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Lion Links: 1/26/23

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How’s it going, Mane Landers? We’re less than a month away from Orlando City’s season opener and I’m really looking forward to it. In the meantime, I’ve been reading some books and watching The Last of Us. I’m usually not the biggest fan of horror or suspense, but it’s been hard for me not to enjoy the show so far. Anyway, let’s dive into today’s links!

Rodrigo Schlegel Signs a New Deal

Orlando City signed center back Rodrigo Schlegel to a new contract that will keep him in the City Beautiful through the 2024 season, with options for 2025 and 2026 as well. This news comes only a little over a year since Schlegel signed a two-year contract following the 2021 season. He joined Orlando on loan before the 2020 season and became a folk hero of sorts after stepping up as a goalkeeper in Orlando’s first MLS playoff appearance and scoring a late equalizer in the team’s U.S. Open Cup campaign last year. However, those moments shouldn’t overshadow how important he’s been to Orlando’s defense. It’s nice to see that a fan favorite like Schlegel will be sticking around for years to come.

USMNT Loses to Serbia in Friendly

The United States Men’s National Team fell 2-1 to Serbia in its first match of 2023. Seven players made their debuts for the USMNT in this match. Although the team lost, there were some positives. In his first appearance for the USMNT, FC Cincinnati’s Brandon Vazquez scored in the first half thanks in part to a great ball into the box by fellow debutant Julian Gressel.

Goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina made his USMNT debut as well and came up with three saves. However, the defense struggled as a whole. Serbia scored at the end of the first half off of a free kick and then scored again at the start of the second half to take the lead. Cade Cowell had some good chances to pull the Yanks level, but they ultimately weren’t able to find an equalizer. The USMNT will now need to dust itself off and get ready for another friendly on Saturday against Colombia.

Grant Wahl Will Posthumously Receive Award

The late Grant Wahl will be honored as the recipient of this year’s Colin Jose Media Award at the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame’s induction ceremony on May 6 in Frisco, TX. The award is given to journalists who have made long-term contributions to soccer in the U.S. Wahl worked for Sports Illustrated for 25 years, covering soccer and growing the popularity of the sport. An advocate for social justice, Wahl’s reporting delved into both the results on the field and the cultural impact of soccer off of it. A tribute was placed at the USMNT’s match last night, with the number on the jersey representing the 11 combined men’s and women’s World Cups he covered.

Damion Lowe Headed to Philadelphia

Inter Miami traded center back Damion Lowe to the Philadelphia Union in exchange for $225,000 in General Allocation Money, a first-round pick in the 2024 MLS SuperDraft, and forward Shanyder Borgelin’s rights. Lowe started in 28 games to help Miami reach the playoffs last season. It’s an interesting trade by the Union considering they already have Jacob Glesnes and Jack Elliott, but the depth will be important with so many tournaments for the Union this year. As for Miami, it’s a fairly nice haul for the defender. Borgelin played for Inter Miami II in the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro season and led the team with 14 goals.

Free Kicks

  • Enjoy some highlights from Orlando’s training camping in Bradenton as the Lions get ready for the 2023 season.

  • Former Lion Nicholas Gioacchini, who was selected in the 2022 MLS Expansion Draft by St. Louis City, converted a penalty in his new club’s preseason match against the Union. The game ended in a draw.

  • The Chicago Red Stars signed Brazilian defensive midfielder Julia Bianchi to a two-year contract.
  • NJ/NY Gotham FC announced that it signed American defender Kelley O’Hara back in November, but now it is finally official.
  • Giovanni Reyna scored another late winner for Borussia Dortmund. It wasn’t as spectacular as the one he scored this past weekend, but it gave Dortmund an important win.

  • American midfielder Djordje Mihailovic scored his first goal for AZ Alkmaar in a 4-1 win against Go Ahead Eagles. I’m not sure if Mihailovic forgot he can use his feet.

  • Manchester United cruised to a 3-0 win on the road against Nottingham Forest in the Carabao Cup semifinals. The second leg will take place on Wednesday at Old Trafford.
  • FC Barcelona snapped Real Sociedad’s nine-game winning streak in a 1-0 victory in the Copa del Rey quarterfinals.
  • In the UEFA Nations League semifinals this summer, Italy will face Spain and the Netherlands will take on Croatia.
  • The Super Cup, a match played between the winners of the Champions League and Europa League, will no longer take place in Russia this August. Instead, the match will be played in Athens.

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

Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/27/24

Orlando City loses to the Crew, Pride and OCB win, Southampton seals return to Premier League, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

Happy Memorial Day, Mane Landers! I hope you all had a good holiday weekend. I worked at Under Armour all weekend while wrapping up my high school sports coverage for the spring season. It was a mixed weekend for our teams. Orlando City lost, but both the Pride and OCB won their matches. We’ve got plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links. 

Lions Lose at Home to Columbus Crew

Orlando City lost 2-0 to the Columbus Crew on Saturday at Inter&Co Stadium and saw its three-match unbeaten streak end. The match’s first goal was controversial as the referee, Jair Marrufo, initially awarded the Lions a penalty late in the first half but went to the monitor and reviewed a play at the other end of the pitch. He instead awarded Columbus a penalty kick. Diego Rossi scored from the spot to put the Crew ahead 1-0 before halftime. Columbus extended its winning streak to three matches. Orlando has struggled at home, going just 1-3-4 so far this season. The Lions have not scored a goal at home since April 27. Despite the loss, the Lions still remain in 10th in the Eastern Conference with 16 points. Next up for Orlando is a pair of road matches this week, starting Wednesday at the Chicago Fire, followed by a Saturday night matchup against the New York Red Bulls. 

Pride Win at Home Over Portland Thorns

The Orlando Pride won their record-setting eighth straight match with a 2-1 victory at Inter&Co Stadium against the Portland Thorns Friday. Barbra Banda scored two goals in the first half to give the Pride a 2-0 lead going into halftime. Portland pulled one back, but the Pride held on for the victory and claimed three points. Orlando remains undefeated in league play after 11 matches, and the Pride stay atop the NWSL table with 27 points. The Pride are off this week but will return to action on the road next Friday, June 7, against the San Diego Wave.

OCB Win at Home against Huntsville City FC

On Sunday, Orlando City B bounced back with a season-high five goals in a 5-0 win over Hunstville City FC at Osceola County Stadium. Jhon Solis, Yutaro Tsukada, and Shak Mohammed put OCB ahead 3-0, while Yeiler Valencia scored his first two OCB goals to seal the win for the Young Lions. OCB is now in sixth in the Eastern Conference with 16 points. Meanwhile, Huntsville City FC remains winless through 10 matches and stays at the bottom of the Eastern Conference. OCB’s next match will be on the road Sunday at Inter Miami CF II. 

Southampton Clinches Promotion to Premier League

Southampton booked its return to the Premier League with a 1-0 over Leeds United in the EFL Championship playoff final at Wembley Sunday. Adam Armstrong scored the lone goal in this match as the Saints returned to the top flight after being relegated the previous season. Southampton joins Leicester City and Ipswich Town, securing promotion to the Premier League. Despite finishing third in the table, Leeds’ playoff woes continue as this is the sixth time it missed out on securing promotion and finished its season with only one win out of its last six matches. 

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

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/24/24

Orlando City prepares for the Crew, Barbra Banda an NWSL MVP favorite, Orlando Pride announce sleeve sponsor, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! The gauntlet of Orlando soccer home games starts tonight when the Orlando Pride take on the Portland Thorns in a clash of win streaks. I’m working for most of the weekend, but am looking forward to watching some soccer and playing my way through the Ace Attorney games during my spare time. For now though, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

Orlando City Gets Ready to Host the Crew

Orlando City is on a three-game unbeaten run and will take on the Columbus Crew Saturday night in an Eastern Conference showdown. The last time these two sides met was in the 2023 Eastern Conference semifinals with the Crew winning in extra time to eliminate the Lions. It’s the third consecutive road game for the Crew after winning 3-1 against both CF Montreal and the Chicago Fire. Saturday’s match is also the Crew’s last match before the Concacaf Champions Cup final on June 1. Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja spoke on how the Lions will be up to the task regardless of which players take the field for Columbus. Pareja also spoke about how Duncan McGuire is working his way back from the injury he suffered last week.

Barbra Banda Named MVP Frontrunner

ESPN updated its rankings of players in contention to be named NWSL MVP this season and Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda tops the list. The Zambian forward hasn’t been with the Pride for long, but she has scored six goals in six games to help the Pride win seven straight games. Opposing defenses haven’t figured out a way to stop her, and it’s fair to think of her as an MVP favorite alongside fellow attackers in the league like Sophia Smith and Temwa Chawinga. Pride defender Emily Sams also earned herself a spot on the list, ranking 11th. It’s nice to see her get some deserved recognition for her role in the Pride’s stellar defense this year.

Orlando Pride Announce Sleeve Sponsor

A partnership was announced between the Orlando Pride and Heart of Florida United Way, a charity that’s supported families in Central Florida for the past 85 years. As part of the partnership, Heart of Florida United Way will become the first sleeve sponsor for the Pride and its logo will be on the right sleeve of both of the Pride’s jerseys this year. A new ticket program is also being created for 50 tickets to be donated to a local charity for each Pride home game.

Orlando City Unveils Watch Party Schedule

The schedule for this Orlando City season’s watch parties is out, along with the lineup of this year’s included pubs. Each pub will have MLS Season Pass access for fans to watch Orlando’s games this year and there will be chances to win tickets and autographed items at the watch parties as well. There are three new pubs added to the lineup this year, including The Castle Irish Pub at College Park, Paddywagon Irish Pub in Dr. Phillips, and Winter Garden’s Hagan O’Reilly’s. The first watch party will be at The Hammered Lamb in Ivanhoe Village on June 1 when the Lions face off against the New York Red Bulls.

Free Kicks

  • Pride midfielder Evelina Duljan was called up to join Sweden’s U-23 team for the upcoming Four Nations Tournament.
  • NWSL Commissioner Jessica Berman became the first woman to be named Sports Business Journal‘s Sports Executive of the Year.

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

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/23/24

Orlando Pride prepare for the Portland Thorns, Pride Brazilian trio called up, Atalanta wins Europa League, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope this Thursday finds you well as we all get ready for a busy next few days of Orlando soccer to enjoy. It’s been a fairly busy couple of days for me, and I plan on knocking out a few errands before enjoying the upcoming matches. Until then, let’s enjoy today’s links!

Pride Prepare to Host the Portland Thorns

The Orlando Pride have a huge home game against the Portland Thorns tomorrow night. It will be a clash of win streaks, as the Pride have won their past seven games and the Thorns have won their last six. Pride Head Coach Seb Hines is well aware that Portland is a formidable foe with talented players such as Sophia Smith, Becky Sauerbrunn, and Sam Coffey. He spoke on how tomorrow will be a challenge, as well as how playing at home will give the Pride a boost during the game.

Pride Trio Called Up by Brazil

The Pride’s Marta, Rafaelle, and Adriana were all called up for Brazil’s pair of friendlies against Jamaica in Brazil on June 1 and June 4.

These matches will help Brazil prepare for a tough group in the Olympics against Spain, Japan, and Nigeria. Angelina, who featured for Brazil during the SheBelieves Cup, was not called up due to an injury sustained while with the Pride. Although these games will take place during an international break, the Pride do have a road game against the San Diego Wave on June 7, so I wouldn’t be surprised if Hines gives them some rest for that match.

Assessing Emma Hayes’ Time With Chelsea

It felt like forever ago that it was announced Chelsea’s Emma Hayes would leave the club to replace Vlatko Andonovski and coach the USWNT. A great article by ESPN broke down what USWNT fans can learn from her time with Chelsea, including how she’s dealt with the adversity she’s faced both on and off the field. Her impending exit put a spotlight on Chelsea’s season, and she still managed to secure the league title despite the pressure. Chelsea also announced that five members of the coaching staff will leave the club to join Hayes at the USWNT. It’s a new era for the USWNT, and Hayes brings plenty of experience and leadership to the position.

Atalanta Crushes Leverkusen to Win Europa League

Italian club Atalanta lifted the Europa League trophy after a 3-0 win over Bayer Leverkusen in Dublin. The day belonged to Nigerian winger Ademola Lookman, who scored a hat trick that included this stunner that doubled Atalanta’s lead in the first half.

It’s Atalanta’s second trophy in club history, and first in 61 years. It’s also the first trophy for manager Gian Piero Gasperini after coaching in Italy for 30 years. This result snapped Leverkusen’s remarkable unbeaten streak at 51 games, and ended the club’s bid at a treble. Bayer Leverkusen will aim to bounce back Saturday when it plays FC Kaiserslautern in the German Cup final.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando City President of Business Operations Jarrod Dillon has issued a challenge to Orlando City fans for the upcoming trio of Orlando soccer home games, so it may be worth your while to get tickets for the Lions, Pride, and OCB this weekend.
  • Pride forward Amanda Allen placed 16th in ESPN‘s rankings of the 17 teenagers currently playing in the National Women’s Soccer League (the author deemed it unfair to assess Milly Clegg without seeing her on the field more). Allen mostly just hasn’t had much playing time, but that could change over the summer.
  • Former Pride player Camille Ashton (known as Cami Levin when she played in the Pride midfield in 2016 and 2017) has resigned as the general manager of the Kansas City Current.

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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