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Lion Links: 4/29/23

Orlando City focused on winning at home, Pride strive to remain unbeaten against San Diego, OCB hosts TFC II, and more.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

It’s time for another pair of matches today, Mane Landers! Orlando City invites one California team to town in the LA Galaxy, while the Orlando Pride takes the flight all the way across the country to San Diego. I feel like some jet fuel money and ozone layer could have been saved with a little bit of plane-pooling had both matches been played in the same state, but hey, I’m no airplane expert. But, it is a neat proposal to think that nearby men’s and women’s teams could start traveling together and playing double-headers for fans. While I’m almost certain this will never happen, I’ll take credit for it if it ever does, because I have now put the idea into print here. Alas, scroll no further, here’s what you really came here for, today’s links.

Orlando City Focused for LA Galaxy

With a home match upon us, the Lions of Orlando City spent their final Friday practice in the stadium. There is a photo gallery of the boys looking all-business as they aim for their first win at home since February. The LA Galaxy currently sit 13th in the West following their first win of the season last weekend against Austin FC. Orlando City midfielder Dagur Dan Thorhallsson discussed the team’s focus following another disappointing home loss.

“It is always kind of a worry when you’re not winning in front of your home fans. And of course, we as a team want to win every game. But especially, we want to make the Orlando City Stadium like… people come there and they fear to be there. But that is something that we need to do as a team. And I don’t have the answer why it is happening, but we are going to find out. And we’re going to start winning.”

The match is set to begin at 7:30 p.m. at Exploria Stadium. Be sure to get there early, be loud, and make the stadium somewhere for opponents to truly fear.

Orlando Pride Travel to San Diego

The Orlando Pride will look to pick up where they left off in San Diego. The last time the club traveled to San Diego it left Torero Stadium with a 1-0 victory. In that match, Meggie Dougherty Howard scored from the spot for the Pride. While she is now with the Wave, she has not accumulated any minutes so far this season due to injury. The Pride remained undefeated against the 2022 expansion team after playing to a 2-2 draw at Exploria Stadium. Dougherty Howard was once again able to find the back of the net, with Gunny Jónsdóttir scoring the second goal for Orlando. Despite the Pride sitting winless and in last place, Head Coach Seb Hines remains optimistic for his team to find a result.

“You know it is going to be a difficult game. They have some good players, but you know this league. Now anyone can win on any day so we’re hoping to go there and put a really good team performance out there and hopefully come away with three points.”

Tune into the match at 10 p.m. on the CBS Sports Network to see if the Pride can gather those first three points of the season.

MLS NEXT Pro Matchday 6: OCB Hosts Toronto FC II

The Young Lions of Orlando City B round out the festivities for the weekend, hosting Toronto FC II Sunday at 6 p.m. On MLS NEXT Pro Matchday 5, Toronto was able to finally find its scoring prowess. After an early 2-0 deficit, the match finished 3-3 in regulation. Ultimately, TFC II fell in a 5-4 shootout following regulation. Orlando City B earned two points on Matchday 5 in a thrilling 8-7 shootout of its own against NYCFC II after a 2-2 draw. OCB defender Nabi Kibunguchy claimed his first goals for the club in the match.

MLS Matchday 10 Preview

With 13 matches around the league, there are sure to be some fireworks this weekend. After catching Orlando City at home (or while simul-streaming from your seat), be sure to check out some notable other fixtures around the league. Giorgos Giakoumakis, who is tied for fourth in the Golden Boot race, will be unavailable for Atlanta United in its match against Nashville SC. Lucas Zelarayán and the Columbus Crew look to make it seven straight league losses for Inter Miami at Lower.com Field. The Eastern Conference’s two top clubs, FC Cincinnati and the New England Revolution, headline must-watch this week’s matches, playing at Gillette Stadium.

And finally, let us know in the comments below who you have in matchup of marquee strikers: D.C. United’s Christian Benteke or Charlotte FC’s Karol Swiderski?

Free Kicks

  • Midfielder David Ruiz has signed a Homegrown contract with Inter Miami through the 2025 MLS season with options for 2026 and 2027.
  • The Portland Timbers signed midfielder Noel Caliskan through the 2023 MLS season with options for 2024 and 2025. Caliskan was selected by Portland with the 15th pick of the 2023 MLS SuperDraft.
  • Gareth Bale confirms that he will not be coming out of retirement to play for Wrexham next season, despite the begging of Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney.
  • Sheikh Jassim bin Hamad Al-Thani submitted his third and final bid to buy Manchester United on Friday and remains confident it will be successful.
  • Alejandro Garnacho has signed a new contract that will extend his stay at Manchester United until 2028. At the age of 18, he has already made 31 appearances for the senior team.
  • Napoli will secure the club’s third Serie A crown if it can beat visitors Salernitana and second-place Lazio drops points against Inter Milan.
  • Bundesliga leaders Borussia Dortmund’s title chances are in question after they stumbled to a 1-1 draw at struggling VfL Bochum with four games left to play.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo returned to the scoresheet after a goalless three-game run by heading in the opening goal in Al Nassr’s 4-0 victory over Al Raed in the Saudi Pro League.
  • The Liga MX match between Club Puebla and Club Tijuana has been rescheduled due to the activity of the Popocatepetl volcano.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend and enjoy the matches. Vamos Orlando!

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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Lion Links

Lion Links: 5/22/24

Lions and Pride reflect on victories, Christian Pulisic’s Serie A recognition, the USWNT roster drops, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Welcome to Wednesday, Mane Landers. I know that a lot of you are Orlando Pride supporters as well as Orlando City supporters, but for those of you who aren’t, you are really missing out. Superstar players, undefeated, top of the table, and this team hasn’t even played up to its potential yet. Seriously, you need to get out to a match if you can. For now, let’s get to the links.

Talking About Orlando City

You can tell Oscar Pareja loves his players. He is the type of coach that nearly always has only good things to say regardless of the result. Of course, when the club gets a win on the road in the third match in eight days, thanks to the fourth striker on the depth chart. Jack Lynn takes a professional approach to being the backup and prepares to play in every match. It’s also nice when he scores a match-winning goal.

So how did the MLSsoccer.com power rankings treat the Lions for the road victory? Orlando City moved up three spots to 19, thanks to earning seven points in the last three matches. That’s better than the ESPN rankings we shared yesterday. ESPN also had the Lions at 19 but dropped them a spot in doing so.

Seb and Sams Speak

The Orlando Pride have a chance this Friday to set an NWSL win streak record in the match against the Portland Thorns, but first Seb Hines, Rafaelle, and Emily Sams reflected on the win against the Seattle Reign. Hines was rightly happy with the result but said he still feels his team has room to improve. I agree with him, despite the Pride being on top of the table and undefeated.

Rafaelle felt the victory showed the team how much mental fortitude the Pride have to be able to secure the road win. She also thinks that being at home with a chance to break the win streak record will make the team work that much harder. Sams reflected on her first NWSL goal but said she just wants to focus on getting three points each match.

Pulisic and Wright Shine

Christian Pulisic’s year keeps getting better. He had such a a good season for AC Milan that he has been named a finalist for Serie A Midfielder of the Year. The other finalists are Inter Milan’s Hakan Calhanoglu and Atalanta’s Teun Koopmeiners. Pulisic has 19 goal contributions in 35 appearances for AC Milan.

The USMNT’s pre-Copa America roster dropped Monday, and it looks like Haji Wright will potentially see some action at winger for Gregg Berhalter. The move provides some needed depth at the position and may give Wright more playing time. Of course, Wright and Pulisic aren’t the only players of interest. You can check out a breakdown of the players called up here.

Hayes’ First USWNT Roster Announced

The Olympics are rapidly approaching and new USWNT Head Coach Emma Hayes has announced the 23-player roster for the final two matches against South Korea before the final Olympic roster is named. There are a mix of veteran and younger players in the group. Notably, there are 19 players who won the SheBelieves Cup back in April. It also sees the return of Rose Lavelle, who missed the SheBelieves Cup due to injury. While not altogether surprising, it is still disappointing on one level for Pride fans that Emily Sams didn’t get a call-up.

Free Kicks

  • Congratulations to Orlando Pride midfielder Ally Lemos on her call-up to the USWNT U-20s for the matches against the Korea Republic.
  • Philadelphia Union keeper Andre Blake has reportedly signed a new longterm contract with the club.
  • The USMNT U-15 squad defeated Japan to take first place in the Vlatko Markovic Tournament. Congratulations to the young Yanks.
  • Bayer Leverkusen will play in two cup finals in four days, starting with today’s Europa League championship against Atalanta. The second final is for the German Cup this Saturday against Kaiserslautern.
  • Mauricio Pochettino and Chelsea have parted ways after only one season. Potchettino’s departure was mutually agreed upon. The coaching carousel continues.
  • Emanuel Reynoso from Minnesota United is reportedly headed to Liga MX side Club Tijuana.

That will do it for today. Check back as we get you ready for the matches this weekend. Vamos Orlando!

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