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Lion Links: 5/4/23

Orlando City-Charlotte FC will air on CBS Golazo Network, Alex Freeman’s hard work pays off, Orlando Pride announce theme nights, and much more.

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May the fourth be with you, Mane Landers. Don’t worry, I won’t beat you over the head with too many Star Wars references today as I’m sure you will deal with plenty of them today. I’ll actually confess that, while I enjoy the franchise, I didn’t watch my first Star Wars movie until catching Revenge of the Sith on TV one summer. It pretty much ruined my first viewing of A New Hope a couple years later in college. Since then, I’ve seen every movie and series in the franchise, except for The Empire Strikes Back. I know, I know. But before you all toss me into a Sarlacc pit, let’s dive into today’s links!

Orlando City Starts U.S. Open Cup Will Air on CBS Golazo Network

The Lions will begin their U.S Open Cup title defense the road against Charlotte FC on Tuesday at 7 p.m. It will be the first of four matches streamed on CBS Sports Golazo Network for the tournament’s round of 32. Launched last month, CBS Sports Golazo Network is a 24-hour soccer streaming network and available for free through the CBS Sports App, Pluto TV, CBSSports.com, and Paramount+. This will be Orlando City’s first match of this year’s tournament after lifting the trophy last year in a championship run that included six wins at home.

Lions Ride Momentum Into Montreal

Before that U.S. Open Cup match, the Lions will face off against CF Montreal on Saturday. It will be the Lions’ first trip to Canada since losing 2-0 to Montreal in the playoffs last season. After a rough start this season, Montreal has won its past three games in all competitions without conceding a goal. The Lions also enter this match with some momentum behind them, beating the LA Galaxy 2-0 at home thanks to goals from Designated Players Ercan Kara and Facundo Torres. Cesar Araujo’s 27 fouls won are the second most in the league and he will make his 50th appearance across all competitions as a Lion if he suits up on Saturday. The club will have a watch part at Kiwi’s Pub & Grill in Altamonte Springs for this weekend’s match.

Alex Freeman’s Memorable Weekend

Orlando City Homegrown Player Alex Freeman made his debut for the first team this past weekend, coming off the bench to play in front of a packed Exploria Stadium. While he was only on the field for a few minutes, it was the culmination of his hard work to reach that point after training with the first team for over a year.

“I did plan to have more minutes for him today,” Lions head coach Oscar Pareja said, “We want these guys from the academy to come and be part of that. I know what it means for the player to play two minutes in his debut and just put the feet on the pound. We say that in Spanish, and it’s a saying that means you are already there.”

The 18-year-old defender then played for Orlando City B on Sunday, scoring his third goal of the season in the team’s 3-2 win over Toronto FC II. Freeman now leads the Young Lions in goals as OCB sits near the top of the Eastern Conference. Hopefully more opportunities are headed Freeman’s way as he and other young players continue to develop.

Orlando Pride Announce Theme Nights

The Orlando Pride announced six theme nights at Exploria Stadium for this NWSL season. These events will take place once a month and include the chance to purchase specialty merchandise. The first theme night will take place on May 20 for Pups of Pride, which will allow fans to bring their dogs to the match. Pet Alliance of Greater Orlando will also be in attendance with adoptable animals. Pride in Our City will be on June 11 as the club celebrates Orlando’s LGBTQIA+ community and remembers the 49 lives lost in the Pulse shooting seven years ago. The Pride’s final game of the season on Oct. 15 will recognize Breast Cancer Awareness Month as well. This season will also include the first Star Wars Night on Aug. 25, and fans can purchase tickets to that match for $5.04 in honor of today’s date.

Lionel Messi Will Reportedly Become a Free Agent This Summer

According to Fabrizio Romano, Lionel Messi will leave Paris Saint-Germain when his contract expires this summer. There were rumors he’d stay, but Messi’s father reportedly told the French club about the decision a month ago.

This news come after he was fined and suspended by PSG for two weeks after he made an unauthorized trip to Saudi Arabia and failed to report to training earlier this week. Once again, Messi will become one of the most sought after free agents in soccer, with Barcelona, Miami, and Saudi Arabia as possible destinations where he could wind up.

Free Kicks

  • Here’s a fantastic look behind the scenes of the Pride’s road win over the San Diego Wave. It’s pretty cinematic, and includes pep talks from Head Coach Seb Hines and his assistant, Giles Barnes.
  • You can also enjoy the sights and sounds from Orlando’s huge win at home against the Galaxy.
  • Despite winning their first game of the year, the Pride are still last in CBS SportsNWSL power rankings.
  • A drone toured Exploria Stadium to give a unique perspective of the Lions’ and Pride’s home.
  • D.C. United’s Christian Benteke won MLS Goal of the Matchday for his bicycle kick against Charlotte FC.
  • The New York Red Bulls signed 18-year-old midfielder Ronald Donkor to a contract through the 2026 season, with an option for 2027 as well. Donkor joins the Red Bulls after playing with Guidars FC in Mali and he will take up an international roster spot.
  • The North Carolina Courage and NJ/NY Gotham FC battled to a 1-1 draw in the NWSL Challenge Cup.
  • Erling Haaland scored his 35th goal of the season in Manchester City’s 3-0 win over West Ham to break the English Premier League’s single-season scoring record.
  • Eintracht Frankfurt scored three goals in the second half to beat VfB Stuttgart 3-2 and advance to the DfB Pokal final against RB Leipzig on June 3.
  • Real Madrid is reportedly closing in on a deal with Borussia Dortmund to sign English midfielder Jude Bellingham.

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: 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.

โ€œI am sad, shocked and heartbroken that everything I have built in my professional playing career has been taken away from me,โ€ Pogba said. โ€œWhen 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.โ€

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

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.

โ€œStrategically, we wanted to frustrate them in the first half with an extra defender, and often at times we were in a back five,โ€ Wheeldon said. โ€œAnd second half, we wanted to unleash with more attackers and have a go, because it was 0-0. We thought โ€ฆ 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 letโ€™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 Iโ€™ll see you next time.

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