Lion Links: 5/24/23
Lions prepare to take on Atlanta United, Michael Halliday starts in U-20 USMNT win, Orlando academy teams finish seasons, and more.
Hello, Mane Landers. How are you all doing this week? I’ve been covering the playoffs and state championships for spring high school sports lately and am getting ready for a busy holiday weekend at work. There is plenty to get to today, so let’s get to the links.
Orlando City Prepares to Take on Atlanta United
Orlando City is preparing for its next matchup at Exploria Stadium this Saturday against Atlanta United. Head Coach Oscar Pareja got his 49th win as Orlando City’s coach (in all competitions) last weekend as the Lions defeated Inter Miami 3-1, and can secure his 50th win at home this Saturday. Ercan Kara leads the Lions with five goals across all competitions. The Austrian forward has scored in three consecutive matches and can tie the club record of four consecutive matches with a goal if he can find the back of the net against the Five Stripes. Gaston Gonzalez was not present at training on Tuesday, and we may get updates today on the injury he sustained against Miami.
Michael Halliday Starts as the U-20 USMNT Beats Fiji
Orlando City defender Michael Halliday started in the U.S. U-20 Men’s Youth National Team’s group match against Fiji in the FIFA U-20 Men’s World Cup in Argentina. He played a full 90 minutes as the U.S defeated Fiji 3-0 for its second win in the group. With six points, the U.S. is on the verge of qualifying to the knockout stage as one of the top two teams from its group. Real Salt Lake midfielder Diego Luna, San Jose Earthquakes forward Cade Cowell, and Atlanta United defender Caleb Wiley all scored for the Americans. The next match for the U.S. will be on Friday when it takes on Slovakia in its final match of group play.
OCSC Academy Teams Wrap Up Regular Seasons
The Orlando City U-17 squad clinched its division title with a 4-0 victory against Atlanta United this past weekend. Bernardo Goncalves scored two goals while Thomas Bowe and Justin Ellis added the other goals to help the Young Lions earn a spot in the MLS NEXT playoffs and win the division title for the first time since 2021. The U-15 squad lost 3-0 to Atlanta and finished second in the final standings. However, since the U-15 squad performed well at the MLS NEXT Flex tournament last weekend, it still qualified for the playoffs. The MLS NEXT Cup playoff schedule will be released on June 9.
Catarina Macario Will Miss the 2023 Women’s World Cup
United States Women’s National Team forward Catarina Macario announced on social media on Tuesday that she will miss the Women’s World Cup this summer. Macario has been recovering from a torn ACL suffered last June and missed the entire past season for Olympique Lyon. Macario helped the French club win a league championship and the UEFA Women’s Champions League title the previous season. Macario’s contract is set to expire and she has recently been linked to joining Chelsea in the Women’s Super League.
U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 Kicks Off
The 2023 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup round of 16 got started last night. The El Trafico rivalry provided another battle between LAFC and the LA Galaxy. The Galaxy scored twice shortly after halftime to win 2-0 on the road and reach the next round. Inter Miami defeated Nashville SC 2-1 at home to move on to the quarterfinals. Corey Baird had a hat trick as the Houston Dynamo won 4-0 over Minnesota United. New York Red Bulls forward Dante Vanzeir scored a late equalizer, but had his penalty kick saved in a shootout loss to FC Cincinnati.
In tonight’s matchups, we’ll see two USL Champion sides try to go for a “cupset” against MLS sides. The Pittsburgh Riverhounds face the Columbus Crew while the Birmingham Legion take on Charlotte FC. Austin FC will host the Chicago Fire at Q2 Stadium. The final match of the night features a rivalry clash as the Colorado Rapids take on Real Salt Lake at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
- Enjoy this video of Orlando’s win over Miami, including some looks behind the scenes. Be sure to stay through the end.
- The latest MLS Power rankings were released. The Lions moved up five spots to 14th after their 3-1 win against Miami.
- MLS NEXT Pro also unveiled its power rankings. OCB dropped a spot to eighth spot after it drew 2-2 at home with Atlanta United 2 last Friday, with the visitors claiming the extra shootout point.
- MLSSoccer.com‘s Joseph Lowery gave grades for how every MLS club is doing this season, with Orlando City receiving a B-.
- MLS announced the launch of MLS Go, which is a recreational program to help increase youth participation in soccer. Orlando is featured alongside 17 other U.S. cities and the program will launch this fall.
- FIFA approved LAFC midfielder Timmy Tillman’s one-time switch to change his national team affiliation from Germany to the United States.
That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Wednesday and I’ll see you next time.
Lion Links: 6/10/23
Lions want consistency, Alejandro Granados earns short-term contract, Pride welcome Thorns, and more.
Welcome to the weekend, Mane Landers. It’s a great Saturday to wake up because the Lions are back home tonight at 7:30 p.m. Personally, I am looking forward to seeing the team continue to build attacking momentum as the pieces have started to gel together. The pace of Ivan Angulo has been electric, and I’m hopeful Facundo Torres has finally turned the page he needed to this season. Aside from Orlando City today, we also have soccer in town on Sunday, with OCB taking on Cincinnati 2 and the Orlando Pride hosting the Portland Thorns. So, let’s dig right into it all in the links!
Orlando City’s Momentum and Consistency
Orlando City returns home tonight to take on the Colorado Rapids after a decisive 3-0 victory at Red Bull Arena. With the latest victory, the Lions are now unbeaten in their previous five league matches. Orlando City aims to keep up the consistency in its performances as the Lions gear up for the 13th-ranked team in the Western Conference, and the Rapids are desperate for points.
“They’re gonna come in to try and leave the position that they’re in right now,” Lions goalkeeper Pedro Gallese said. “They’re going to try and come in and take points from us in our home. We know that they’re going to come in strong, but we have to do the same and we’ve got to continue the form that we’ve had during this run that we’re on right now.”
Alejandro Granados Earns First-Team Deal
Orlando City has called up the services of midfielder Alejandro Granados from Orlando City B on a short-term agreement and will be available for selection today as the Lions take on the Colorado Rapids. The 17-year-old has six appearances for Orlando City B this season in MLS NEXT Pro. On the global stage, Granados recently featured for Spain at the U-17 European Championship. He appeared five times in the tournament as La Roja reached the semifinals. He even scored a goal in the quarterfinal round against Ireland that also qualified the side for the U-17 World Cup later this year.
Orlando Pride Host Portland Thorns
The Pride are back in town following a midweek Challenge Cup postponement against NJ/NY Gotham FC due to measures taken to prioritize player health and safety in the face of terrible air quality as a result of the Canadian wildfires. Sunday’s match is set to begin at 7 p.m. against the Portland Thorns. It will be the Pride’s first home match in 22 days, however, the team won the last two matches played at Exploria Stadium. One thing to watch for in the match will be set pieces. Four of Orlando’s last six goals in regular season play have been scored from a set piece, with three being corners. For the Pride, it will be a chance to begin to shift the history between the two clubs, as the Thorns have won 13 of their 17 all-time meetings with Orlando, including the last three in a row by a combined score of 12-0.
Orlando City Academy Boasts Nine D-1 Athletes
The Young Lions of the Orlando City Development Academy have wrapped up their studies for the year and are on their way to penning the next chapter in their lives. Nine graduates have committed to Division 1 programs across the United States. Five of the graduates were products of the 2021 U-17 MLS NEXT Cup champion team. Another notable mention is Orlando City B forward Chase Vazquez, who came off the bench in this year’s preseason matchup against Stetson University to score a hat trick.
- You will need Google Translate, but former Pride midfielder Gunny Jonsdottir recaps her soccer journey and early times in the United States.
- LA Galaxy striker Javier “Chicharito” Hernández suffered a torn right ACL in their midweek U.S. Open Cup defeat at Real Salt Lake.
- The Columbus Crew acquired Ukrainian center back Yevhen Cheberko from Croatian top-flight side NK Osijek through the 2026 MLS season.
- LAFC penned a Homegrown contract for 16-year-old midfielder Bajung Darboe.
- The USWNT has launched its new #WeBelieve campaign to gather personal messages from the fans.
- Former Inter Miami head coach Phil Neville has made a quick turnaround to join the Canadian Men’s National Team’s coaching staff.
- United States forward Catarina Macario has joined Chelsea on a free transfer from Lyon.
- Leeds United owner Andrea Radrizzani has reached an agreement to sell his stake in the club to 49ers Enterprises.
- Al Ahli are willing to offer Riyad Mahrez a contract worth €100 million plus bonuses to leave Manchester City.
- Ben Foster has signed a new one-year contract at Wrexham AFC.
That’s all I have for you today. Have a safe two days at Exploria Stadium. Remember to hydrate and look out for your friends. It is starting to feel a lot like summer out here. Vamos Orlando!
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.
- American defender Josh Wynder is headed to Benfica. The Portuguese club signed the 18-year-old from USL Championship club Louisville City for a reported $1.2 million transfer fee, which would be a record amount for a USL player.
- FC Cincinnati and the Houston Dynamo will host in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals. Both matches will be on Aug. 23, with the Dynamo playing Real Salt Lake and Cincinnati facing Inter Miami.
- Speaking of FC Cincinnati, the club is reportedly close to signing Gabonese forward Aaron Boupendza as a Designated Player for a $7 million transfer fee. Boupendza had 11 goals in 17 appearances for Al-Shabab in the Saudi Pro League this past season.
- Brooklyn will be home to a USL League One team, which will begin playing in the 2025 season.
- Liverpool agreed to buy back its Melwood training ground with the intention of turning it into a training facility for its women’s team.
- Czech police stated that 23 West Ham and Fiorentina fans were arrested for their actions while in Prague for the Europa Conference League.
- Liverpool signed midfielder Alexis Mac Allister to a contract through 2028. The 24-year-old had 12 goals and three assists last season for Brighton.
That’s all I have for you today. Have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!
Lion Links: 6/8/23
Orlando Pride match postponed, Lionel Messi will join Inter Miami, West Ham wins Europa Conference League, and more.
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.
- Following its 3-0 loss to Toronto FC II, Orlando City B fell three spots to 10th in the MLS NEXT Pro power rankings.
- Real Salt Lake is reportedly signing Cristian Arango from Pachuca in Liga MX. Arango joined the Mexican club in February after two years with LAFC and would occupy a Designated Player slot with Real Salt Lake.
- FIFA will pay every player at the Women’s World Cup at least $30,000, with players earning more depending on how far they progress in the tournament.
- Inter Miami booked its spot in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals after winning 1-0 on the road against Birmingham Legion FC in a controversial match that included an extremely questionable no-call on an apparent Miami handball in the penalty area.
- Real Madrid has agreed to sign 19-year-old midfielder Jude Bellingham for a hefty transfer fee that could reach $139 million, according to Borussia Dortmund.
- Sergio Busquets is reportedly considering following Messi to Miami, although he’s also in talks with Saudi Arabian clubs.
- Luciano Acosta was awarded the MLS Goal of the Matchday for his deft touch and finish in FC Cincinnati’s 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire.
- Here are eight standout players from the U-20 World Cup who could make a splash if they join MLS.
- Manchester United has reportedly offered Tottenham and West Ham the chance to sign English defender Harry Maguire during this summer’s transfer window.
- Paris Saint-Germain goalkeeper Sergio Rico is improving in intensive care after he was struck in the head by a horse 10 days ago.
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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