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Lion Links: 11/3/23

Orlando City aims to advance in Nashville, Messiah Bright will take part in NWSL Skills Challenge, NWSL semifinals are on the horizon, and much more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I’ve been enjoying being able to break out a jacket for these cold mornings the past few days. It’s been pretty nice, and I’m hoping it stays comfortable for a bit longer before temperatures really start dropping. Of course, it’s hard to complain too much about the weather when states up north are getting snow. But enough about how nice it is to live in Florida, let’s get to the links!

Orlando City Aims to Close Series Out in Nashville

The opening games for each playoff series in this new postseason format are over and the only real upset was Sporting Kansas City beating St. Louis City. The next set of matches may provide some more intrigue though, as many of the victors hit the road to try to close out their series. Playing on the road in MLS is never easy, but no team won more road games this season than Orlando City. The Lions have a tough task against a stingy Nashville SC side desperate to keep its season alive. Orlando will need to find a way to better capitalize on its chances in the final third compared to its 1-0 win at Exploria Stadium. As for Nashville, it will need to solve the attacking issues that have plagued it for the past couple of months. One thing to remember is that if a match ends in a draw, it will immediately go into a penalty shootout to determine a victor.

Messiah Bright Will Play in NWSL Skills Challenge

Orlando Pride forward Messiah Bright will take part in the NWSL Skills Challenge on Nov. 10 at 7 p.m. The event is part of the league’s lead-up to the NWSL Championship the following day and will include two teams of NWSL players competing in penalty shootouts, a crossbar challenge, and teqball, which is the sport that’s a mix of soccer and table tennis. Bright, who is a finalist for NWSL Rookie of the Year, was one of the few players confirmed to be participating, along with Loโ€™eau LaBonta, Katie Lund, and Denise Oโ€™Sullivan. More details and the full rosters will be revealed in the coming days. My bet is that it’s two teams of six, with each NWSL team having one player involved. However, I’m holding out hope that another Pride player or two participates. It would feel weird to have a competition showcasing skill and not including Marta.

NWSL Semifinalists Prepare for Sunday

The NWSL semifinals are this Sunday, with both matches taking place on the west coast. The first match is at 7 p.m. when the Portland Thorns host NJ/NY Gotham FC at Providence Park. The international break could have been just what the doctor ordered for a Thorns team that’s lost half of its past 16 games across all competitions. They have two MVP finalists in Sophia Smith and Sam Coffey, but face a Gotham side that took down the North Carolina Courage on the road in the previous round. The other semifinal match will be at 9:30 p.m. when the San Diego Wave welcome OL Reign to Snapdragon Stadium. Although the Wave finished atop the standings, the Reign have beaten them in all four meetings between the two this year. It should be an interesting match on Sunday, with plenty of talent on both sides. USWNT legends will also collide, as former Pride forward Alex Morgan will square off against Megan Rapinoe.

Giorgos Giakoumakis Named MLS Newcomer of the Year

MLS announced that Atlanta United’s Giorgos Giakoumakis won the MLS Newcomer of the Year award, which is given to a player with prior professional experience who did well in their first year in the league. The Greek forward joined Atlanta from Celtic in Scotland and scored 17 goals for the Five Stripes this season, finishing third in the Golden Boot race. Giakoumakis won 45.78% of the overall voting, beating out Inter Miami’s Lionel Messi (27.28%) and St. Louis Designated Player Eduard Lowen (15.44%) for the award. It’s the second straight year that an Atlanta player was named Newcomer of the Year, with Thiago Almada receiving the accolade last year.

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

Lion Links

Lion Links: 6/21/24

Facundo Torres earns praise, Orlando Pride play the Utah Royals tonight, FC Cincinnati linked with Weston McKennie, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! This weekend is what soccer fans dream of, with NWSL, MLS, Copa America, and Euro 2024 matches to enjoy. The Orlando Pride are in action tonight, Orlando City plays Saturday, and the U.S. begins its Copa America campaign on Sunday. But first, let’s all wish a happy birthday to Orlando Pride Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Haley Carter!

Facundo Torres Makes MLS Team of the Matchday Bench

Orlando forward Facundo Torres earned a spot on the bench of the MLS Team of the Matchday after providing a goal and an assist in Orlando’s 2-2 draw against Charlotte FC. Both contributions were crucial to Orlando getting a point on the road. It was only Torres’ third goal of the season, so hopefully this gets him going. If the Lions are to claw their way up the Eastern Conference table, they’ll need more performances like this from their talisman.

Orlando Pride Host the Utah Royals Tonight

The Orlando Pride will aim to get back in the win column tonight when they take on the Utah Royals at home. The last time these two teams squared off was on April 12, with Orlando winning 1-0 in the first of eight straight victories for the Pride. Another match with the Royals could be just what the doctor ordered for an Orlando side that’s been held to draws in its past two matches. While Utah is having a difficult season and sits last in the league standings, it did get its first road win on Sunday against Bay FC.

FC Cincinnati Reportedly Wants Weston McKennie

American midfielder Weston McKennie could be coming to the U.S., as FC Cincinnati has reportedly made an offer to sign him from Juventus. Cincinnati is willing to spend up to $15 million to bring McKennie on as a Designated Player. The 25-year-old has one year left on his contract with Juventus, but he’s likely leaving the Italian club this summer if reports are to be believed. McKennie was part of FC Dallas’ academy, but never actually played in an MLS game before heading to Europe.

Spain Wins to Advance in Euro 2024

Spain booked its spot in the knockout stage of Euro 2024 after beating Italy 1-0 in a match that didn’t quite live up to its billing. It does set up for an intriguing matchup between Italy and Croatia on Monday, though. England and Denmark traded first-half goals but neither team could find a winner in a 1-1 draw. In the other Group C match, Orlando City defender David Brekalo came on as a late substitute in Slovenia’s 1-1 draw against Serbia.

As for today’s slate of games, Slovakia will face off against Ukraine, Poland plays Austria, and France takes on the Netherlands. We’ll see if Kylian Mbappe will play after breaking his nose in France’s opening match.

Latest FIFA Rankings Unveiled

Despite losing 5-1 to Colombia in a friendly, the U.S. didn’t drop enough points to be unseated from 11th in the latest FIFA rankings. The U.S. remains the highest-ranked Concacaf nation, and Mexico dropped to 15th after losing to both Uruguay and Brazil in friendlies. Argentina is still at the top of the rankings, while Brazil leapfrogged England for fourth place. The rankings usually don’t matter all too much, but they are used to determine pots for the World Cup. With Euro 2024 and Copa America going on, things could shake up a bit for some of the world’s best teams.

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  • Peter Musa was named MLS Player of the Matchday for his hat trick in FC Dallas’ 5-3 win against Minnesota United. It was the Croatian striker’s first hat trick since he joined Dallas this past off-season, and he now has eight goals this season.
  • Now with Cruz Azul, former Atlanta United forward Georgios Giakoumakis took some parting shots at MLS in regards to how losses are OK compared to Liga MX. I find it a pretty oblivious thing to say considering Atlanta fired its head coach a day after losing to Charlotte FC earlier this month.
  • Steve Cooper, who was sacked by Nottingham Forest six months ago, was hired as Leicester City’s new manager.
  • Of the 47 goals scored so far in Euro 2024, five have been own goals and only Germany’s Jamal Musiala has scored more than once. None of the goals have been scored from the penalty spot as well.
  • Burnley is reportedly in talks with Ruud van Nistelrooy to be the club’s next manager after Vincent Kompany’s departure.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend. Go Orlando!

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Lion Links: 6/20/24

Orlando City draws against Charlotte FC, Wilfredo Rivera joins first team, Ally Watt speaks on Black Women’s Player Collective, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City B / Mark Thor

How’s it going, Mane Landers? Last night’s Orlando City match featured plenty of ups and downs, but it was a pretty exciting way to spend a Wednesday night. Hopefully the Cardiac Cats weren’t too hard on your heart. Before we dive into today’s links, let’s all wish a happy birthday to Orlando Pride defender Celia!

Orlando City Draws Against Charlotte FC

The Lions went on the road for a match against Charlotte FC and earned a point with a 2-2 draw. Matches between the two teams are usually close affairs and this one was no different, as neither team did enough to claim victory. One one hand, equalizing twice on the road against a stingy defense isn’t the worst outcome for Orlando. On the other hand, Charlotte played most of the match a man down and a win was definitely in the cards for the Lions. Hopefully Orlando can break this five-game winless streak when it hosts the Chicago Fire on Saturday.

Wilfredo Rivera Available for the First Team

Orlando City B midfielder Wilfredo Rivera is with the first team this week after signing a short-term agreement with Orlando City. He was an unused substitute in Wednesday’s match in Charlotte and will be available for selection in Orlando’s match against the Chicago Fire on Saturday. The 20-year-old signed a similar agreement in March of this year, but has yet to make his MLS debut. Rivera came off the bench in OCB’s match against Chattanooga FC on Thursday and scored a brace earlier this month while on international duty with Puerto Rico. The signing was necessary as Ramiro Enrique is on an excused absence for a personal matter.

Ally Watt Discusses Black Women’s Player Collective

Orlando Pride forward Ally Watt talked about her role as the team’s representative for the Black Women’s Player Collective, which is a non-profit organization created by Black players in the NWSL. Watt spoke on how the collective allows her and other players to provide opportunities for young girls that they didn’t have. One such initiative is the creation of mini-pitches to give more safe and equitable spaces for Black girls to play soccer.

Copa America is Upon Us

This year’s Copa America, which will pit the top 16 nations in the Western Hemisphere against each other, kicks off tonight. Here’s a great guide to each team’s notable players and chances to win the tournament. Orlando City goalkeeper Pedro Gallese was noted as the star to watch on Peru’s squad. He has his work cut out for him though in a group that includes Argentina, Canada, and Ecuador. As for the U.S., Christian Pulisic and Giovanni Reyna are key players for the team’s aspirations at a deep run.

Chuck Booth over at CBS Sports also ranked each team heading into the tournament, placing the U.S. fifth on the list. Argentina tops the rankings, and I was a bit surprised to see Brazil in fourth. Peru is last, but hopefully Gallese and Wilder Cartagena can help prove the doubters wrong.

Germany Advances in Euro 2024

Germany followed up its opening win against Scotland with a 2-0 win over Hungary to become the first team to clinch a spot in the knockout round of Euro 2024. In the other Group A matchup, Switzerland and Scotland battled to a 1-1 draw that included a great goal from Xherdan Shaqiri after a bad giveaway by Scotland.

It looked like Albania was headed towards another frustrating loss after giving up the lead in the second half, but a late strike by Klaus Gjasula salvaged a 2-2 draw against Croatia. Today’s slate of matches features a showdown between Spain and Italy, along with Denmark’s clash with England. We also may get to see Orlando City center back David Brekalo take the field in Slovenia’s match against Serbia.

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  • Vancouver Whitecaps midfielder Ryan Gauld won MLS Goal of the Matchday for his strike in stoppage time against the New England Revolution.
  • FC Cincinnati’s Luca Orellano scored one of the best goals of the season with a pinpoint strike from downtown.
  • NJ/NY Gotham FC extended its unbeaten streak to nine games, with rookie Maycee Ball scoring a late winner to beat the San Diego Wave 2-1.

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: 6/19/24

Orlando City needs to score, Duncan McGuire in demand, Orlando City B match postponed, and more.

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Nick Leyva, The Mane Land

Happy Juneteenth, Mane Landers. It is a day to celebrate the end of chattel slavery in the United States and the progress of the Black community in this country. There is always more work to be done, but celebrating the progress to date is worthwhile. Today is also a match day for Orlando City, but for now let’s get to the links.

Scoring Goals is Important

Former Orlando City gaffer Adrian Heath is known for saying that goals change games. Orlando City has not scored many goals this season, making it hard for the club to change games and get results. Head Coach Oscar Pareja is taking the positives from the last match, but he will need to turn things around in Orlando’s attack if he’s to snap the club’s four-game winless streak. The first opportunity is tonight against Charlotte FC.

Competition Grows for Duncan McGuire’s Services

Following the Blackburn Rovers debacle in the last transfer window, we know that Duncan McGuire has interest in moving abroad. If not for incompetence on Blackburn’s part he would already be in Europe. The other interested party in that saga was Sheffield Wednesday, a club that is reportedly still interested in signing the young striker. Now, the English club may have some competition from Torino in Serie A, with other Serie A clubs interested as well. Hopefully, Orlando City will be able to secure McGuire’s services, though I expect he wants to go abroad.

Tonight’s Orlando City B Match Postponed

Orlando City B was set to take on New York City FC II today, but the match has been postponed. The new date and kickoff time have not yet been announced.

It’s not the first time this game’s date has been changed, as it was originally set for June 29 when the season’s schedule was announced. The Young Lions may not be complaining much about not having to play on the road on relatively short rest. As it stands, OCB’s next match will now be against Atlanta United 2 on June 26.

Hines Remembers Match After Pulse Shooting

It’s been a week since the eighth anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub tragedy. Yesterday, it was eight years since Orlando City played the San Jose Earthquakes in the first Orlando City match following the shooting. Orlando Pride Head Coach Seb Hines was a starting center back for the Lions in that match. He remembers the emotions of that day. Hines spoke on how it felt to get up for a match, but also taking time in the 49th minute to honor the 49 people whose lives were taken away too soon. He still has the rainbow sweatbands from that match that he was wearing when he scored a header for Orlando City. Hines remembers the good and the bad, and so should we.

Upgrading the NWSL Match Experience

NWSL clubs are trying to improve the matchday experience for their fans. That looks different everywhere, but at Inter&Co Stadium that experience includes local food vendors as a part of the “Orlando Made” initiative by Orlando City and the Orlando Pride. Of course, great food will only get attendance to a certain level. The real crowd pleaser is winning, and the Pride have been doing a lot of that so far this season.

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That will do it for today. Check back as we get you ready for the match tonight. As always, Vamos Orlando!

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