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Lion Links: 1/7/23

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Welcome to the weekend, Mane Landers! Here’s one that has almost certainly never been put into the links. Tonight, I’m taking my wife to her first ever tractor pull. It might sound like an odd way to spend a Saturday night in January, but I was raised in rural Tennessee and this feels like homecoming in a way. If you have never been to a tractor pull or have no idea what I’m talking about, it’s like a mix of a farmer’s drag race and motorized CrossFit. And if that still doesn’t make sense, check out this video clip of fails and wild rides. Don’t worry though, I’ll be sure to catch some soccer action this morning with the English FA Cup. Now, enough about tractors. Let’s get to what you all came here for — today’s links!

Bye Bye, Benji

Despite Orlando City extending a Bona Fide offer to Benji Michel, the forward has decided to part ways and take his talents to Europe. The Orlando native has signed with FC Arouca in Portugal’s top flight, the Primeira Liga. Michel started in 50 of his 103 league matches with Orlando City, while accumulating 5,154 minutes. He scored 15 goals, added six assists, and appeared in all four of the club’s playoff games to date.

Loyola Called Up to U-19 Team Camp

The United States Under-19 Men’s Youth National Team will kick off 2023 with a training camp at the University of Miami. Head Coach Marko Mitrović has called 23 players in and all are eligible for this summer’s 2023 FIFA Under-20 World Cup in Indonesia. Orlando City midfielder Favian Loyola is among those receiving the call. The 17-year-old midfielder became the club’s 13th Homegrown in December after inking a three-year deal, with two additional years of club options.

Daryl Dike Bounces Back

Former Orlando City striker Daryl Dike had a difficult 2022. After finding himself as a January transfer from Orlando City to West Bromwich Albion — worth around $9.5 million up front and potentially more in future sell-on fees — Dike crashed hard into a string of injuries that limited him to just four appearances during his first 10 months with the English Championship club. The lengthy time off the pitch turned him from a rising USMNT No. 9 contender to an afterthought in a World Cup year. However, the striker has produced since finally getting healthy, and people are taking notice.

“What he’s doing right now is so commendable. It’s so fun to watch,” three-time USMNT World Cup striker and SiriusXM pundit Eric Wynalda told MLSsoccer.com this week. “That diving header the other day, to me, that’s just a striker’s goal. It’s a guy with a knack of where to be at the right time – can’t teach that. You can only screw it up, to be honest.”

Dike’s physical presence has clearly lifted both teammates and fans alike. West Bromwich Albion enters the new year as one of England’s hottest teams, skyrocketing from last place in the 24-team Championship to ninth.

“What I love about his game is, it still has the ability to evolve, especially with his back to goal,” said striker turned television personality Taylor Twellman. “His feet are softer than people think, than he’s given credit for. The instincts in and around the goal, I think playing in the Championship, all of those things are things that, even for the Josh Sargents of the world, that league is about survival, hunger and just wanting it more than others when it comes to in and around the box. And I think that enhances any natural goalscoring instincts that may be there in a player.”

One thing is for certain — if Dike can continue to garner minutes and stay healthy, he has an opportunity to become the future of the USMNT striker pool before the 2026 FIFA World Cup. There is definitely more to come from Daryl Dike.

Sophia Smith Named U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year

Portland Thorns FC forward Sophia Smith has had quite the year. She was the leading scorer for both the U.S. Women’s National Team and Portland Thorns FC, won the National Women’s Soccer League’s Most Valuable Player Award, and was named MVP of the NWSL Championship Game. Smith has now claimed her first U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year Award for the 2022 year.

Smith becomes the 19th different player to win the award in its 38-year history and also just the fourth player to win both U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year and U.S. Soccer Female Player of the Year, proving her continued great form. At the age of 22, Smith was the youngest player to lead the USWNT in scoring since 1993 and the youngest ever NWSL MVP.

“Obviously this is surreal, and I’m super humbled,” said Smith. “It’s been a very exciting year, and certainly there’s been some challenges, but just being able to grow and develop in the environments with the National Team and the Thorns, and being surround by such amazing players, players that I have looked up to for so long, has pushed me to become a better player and person. I’ve said many times, if you embrace these environments, you have no choice but to get better and grow, and that’s a testament to the players, coaches and all of the staff. I appreciate everyone holding me to such high standards day in and day out. This award wouldn’t be possible without all those people, and the best thing about it, is that it’s fun too. The journey is so much better when you are doing something so fun and something you love.”

San Diego Wave FC midfielder Jaedyn Shaw was voted the U.S. Soccer Young Female Player of the Year after a standout rookie season in the NWSL and a solid performance at the 2022 FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup.

Aurélien Collin Joins Houston Dynamo Coaching

Former Orlando City defender Aurélien Collin has joined Ben Olsen’s coaching staff with the Houston Dynamo. He will serve as an assistant coach alongside two other new additions —Tim Hanley and Adin Osmanbasic.

“We are happy to announce the first additions to Ben Olsen’s coaching staff for the 2023 season,” said Dynamo general manager, Pat Onstad. “Aurélien is a hungry, up-and-coming coach with clear ideas about the game and a history of leading successful MLS teams as a player… As with many of our new hires and new players this offseason, we are adding hungry, values-driven people with a history of winning. And we’re not finished, yet.” 

Collin transitioned to coaching following his retirement from professional soccer in March 2022. The defender won the 2013 MLS Cup and was named finals MVP with Sporting Kansas City before joining the Lions in 2015 as an MLS expansion side, starting 27 of his 28 regular-season games. After only playing two games for the Lions in 2016, Collin left the club, having found the back of the net twice in his tenure. As a stalwart on any team’s back line, he competed in the MLS Cup playoffs in eight of his 11 seasons as a player in Major League Soccer across his various clubs.

Free Kicks

  • Former Orlando City academy director Darren Powell has been promoted to Inter Miami’s first-team technical staff. With that move, Inter Miami CF II has appointed Federico Higuaín as head coach ahead of the 2023 MLS NEXT Pro season.


There was a whole slew of transfer news coming through this week. With the preseason set to begin soon, there will surely be more. I personally love the drama and rumors. With no official announcement from the club of Martín Ojeda joining as the third DP, who would you like to see the club go after should the deal fall through? Let me know in the comments below!

I hope you all enjoy your weekend. Vamos Orlando.

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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Lion Links

Lion Links: 7/16/24

Facundo Torres named to Team of the Matchday, Colombian soccer president arrested, transfer rumor roundup, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Jeremy Reper

Happy Tuesday, everyone! I had a slightly subdued start to my week, as my beloved Colombia was unable to get past Argentina to win Copa America. Life goes on though, and with a pair of Orlando City games this week, as well as an Orlando City B match, things will continue to be very busy around here. As usual, we have a lot to talk about, so let’s get started on today’s links.

Facundo Torres Makes MLS Team of the Matchday

Facundo Torres’ efforts in Saturday’s victory were recognized with a place in the MLS Team of the Matchday, along with an MLS Goal of the Week nomination to boot. Torres gets the nod on the left wing following the brace he scored to help the Lions come back to win over the New England Revolution. His second goal was nominated for the best one of the matchday, as he beautifully curled a first-time strike into the side netting to double Orlando’s advantage. Here’s hoping this run of form continues.

Colombian Federation President Arrested

As if losing the Copa America final 1-0 to Brazil wasn’t painful enough, Ramon Jesurun, the president of the Colombian Football Federation, was arrested in the hours after the game ended. Jesurun faces three felony counts of battery on a specified official or employee. His son was also arrested, and faces the same charges in addition to a misdemeanor battery charge. The specified incidents seem to have occurred while the final was taking place, with the event as a whole being marred by massive security and overcrowding issues.

Transfer News Roundup

We’ve got plenty of transfer news to catch up on, and we’ll get started in Major League Soccer. The Colorado Rapids have sold goalkeeper Marko Ilic to Serbia’s Red Star Belgrade. Sticking with the Rapids, Tom Bogert reports that the team is in talks with Lyon over selling Canadian defender Moise Bambito to the French side. Moving to Europe, Everton has reportedly made contact with Juventus about signing Weston McKennie. Arsenal and Aston Villa are both reportedly interested in signing Mikel Merino from Real Sociedad following his strong Euro 2024 showing with Spain.

International Retirements Abound

A number of high-profile players have retired from international play following the conclusion of this summer’s international tournaments. Olivier Giroud has called time on his international career, confirming what he had said before the start of the tournament. He retires as France’s all-time leading scorer, with 57 tallies in 137 matches. Xherdan Shaqiri has retired from playing for Switzerland, and he bows out as the only Swiss player to appear in seven major tournaments. Finally, like Giroud, Angel di Maria stuck to what he said prior to the start of Copa America, and has retired from playing for Argentina after winning the latest edition of the tournament.

Free Kicks

  • New Orlando Pride player Grace Chanda stopped by to take a look at her new home.
  • Orlando City rose one spot to 14th in ESPN‘s MLS power rankings.
  • Former Orlando Pride player Chioma Ubogagu has signed with USL Super League side Dallas Trinity.
  • Cristian Arango has been suspended four games for violating MLS’ Anti-Harassment Policy. He will serve one game of the suspension during the MLS All-Star Game, which is…weird.

That’s all I have for you today. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 7/15/24

Lion Links: Orlando City tops New England, OCB wins shootout after Miami draw, Euro and Copa America champions crowned, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you down in Florida. I’ve been working at Under Armour all weekend and managing broadcast operations for tournament matches for the NISA Independent Cup.

Before we get started, let’s wish Orlando Pride defender Carrie Lawrence a happy birthday. We’ve got plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links. 

Lions Beat New England Revolution at Gillette Stadium

Orlando City overturned a poor first half and a 1-0 deficit to defeat the New England Revolution 3-1 and secure its first win at Gillette Stadium. All the Lions’ goals came in the second half, as Facundo Torres found the back of the net twice and Ramiro Enrique added one as well. Orlando won its third consecutive game and fourth in its past five matches. Orlando stays in seventh in the Eastern Conference with 30 points, while New England dropped to 13th with 22 points. The Lions will be on the road for a clash against Nashville SC on Wednesday at Geodis Park.

Barbra Banda, Anna Moorhouse named to NWSL Best XI

Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda and goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse were named to the NWSL’s Best XI for June. Banda scored three goals and added three assists in four matches. She also became the first player in league history to score 12 goals in her first 12 appearances. Moorhouse recorded 20 saves and only allowed one goal last month. She also has seven clean sheets this year and has tied the club record for most clean sheets in a single season. Orlando’s next match will be on the road on Saturday against the North Carolina Courage in the NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup.

OCB Draws at Home Against Inter Miami CF II

Orlando City B and Inter Miami CF II battled to a 1-1 draw at Osceola County Stadium on Sunday. Inter Miami CF II struck first, but the Young Lions came up with a great Wilfredo Rivera goal to equalize and send the game to penalty kicks. In the shootout, OCB won 2-0 to grab the extra point. OCB remains 10th in the Eastern Conference with 23 points, and its next match will be on the road on Sunday against New York Red Bulls II.

USWNT Beats Mexico in Friendly

The U.S. Women’s National Team avenged its loss to Mexico in the Concacaf Women’s Gold Cup earlier this year with a 1-0 victory in a friendly at Red Bull Arena on Saturday. Sophia Smith scored the lone goal in the second half. The USWNT has not conceded a goal in its last three matches with Emma Hayes on the sidelines. Also, the USWNT that won the 1999 Women’s World Cup was honored before the match as it was the 25th anniversary. The USWNT will have one more match against Costa Rica on Tuesday before it travels to Paris for the Olympics.

Spain Wins Its Fourth European Championship

Spain edged past England 2-1 in the Euro 2024 final in Berlin to win its fourth European Championship. Nico Willams put Spain in front before Cole Palmer got an equalizer for England. It looked like we were about to go to extra time until Mikel Oyarzabal struck late in the second half to seal the win for Spain. This was Spain’s first major title since winning Euro 2012. Spain won all seven of its matches and is the first team to score 15 goals in a tournament. As for England, it has lost consecutive European Championship finals and extended its major trophy drought to 58 years.

Argentina Wins Copa America Final

This year’s Copa America also came to a close, with Argentina beating Colombia 1-0 to win its 16th title. It took extra time to determine a winner after a scoreless 90 minutes. Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez, who led the tournament in goals, came off the bench and scored the winner. The result snapped Colombia’s 28-game unbeaten streak and it was the first time Colombia was shut out in this tournament. Lionel Messi exited the game in the second half due to an apparent ankle injury as well.

Free Kicks

  • Former Orlando City defender Ruan scored the winning goal for CF Montreal against Atlanta United over the weekend.
  • Kickoff for the 2024 Copa America final was delayed after fans without tickets breached one of the security gates at Miami’s Hard Rock Stadium. Police secured the gate, and kickoff for the match was delayed an hour and 20 minutes.
  • Celtic is reportedly close to an agreement to add former Leicester City, Nice, and Anderlecht goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel.
  • England manager Gareth Southgate stated he would discuss his future with the national team with important people behind the scenes, even though the English FA has indicated it prefers him to stay on. Southgate’s contract expires in December.

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

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