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Lion Links: 6/28/23

Orlando Pride play Gotham FC in Challenge Cup tonight, Pride add National Team Replacement Players, Haley Bugeja linked with Inter Milan, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you down in Florida. I’ve been busy working up here in Chicago, but we have the Orlando Pride, Orlando City B, and USMNT in action today. There is plenty to get to, so let’s get right into the links.

Orlando Pride Play Gotham FC in Challenge Cup

The Orlando Pride will host NJ/NY Gotham FC tonight at Exploria Stadium for their third group stage match of the 2023 NWSL Challenge Cup. The Pride sit at the bottom of the group with one point in two matches. The Pride lost 4-2 in their last Challenge Cup match against the Washington Spirit and have conceded four goals in three out of their last five matches in the competition. Ally Watt has scored in both of the Pride’s Challenge Cup matches this year. Gotham FC is second in the group with four points in two matches, and had a 1-1 draw against the North Carolina Courage in its last Challenge Cup match. Gotham is also unbeaten in its last six road matches against the Pride across all competitions. After tonight, the Pride will go on the road to take on the Washington Spirit in a league match this Saturday.

Pride Add Maliah Morris and McKinley Crone

The Orlando Pride have signed Maliah Morris and McKinley Crone as National Team Replacement Players. They will fill in for Marta and Adriana, who will be away with Brazil to prepare for 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup. This will be the second short-term stint for Morris, as the forward played with the Pride in their last two Challenge Cup matches. Crone has been training with the Pride since this preseason and joins a goalkeeping unit that already includes three players. Morris and Crone will be available for tonight’s Challenge Cup match against Gotham.

Haley Bugeja Linked With Inter Milan

Orlando Pride forward Haley Bugeja is reportedly close to an agreement to join Inter Milan of the Serie A Femminile.

Bugeja’s contract expires at the end of the 2023 NWSL season and the only league match she’s played in this season was the season opener against the Portland Thorns. Bugeja also played in the Pride’s Challenge Cup match last month against the Spirit. Bugeja played in Italy before she joined the Pride last summer, as she previously played with Sassuolo.

OCB Takes on Philadelphia Union II Tonight

Orlando City B will also be in action tonight, as it hosts Philadelphia Union II for a midweek MLS NEXT Pro clash at Osceola County Stadium. The match kicks off at 7 p.m. and you can watch the match via MLS Season Pass. OCB lost 1-0 at SeatGeek Stadium to Chicago Fire II on June 15 in its last league match. The Young Lions are fifth place in the Eastern Conference with 24 points. Philadelphia also lost to Chicago in its most recent match, falling 5-2 in its recent match on June 18. The Young Lions are undefeated at home and will look to get their second win of the season against Philadelphia. The last time these two sides met was the season opener on Mar. 26, when OCB won 3-1 at Subaru Park.

USMNT Faces Saint Kitts & Nevis in the Gold Cup

The United States Men’s National Team will play its second group stage match of the 2023 Concacaf Gold Cup when it takes on Saint Kitts & Nevis tonight at 10 p.m. in St. Louis. The USMNT escaped its first group stage match with a 1-1 draw against Jamaica at Soldier Field in Chicago thanks to a late equalizer by Brandon Vazquez. The USMNT is in second place in Group A. Saint Kitts & Nevis lost its Gold Cup opener 3-0 this past Sunday to Trinidad & Tobago and sits at the bottom of the group. This will be the first ever meeting between these two sides, and the USMNT will look to get its first win of the tournament. The USMNT’s next match will be on Sunday against Trinidad & Tobago.

MLS Announces All-Star Roster

Major League Soccer announced its roster for the 2023 MLS All-Star Game on July 19 at Audi Field in D.C. The MLS All-Stars will be managed by D.C. United Head Coach Wayne Rooney and will take on English Premier League side Arsenal. Of the 26 players chosen, none play for Orlando City. Jesus Ferreira, Denis Bouanga, and Jordan Morris were a few of the notable forwards selected. The group of midfielders includes Thiago Almada, Hany Mukhtar, and Luciano Acosta. As for the defense, Matt Miazga, Walker Zimmerman, and Tim Parker were chosen. Tyler Miller, Roman Burki, and Djordje Petrovic are the team’s goalkeepers. MLS Commissioner Don Garber selected Kei Kamara and Mathieu Choiniere with his two picks.

Free Kicks

  • The latest MLS power rankings have been released. The Lions moved up two spots to ninth after getting a scoreless draw against the Sounders this past weekend.
  • The time for Orlando City’s Leagues Cup match against the Houston Dynamo on July 21 was changed from 7:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
  • Another American looks to be on the move, as Timothy Weah has reportedly reached an agreement with Juventus.
  • Minnesota United has signed forward Teemu Pukki as a Designated Player through June of 2025, with a club option for all of 2025. Pukki has played the past five seasons with Norwich City.

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

Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/14/24

Orlando City prepares to take on LAFC, Lions linked with Alan Saldivia, Orlando City B draws against Chattanooga FC, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! I’m working for most of this weekend but am still looking forward to the absurd amount of soccer ahead of us. Both Orlando City and the Orlando Pride have games Saturday, and the 2024 Euros should give us some exciting matches from teams we don’t watch all too often. Let’s dive right into today’s links!

Orlando City Prepares for LAFC

The international break is over and Orlando City is back in action Saturday night for a home game against LAFC. It’s been a difficult season for the Lions so far, and they have been shut out in three of their past five games. Points have been hard to come by at home for Orlando and a match against one of the best teams in the Western Conference won’t make that any easier. With David Brekalo at the Euros, Rodrigo Schlegel is expected to start and it would be his 100th MLS appearance. Ramiro Enrique would also make his 50th appearance across all competitions as a Lion should he take the field.

Lions Linked Reportedly Bow Out of Bid to Sign Defender Alan Saldivia

With the MLS summer transfer window looming, a rumor surfaced of Orlando City making an offer to sign Uruguayan center back Alan Saldivia from Colo-Colo in Chile. The Lions reportedly offered $1.5 million for the 22-year-old, but that doesn’t reach the $2.2 million Colo-Colo wants at minimum. The Lions reportedly would not go higher. While center back isn’t exactly a pressing need for the Lions at this time, Saldivia would have given the team a young and talented player who could anchor the defense for years to come.

Orlando City B Drops Points in Disappointing Draw

OCB hosted Chattanooga FC and had to settle for a 2-2 draw after giving up a lead not once, but twice. The Young Lions had Chattanooga on the ropes late in the match, taking the lead just before the end of normal time, only to get punched in the mouth in stoppage time and then lose the penalty shootout. It was the second straight 2-2 draw at home for the Young Lions and they’re still on the hunt for their first win this month. OCB’s next game will be on the road against New York City FC II on Wednesday.

Getting Ready for the MLS NEXT Cup Playoffs

The MLS NEXT Cup playoffs kick off Saturday as the best teams across four age groups compete in a knockout format. Orlando City’s U-15 squad was recognized as one of the title contenders in its age group and will take on Real Salt Lake in the round of 32 on Saturday . The team also did well in MLS NEXT Flex, and Jakob Garcia, who has scored 18 goals in 21 games, is the kind of attacker who can make all the difference in knockout matches. Orlando’s U-17 team is capable of making a run as well, although it faces a tough first match on Sunday against the Philadelphia Union, which won the 2024 Generation Adidas Cup. It should be a fun tournament, and hopefully Orlando’s teams can advance far enough to be included in the games streamed on MLS Season Pass.

Free Kicks

  • Carl Robinson is back in MLS after Atlanta United hired him as an assistant coach. The 47-year-old played for Toronto FC and the New York Red Bulls to close out his playing career and also served as the head coach of the Vancouver Whitecaps.
  • Chicago Fire Designated Player Xherdan Shaqiri reportedly wants to return to Europe. The 32-year-old has been with the Fire since 2022 but hasn’t lived up to his billing and his contract is set to expire after this season.

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: 6/13/24

Orlando City B hosts Chattanooga FC tonight, USMNT earns draw against Brazil, MLS’ Juneteenth celebrations, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

How’s it going, Mane Landers? Between my cat finally deciding I’m worth hanging out with and reading a pair of books that have been collecting dust on my shelf, I’ve been having a pretty good week. I’m looking forward to the feast of soccer both in Orlando and abroad over the next few days as well. But for now, let’s get this Thursday started with today’s links!

Orlando City B Hosts Chattanooga FC Tonight

In an enticing midweek match tonight at 7 p.m., Orlando City B will take on Chattanooga FC at Osceola Heritage Park. If not heading to watch OCB in person, you can catch the game on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV+. The last time these two teams squared off was on May 4, with Chattanooga winning the penalty shootout for an extra point after a 1-1 draw in Tennessee. The Young Lions are coming off of a 2-2 draw with one of the league’s worst teams this season, Carolina Core FC, but winning the shootout after a late rally could give them the kind of momentum needed to take down Chattanooga. Beating one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference would be quite the statement from OCB during what’s been a middling season so far.

USMNT Draws With Brazil in Orlando

Playing in Orlando at Camping World Stadium, the United States Men’s National Team drew 1-1 against Brazil in a friendly billed as the Continental Clasico. Brazil scored first, but Matt Turner and the USMNT didn’t collapse under the pressure and earned the team’s first ever draw against the South American powerhouse. All in all, it was a much better result than the USMNT’s 5-1 loss to Colombia on Saturday. This was the USMNT’s final match until Copa America later this month. The Yanks will start their campaign against Bolivia on June 23 before playing Panama on June 27 and Uruguay on July 1.

MLS Announces Initiatives for Juneteenth

In partnership with Black Players for Change and Adidas, MLS announced some of the ways the league will be celebrating Juneteenth. Pre-match shirts acknowledging the change players can provide will be worn during warm-ups and fans can buy their own shirts as well, with a portion of the proceeds going toward organizations focused on racial equity and social justice. There will also be a campaign highlighting the connection between professional and academy players, as well as educational content across the league’s social media to raise awareness of the holiday.

Euro 2024 Kicks Off on Friday

A loaded gauntlet of summer tournaments finally begins Friday, as Germany hosts Scotland for the first match of Euro 2024. From Cristiano Ronaldo’s potential swan song to a brutal group that includes Spain, Italy, and Croatia, storylines abound for the tournament and each team brings something worth watching to the table. For Orlando City fans, defender David Brekalo was called up by Slovenia, which was drawn in a group with England, Denmark, and Serbia. I’m looking forward to seeing which underdogs prevail and which players make a name for themselves in this tournament.

2026 World Cup Schedule Revealed

The full schedule for the 2026 World Cup was unveiled, which gives a slight glimpse at the paths each host nation could take in the tournament. If the U.S. wins Group D after matches in Los Angeles and Seattle, it will stay on the West Coast for a knockout game in San Francisco before a potential round of 16 game in Seattle and quarterfinal in Los Angeles. Mexico and Canada have similar incentives to win their groups, as they will then host in their country until heading to the U.S. for the quarterfinals, should they make it that far. Here in Florida, Hard Rock Stadium in Miami will serve as the venue for four group games, a round of 32 match on July 3, a quarterfinal on July 11, and the third-place match on July 18.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando Pride Assistant Coach Yolanda Thomas was announced as a panelist for the Black Soccer Coaches’ summer symposium on July 22. She will also have a field session at the event to discuss the role of the midfield when building out of the back.

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: 6/12/24

Leagues Cup forgets Orlando’s U.S. Open Cup win, USMNT U-23 loses to Japan, NWSL expansion options, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Welcome to Wednesday, Mane Landers. The USMNT plays tonight in Orlando, and I hope that you have tickets. If not, we can still watch as we wait for the Orlando City and Orlando Pride matches this Saturday. On a personal note, this Friday will mark my ninth anniversary with The Mane Land. It’s been a heck of a ride, and I’m glad you’ve been there with us. Here’s to many more years to come. Let’s get to the links.

Leagues Cup Forgets Orlando’s U.S. Open Cup Win

Orlando City is playing in the Leagues Cup starting at the end of July and here’s a nice guide to Orlando’s group for the tournament. Of course, the Leagues Cup organizers want you to be pumped so that you watch and buy tickets. I think that is something we should do simply to support the club. However, I don’t think they went about promoting the competition in quite the right way. In a tweet that has since been deleted, the tournament’s social media team stated the Leagues Cup would be Orlando’s chance to win its first trophy. Did you catch the mistake? Taylor Twellman did.

Good on you, Taylor. Facundo Torres was indeed brilliant in that match, as was Benji Michel. Of course, there were others that caught the faux pas as well.

I think we should also be mentioning the USL Championships, but what do I know? Evidently, more than the Leagues Cup’s social media team.

USMNT to Honor Pulse Victims

There’s plenty of fake, corporate shows of support for Pride Month , but in general I think that the USMNT and USWNT have done a good job of being legitimate allies to the LGBTQIA+ community. Tonight, the USMNT will play a friendly against Brazil at Camping World Stadium on the anniversary of the Pulse nightclub shooting. The players will be wearing Pride jerseys to honor those who lost their lives so senselessly eight years ago.

In terms of the game, the USMNT will be without Josh Sargent for the match, and Tyler Adams will only get limited minutes if he plays, as both are coming back from injuries. Get well before the Copa America, lads.

Lions on International Duty

The United States U-23 Men’s National Team lost 2-0 to Japan in its final friendly match before the Olympics. Orlando City’s Duncan McGuire found himself on a bit of an island up top as the U.S. had difficulty moving the ball through the midfield. Hopefully, the U.S. got such play out of its system heading into the Olympics.

OCB’s Wilfredo Rivera made the most of his time playing in Puerto Rico’s World Cup qualifier against Anguilla, scoring a brace in the 8-0 victory. This win comes after a scoreless draw with El Salvador last week and Puerto Rico’s remaining group games during this round of qualifying will be next June.

Exploring NWSL Expansion Options

The NWSL will be expanding to 16 teams in 2026 with many cities vying for the next franchise. The leaders include Cleveland, Cincinnati, and Minneapolis. Atlanta, Denver, and Jacksonville are potential choices as well. If it was to be given to either Atlanta or Jacksonville they would be regional rivals for the Orlando Pride. The league is expected to make a decision by the fourth quarter of 2024.

Free Kicks

  • Congratulations to the U-15 United States Women’s National Team, which won 4-0 over Germany.
  • Did you ever have one of those dreams that was a little scary, but also absolutely hilarious? This preview of Inter Miami’s new mascot is a bit like that. To misquote Jaws: “Ever seen an Inter Miami mascot’s eyes, Chief? He’s got lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eyes.”
  • The Cayman Islands Men’s National Football Team forfeited its match against Cuba because many of its players are on visas in the United States. If those players were to travel to Cuba, the U.S. may have canceled those visas due to travel restrictions.
  • This is one of the most ridiculous no-calls I’ve ever seen. India got royally hosed.

That will do it for today. Check back as we get you ready for the Orlando City and Orlando Pride matches this Saturday night. Vamos Orlando!

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