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Lion Links: 11/3/22



How’s it going, Mane Landers? We’re another day closer to the weekend and hopefully some relaxation. I don’t have many plans beyond trying out a new tapas place that just opened up nearby and enjoying brunch over espresso martinis with a friend that will be in town. But for now, let’s dive right into today’s links from around the soccer world.

Celebrating Orlando City’s Year

Orlando City put together a great collage that highlighted some of the most memorable parts of 2022. I always love these kinds of compilations as they can almost transport you back to that exact moment the photo was taken. Although Orlando won’t be taking part in Saturday’s MLS Cup final, it was still a great year filled with amazing goal celebrations, new faces, and a shiny trophy.

MLS Announces Best XI of 2022

MLS named its Best XI after the 2022 season and it features a front line of FC Cincinnati’s Brandon Vazquez, LAFC’s Carlos Vela, and FC Dallas’s Jesus Ferreira. MLS MVP Hany Mukhtar is in the midfield alongside Daniel Gazdag, Sebastian Driussi, and Luciano Acosta. It’s certainly a strong attack and I can’t think of a midfielder to replace any of those four, although Cristian Arango, Lucas Zelarayan, and Brenner would have a case.

The Philadelphia Union have the most representatives on the team, with Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake, joined by Defender of the Year Jakob Glesnes, fullback Kai Wagner, and Gazdag. The inclusion of Nashville’s Walker Zimmerman instead of Alex Callens, who was a finalist for Defender of the Year, as the third member of the back line is a bit odd to me. I also would’ve liked to see some fullbacks receive love in these end-of-year honors.

USWNT Will Take on New Zealand Twice in January

The United States Women’s National Team will head to New Zealand in January for a training camp and two friendlies against the Ferns. It should be a worthwhile trip for the USWNT as these friendlies are at the same venues the USWNT will play at during the 2023 World Cup. The two nations will first face off on Jan. 17 in Wellington and then meet again in Auckland on Jan. 20. Although these two teams have played against each other 19 times, this will be the first time they clash in New Zealand. USWNT Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski spoke about how valuable the friendlies will be for the team.

“Everything about this trip is a positive for our team ahead of the World Cup,” said Andonovski. “We will get some quality training time together and have two tough matches against a great opponent that is hosting the World Cup. We also get to experience the long travel and familiarize ourselves with the host cities, the stadiums, the training grounds and the culture, and hopefully we’ll play in front of some big crowds supporting the home team. It will be a great way to start the year.”

USMNT Announces Friendlies to Open 2023 in California

The United States Men’s National Team will play a pair of friendlies in Southern California for its first games of 2023. The USMNT will host Serbia at Banc of California Stadium on Jan. 25 before welcoming Colombia to Dignity Health Sports Park on Jan. 28. Both opponents are currently in the top 25 of FIFA’s rankings, so these should be good matches to gauge where the team is following this year’s World Cup. The U.S. will host the 2026 World Cup with Mexico and Canada, which puts more of an emphasis on friendlies over the next few years, as the USMNT won’t need to qualify. Hopefully we see some of those friendlies take place in Orlando, considering the city wasn’t selected to host in 2026.

Champions League Group Stage Comes to an End

There were a pair of winner-take-all matches as the Champions League’s group stage came to a close. Olivier Giroud starred for AC Milan with two goals and two assists as the Italian club beat RB Salzburg 4-0 to reach the knockout stage. RB Leipzig cruised to a 4-0 win against Shakhtar Donetsk in Poland to book its ticket in the next round and send the Ukrainian club to the Europa League.

Juventus fell 2-1 at home to Paris Saint-Germain, but was still able to secure a spot in the Europa League rather than finishing last in Group H as Benfica won 6-1 over Maccabi Haifa. While that result was lopsided, the two teams were level at halftime and Benfica had a reason to pile on the goals. Joao Mario’s goal in stoppage time lifted Benfica over PSG to win the group due to the seventh tiebreaker of away goals. It’s as if the ghost of the abolished away goals rule reared its head and now an unlucky group winner will face PSG.

Six Americans remain in the Champions League, including Borussia Dortmund’s Giovanni Reyna, Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic, and Milan’s Sergino Dest. The draw will take place on Monday at 6 a.m.

Free Kicks

  • If watching carefully, you’ll be able to spot Orlando’s Facundo Torres and Cesar Araujo in Uruguay’s training.

  • West Brom Head Coach Carlos Corberan stated that former Lion Daryl Dike is in the last step of his recovery from an injury that’s sidelined him since August.
  • Former Lion Hadji Barry is a finalist for USL Championship MVP and was named to the All-League Second Team alongside former Lion Cam Lindley. Congratulations also go out to Rodrigo Lopez, who played for Orlando in the USL back in 2012 and was named to the All-League First Team.
  • Ethan Horvath made three saves to earn his seventh clean sheet this season as Luton Town battled Reading to a scoreless draw. Meanwhile, fellow American goalkeeper Zack Steffen came up with one save in Middlesbrough’s 3-1 win over Hull City.
  • American defender Chris Richards spoke about the racism he’s faced throughout his life and how he uses his platform to make a difference. As a Black man, I can personally attest that it can feel like racism is a tidal wave that can’t be beaten, just endured. But this interview helped remind me that the little things we can all do to support one another aren’t so little at all.
  • Enjoy this dive into how American midfielder Tyler Adams is rising to meet expectations in the English Premier League. Not only is he making important tackles, his forward thinking and work off the ball may be Leeds United’s saving grace this season.
  • Canada named its 21-player roster for the team’s friendly against Bahrain on Nov. 11 in preparation for the World Cup later this month. Former Lions Richie Laryea and Kamal Miller were called up for the friendly.
  • Christine Sinclair announced that she will be staying with the Portland Thorns for another year in emphatic fashion.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week.

Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/9/23

Orlando City gets ready for the Colorado Rapids, OCB faces FC Cincinnati 2 on Sunday, U-20 World Cup final is set, and more.



How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope this Friday finds you well as we gear up for a weekend filled to the brim with Orlando soccer. My friends are taking me out for teppanyaki and scorpion bowls tonight, so it should be a pretty nice day on my end. Hopefully your Friday goes smoothly as well. Now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

Orlando City Prepares for the Colorado Rapids

The Lions are on a five-game unbeaten run as they get ready for a home match tomorrow night against the Colorado Rapids. Facundo Torres scored twice in the team’s 3-0 win over the New York Red Bulls last weekend. Hopefully he can keep the momentum rolling against a Colorado team that’s allowed 25 goals this season and sits last in the league in points per game, with just two wins in 17 matches. Pedro Gallese also recorded his 26th clean sheet for Orlando in last week’s win, and could make his 100th appearance as a Lion tomorrow night. The Lions will have to keep an eye on Irish midfielder Connor Ronan, who has six assists in his first season with the Rapids.

Orlando City B Aims to Bounce Back at Home

After a 3-0 defeat to Toronto FC II in Canada this past weekend, Orlando City B will look to right the ship on Sunday at home against FC Cincinnati 2. The Young Lions are unbeaten at home this season, winning four of their six games at Osceola Heritage Park. The last time these two teams played was in August of last year, with Cincy winning in the penalty shootout following a 2-2 draw. Although he didn’t score in that match, OCB forward Jack Lynn scored three goals against Cincinnati last year and currently leads OCB with six goals this season. Sunday’s match should be a good opportunity for OCB’s offense to bounce back against a leaky Cincy defense.

USMNT Players Focused Despite Coaching Search

With European seasons over, American players who have been plying their trade abroad are back in the U.S. to prepare for the Concacaf Nations League and Gold Cup this month. The team will be coached by B.J. Callaghan in an interim capacity while the search for a head coach continues. Although not having a permanent head coach for these tournaments isn’t ideal, Nashville SC center back Walker Zimmerman spoke on how the team still knows how to get the job done.

“We’re a team that has a very strong team chemistry, strong culture within our group. And we know that for us, not much has changed right now,” said Zimmerman. “We know the same principles, style of play, expectations, accountability – all those things are the same. So I think that’s player-driven, to hold each other accountable to the standards that we’ve set over the past four years. BJ, he’s on top of it. He’s knowledgeable about what we want to do, how we’re going to go about these games.”

The roster includes many of the players who featured in the World Cup last year, but the striker position is one to watch due to the new faces involved. Folarin Balogun is with the team for the first time and it will be interesting to see how he measures up against Ricardo Pepi, Alex Zendejas, and Jesus Ferreira. We will get to see who spearheads the USMNT’s attack next Thursday, when the Yanks take on Mexico in Las Vegas.

Italy and Uruguay Reach U-20 World Cup Final

Only two teams remain in the U-20 World Cup after Italy and Uruguay each won their semifinals. Uruguay, which beat the U.S. in the quarterfinals, beat Israel 1-0, thanks to a goal in the second half from Anderson Duarte. In Italy’s semifinal against South Korea, Cesare Casadei’s terrific tournament continued as he gave Italy the lead in the 14th minute. South Korea equalized soon after with a penalty kick, but 17-year-old forward Simone Pafundi scored a nice free kick to send Italy into the final.

The final will take place on Sunday at 5 p.m., with the third-place match set for 1:30 p.m. It will be Italy’s first time playing in a U-20 World Cup final, while it will be Uruguay’s third time after losing in 1997 and 2013.

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

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/8/23

Orlando Pride match postponed, Lionel Messi will join Inter Miami, West Ham wins Europa Conference League, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

It’s Thursday, which is a little worse than Friday, but still much better than Monday. I hope this week has been treating you well and that you have some fun to look forward to over the next few days. All three of Orlando’s soccer teams are in action this weekend as well. Let’s jump into today’s links!

Orlando Pride NWSL Challenge Cup Match Postponed

Wednesday’s NWSL Challenge Cup match between the Orlando Pride and NJ/NY Gotham FC had to be postponed due to poor air quality conditions in the New York metropolitan area. Wildfires in Canada were the cause of the hazy conditions that were expected to worsen when the match was set to take place. That match has now been postponed until Aug. 9, which is during the NWSL’s break for the Women’s World Cup. The Pride will be back in action this Sunday for a difficult match against the league-leading Portland Thorns.

“Pride in Our City” Kicks Off This Weekend

Orlando City and the Orlando Pride are both playing at home this weekend in matches that will also celebrate the LGBTQ community and remember the 49 victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting. Players will wear jerseys with rainbow numbers, which is also available as a customization option when buying jerseys at The Den at Exploria Stadium and online. Both matches will feature national anthem and halftime performances by the Orlando Gay Chorus as well. Limited-time apparel, patches, and merchandise will be sold, with a portion of the proceeds going towards the Orlando City Foundation to support the LGBTQ community.

Lionel Messi Will Join Inter Miami

One of the greatest soccer players of all time is headed to MLS. Although not finalized yet, star forward Lionel Messi announced that he will join Inter Miami. There were many reported moving parts involved, including an option for part-ownership of the club, a cut of revenue from new MLS Season Pass subscribers, and a deal between Messi and Adidas. He joins a Miami side that sits last in the Eastern Conference and recently sacked Phil Neville. This does add an interesting layer to the reported talks between Miami and Tata Martino, who coached Messi during his time with Argentina and Barcelona.

It’s great to see MLS in a position to add one of the most sought-after free agents in the world, although I do wish he wasn’t playing for an Orlando rival. The Lions could face Messi for the first time when the two sides clash at Exploria Stadium on Sept. 24. Orlando updated the ticket information for that match as well, with priority access available starting today for new season ticket, group ticket, and match pack purchases. A limited number of single-game tickets will be made available as well, and season ticket members will receive pre-sale priority before the public.

West Ham Wins Europa Conference League

West Ham United lifted its first European trophy in 58 years by beating Fiorentina 2-1 in the Europa Conference League final in Prague. The two teams traded goals in the second half before Jarrod Bowen beat an offside trap to score the winner in the 90th minute. The win capped off a great tournament from the English club, which won 12 of its 13 games during the title-winning campaign. West Ham finished 14th in the English Premier League, but will play in the Europa League next season after this victory. Unfortunately, the match wasn’t without controversy, as Fiorentina captain Cristiano Biraghi was struck in the head by thrown objects that drew blood. Thankfully, he was able to get bandaged up to finish out the match.

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That’s all I have for you today. Make sure to hydrated out there as this summer heats up. Have a great Thursday!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/7/23

Orlando City moves up in MLS power rankings, Orlando Pride take on Gotham FC tonight, USMNT announces official Concacaf Nations League roster, and more.



Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers. How is everyone doing so far this week? I’ve been doing well and keeping myself busy lately. I’ll be working the Dead & Company concert this weekend at Wrigley Field. There is plenty to get to today, so let’s get to the links.

Orlando City Moves Up in MLS Power Rankings

Orlando City moved up five spots to 10th in the latest MLS power rankings. The Lions defeated the New York Red Bulls 3-0 on the road this past Saturday. Ivan Angulo put together a stellar performance and Facundo Torres scored twice in the match to help the Lions extend their unbeaten run to five matches. Around the league, the Columbus Crew also moved up five spots, climbing to sixth after a 4-2 win against Charlotte FC. Cincinnati edged out LAFC for the top spot in the power rankings following its 1-0 shutout win against the Chicago Fire.

Orlando Pride Take on NJ/NY Gotham FC Tonight

The Orlando Pride will play NJ/NY Gotham FC tonight in their third group stage match of the 2023 NWSL Challenge Cup. The match kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at Red Bull Arena and you can watch it on CBS Sports Network or stream it on Paramount+. The Pride are at the bottom of their group following a draw and a loss so far in the competition. Ally Watt scored in those first two matches for the Pride, with Summer Yates providing the assists on both of those goals. Gotham is unbeaten in the Challenge Cup and leads the group with four points. The Pride are unbeaten in their last six matches on the road in all competitions against Gotham, including a scoreless draw last month in league play.

USMNT Announces 23-Man Roster for Concacaf Nations League

The U.S. Soccer Federation officially announced the 23-man roster for the U.S. Men’s National Team before the 2023 Concacaf Nations League.

Goalkeeper Josh Cohen, who plays for Maccabi Haifa in Israel, was the lone player dropped from the preliminary roster announced last week. The USMNT will play rival Mexico on June 15 in the Concacaf Nations League semifinals at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. If the U.S. prevails in that match, it will face the winner of the match between Canada and Panama. The final is set to take place in Las Vegas on June 18.

U.S. Open Cup Quarterfinals Begin

The quarterfinals of the 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup kicked off last night with two matches. FC Cincinnati defeated the Pittsburgh Riverhounds out of the USL Championship, 3-1, with Brandon Vazquez, Alvaro Barreal, and Santiago Arias all scoring in the second half. The Houston Dynamo also booked their spot in the semifinals after winning 4-1 over the Fire. Nigerian winger Ibrahim Aliyu had a brace for Houston in the road win. Today, we have two more matches to determine who else will move on to the semifinals. Birmingham Legion FC of the USL Championship will take on Inter Miami, while Real Salt Lake will face the LA Galaxy.

Free Kicks

  • In case you missed it, check out the sights and sounds of Orlando’s road victory at Red Bull Arena this past weekend.

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

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