly Won’t Play in 2024 U.S. Open Cup

The latest reports involving Major League Soccer’s participation in this year’s U.S. Open Cup indicate that Orlando City, along with a majority of MLS teams, won’t be playing their first teams in the tournament. According to ESPN‘s Jeff Carlisle, the Houston Dynamo and the seven best teams from last season that aren’t taking part in the Concacaf Champions Cup will have their first teams take part. The format will reportedly be announced soon and we’ll see if Orlando City B and other MLS NEXT Pro teams will be in the tournament.

It will be pretty disappointing if Orlando’s first team doesn’t end up playing. Even though the Lions suffered an early exit last year, they won in 2022 and Head Coach Oscar Pareja has a penchant for excelling in the U.S. Open Cup.

Cavalry FC Reflects on Loss to Orlando City

Although Cavalry FC lost in both legs against Orlando City in its first Concacaf Champions Cup campaign, the Canadian club can hold its head high. Cavalry Head Coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. spoke on the team’s tactics in the second leg in Orlando to overcome the hefty aggregate deficit.

“Strategically, we wanted to frustrate them in the first half with an extra defender, and often at times we were in a back five,” Wheeldon said. “And second half, we wanted to unleash with more attackers and have a go, because it was 0-0. We thought … one, we wanted to make history with our first goal, and two, we wanted to get a result here.”

That first goal did come with Myer Bevan making some history for his team to take back to Canada. All in all, Cavalry did pretty well as the underdog and it’s unfortunate it didn’t get a true home game in Calgary. Cavalry’s defense is the real deal and I doubt this is the last time it makes an appearance in the Champions Cup.

Assessing the Fallout From the USWNT’s Defeat

The United States Women’s National Team suffered a shocking defeat to Mexico earlier this week that’s brought on varying levels of panic. The clock is ticking before the Olympics and the USWNT struggled to bounce back after trailing in the first half and had difficulties on both sides of the ball. While the issues at center back will likely be solved once Naomi Girma and Tierna Davidson play, the midfield has plenty of question marks and a weird balance of youth and experience. It’s an awkward stage for the USWNT, as Emma Hayes doesn’t arrive until May and won’t have much time to get the team ready for Paris. Of course, the USWNT could still win this tournament and the return of Mallory Swanson may heal most wounds this summer, leaving this loss as just a minor blemish when the year is up. Only time will tell and the USWNT has plenty of opportunity to right the ship.

FA Cup Quarterfinals Are Set

It was a pretty wild day in the FA Cup, with some of England’s top teams fighting their way into the quarterfinals. Chelsea needed a late winner from Conor Gallagher to beat Leeds United 3-2 at Stamford Bridge. Manchester United’s match against Nottingham Forest also had a dramatic finish, as United’s Casemiro scored the game’s only goal in the 89th minute. Wolverhampton ousted Brighton thanks to an early goal, and Liverpool got the job done against Southampton.

In the quarterfinals, Newcastle will travel to take on Manchester City, Wolverhampton will host the second division’s Conventry City, Chelsea will take on Leicester City, and Manchester United will face off against Liverpool. All four matches will take place on March 16.

Free Kicks

  • After getting married, Orlando Pride defender Emily Madril will have a new name on the back of her jersey this season.
  • Former Pride midfielder Becky Edwards is an assistant coach at the University of Tennessee and shared details about her time as both a player and coach with the U.S. U-20 team.
  • Enjoy this captured moment of Orlando midfielder Wilder Cartagena being awesome.
  • LAFC forward Mateusz Bogusz’s strike against the Seattle Sounders won the first MLS Goal of the Matchday of the season, claiming 35.4% of the vote.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a pretty great Leap Day and that the rest of the week goes smoothly.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 2/28/24

Orlando City moves on in Champions Cup, Orlando Pride unveil new kits, USMNT to play Brazil in Orlando, and more.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope you all enjoyed watching Orlando City’s win Tuesday night in the Concacaf Champions Cup. I’ve been staying busy at Under Armour, while wrapping up covering high school basketball playoff action with the state championship this weekend. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Orlando City Defeats Cavalry FC in Concacaf Champions Cup

The Lions took care of business on Tuesday, defeating Cavalry FC 3-1 at Inter&Co Stadium to advance 6-1 on aggregate and reach the round of 16 in the Concacaf Champions Cup. Forward Luis Muriel got his first start as a Lion, and there was plenty of rotation from the lineup Head Coach Oscar Pareja used against CF Montreal this past weekend. It was Orlando’s first home win in the continental tournament and the Lions will face Tigres in the next round in a rematch of their series in last year’s Concacaf Champions League. The first match will be in Orlando on Tuesday, with the second leg taking place in Mexico on March 12.

Orlando Pride Unveil New Phoenix and Citrus Kits

The Orlando Pride unveiled two new kits on Tuesday as part of the NWSL’s league-wide kit reset ahead of the upcoming season. The first kit is called the Phoenix kit, which features the Pride’s two recognizable colors, purple and blue. The Phoenix kit also features a two-toned purple gradient that goes from the top right to bottom left on the jersey.

The secondary Citrus Kit is an all new color scheme that pays tribute to Florida’s citrus industry. The Citrus Kit features a new orange and iced-out green color scheme with oranges and leaves, while the letters and numbers have the same green coloring. The socks have “Pride” handwritten on the back, while a stylized “OP” is on the lower end of the jersey.

Both kits will be unveiled during the kit party at the Orlando Regional History Center later today. Fans can purchase replicas of the two new jerseys at ShopOrlandoPride.com, in the Den at Inter&Co Stadium, and on NWSLShop.com.

Philadelphia Union Advance Past Deportivo Saprissa

The Philadelphia Union survived a wild match against Deportivo Saprissa at Subaru Park, securing a 3-3 draw to advance to the next round on aggregate. There were four goals in the first 30 minutes of the match, and Mariano Torres gave Saprissa a needed third goal in the second half to send the game to extra time. Despite playing a man down after defender Jack Elliot was sent off, the Union’s Mikael Uhre scored in extra time and the defense held on to advance. There is more Concacaf Champions League action tonight, as FC Cincinnati takes on Cavalier SC, already up 2-0 on aggregate, while Nashville SC faces Moca FC with a 3-0 aggregate lead. The New England Revolution will host Independiente tomorrow.

USMNT to Play Brazil at Camping World Stadium

The United States Men’s National Team will play Brazil in the second edition of the Continental Clasico on June 12 at Camping World Stadium. Both teams will use this match to test themselves in preparation for the Copa America this summer. This will be the first meeting between these two sides since 2018, when the USMNT lost 2-0 to Brazil in a friendly at MetLife Stadium. In the first edition of the Continental Clasico last April, the USMNT played Mexico in a thrilling 1-1 draw. The USMNT has only beaten Brazil once in 19 matches, but its record in Orlando has been stellar, with a 7-2-0 record in recent years. The 2024 Copa America will kick off on June 20.

Free Kicks

  • The latest MLS power rankings have been released after opening week. Orlando City dropped three places to eighth after a scoreless draw against CF Montreal this past weekend.
  • The Orlando Pride’s Rafaelle started and scored a goal in Brazil’s win against Panama in the Concacaf W Gold Cup. Pride forward Adriana came off the bench for Brazil as well.
  • USMNT captain Tyler Adams is back at training with AFC Bournemouth. Adams has been sidelined since last September with a hamstring injury.

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

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