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Lion Links: 11/11/23

2023 NWSL Championship preview, Kerolin named NWSL MVP, MLS expansion club breaks ground, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

Happy Saturday, Mane Landers. I started my weekend a little early with a round of golf yesterday, putting the Christmas tree and decorations up with my wife, and relaxing with a movie on the couch. We have a few more decorations to get up today, but for the most part there will be plenty of time to catch some soccer action around the globe on television. She has already called dibs on the TV for the NWSL Championship tonight, so we’ll definitely be tuning in to that. More on that match and everything else down below in today’s links.

2023 NWSL Championship Preview

Snapdragon Stadium will be the ninth different venue to host an NWSL Championship when OL Reign clashes with Gotham FC tonight at 8 p.m. While both clubs want to raise a major trophy, the biggest storylines surround two of the women’s game’s great players finishing their careers following the match. Gotham’s Ali Krieger is coming off one of her best club seasons and OL Reign’s Megan Rapinoe is looking to stamp a successful career. The two long-time friends and former USWNT teammates are looking forward to sharing this special moment and final match together.

“It’s really special, to be honest,” said Rapinoe about playing Krieger in the final. “I mean obviously only one of us is going to be able to win and that’s going to be sad for whoever the person is that doesn’t win. But it’s really special to share the length of career that we have [had]. I know if I win, she’ll be happy for me; if she wins, I’ll be thrilled for her.”

Kerolin Named 2023 NWSL Most Valuable Player

Brazilian forward Kerolin of the North Carolina Courage has been named the 2023 NWSL Most Valuable Player. She is the first South American-born player and the fourth international player to win the award. In her season, Kerolin recorded a career-high 10 goals and three assists in 19 regular-season games.

San Diego FC Breaks Ground

In 2025, MLS is set to add its 30th club in San Diego FC. The club has now officially broken ground on its training facility that will also house its Right to Dream Youth Development Academy. The Right to Dream Academy San Diego is a major part of the club’s 125,000-square-foot campus, which boasts a 50,000-square-foot sports performance facility shared by the first team and academy teams. It will have five full-sized soccer fields, including three natural turf fields and two synthetic turf fields. The residential academy will house male students between the ages of 12 through 18 across sixth through 12th grade. The first group of residential athletes will be enrolled in fall 2025. Additionally, San Diego FC will create a non-residential girls pathway at the academy.

“This is a foundational moment for our club. Our performance center and Right to Dream Academy will enable us to develop future generations of world-class players across greater San Diego. This groundbreaking initiative reaffirms our commitment to create opportunities for young talent to flourish and our vision to become the epicenter of football excellence and innovation in North America,” said Tom Penn, CEO of San Diego FC.

Emma Hayes Announces Farewell Season

The speculation of Chelsea manager Emma Hayes leaving her club for the United States Women’s National Team seems to be confirmed after she has said the “time is right” to leave the club after 12 years in charge of the six-time Women’s Super League champions. Previous sources have confirmed that Hayes’ contract will be a record for women’s football and of equal to that of USMNT Head Coach Gregg Berhalter. Hayes hasn’t confirmed her link to the vacant USWNT managerial post quite yet and reiterated her work still to be done at Chelsea for the time being.

“I’ve got a team to focus on; I’ve got games to win,” she said. “The time is right. I will work with the club in the succession plan and do everything I can to make sure there is as good of a transition as possible so my successor can have the same level of success as I can.”

Darren Powell Lands USL One Head Coaching Job

Former Orlando City Soccer Club Academy Director Darren Powell is set to join USL League One side Lexington Sporting Club entering the team’s second season. Powell was with Orlando from 2014-2016 before heading to San Antonio FC and later Fort Lauderdale CF and the Inter Miami organization.

“We are really excited to be in Lexington and looking forward to meeting with the players. We have been meeting with the staff and getting to know them, and everyone has been super welcoming. Soon, we can meet with the fans and engage with the supporters that seem very passionate about Lexington soccer and obviously want to grow that support during the coming months. Very grateful for the fans we have and the support we’ve been given and looking forward to meeting them.”

Free Kicks

  • Get to know Orlando Pride defender Brianna Martinez.
  • The Orlando Pride have three players called into Brazil’s November camp in captain Marta, Adriana, and Rafaelle.

That’s a wrap on today’s links. Enjoy the rest of your weekend folks. Never fear, the Lions will be back in action soon enough. Vamos Orlando!

Lion Links

Lion Links: 7/24/24

The Olympics are here, the MLS Skills Competition thrilled, the East won the MLS NEXT All-Star game, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

Welcome to Wednesday, Mane Landers. With the start of the Olympics, the NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup, and the Leagues Cup, it’s tournament time in our soccer world. There is plenty to watch and follow, but I want to take the opportunity to wish my wonderful wife a happy birthday! She is very supportive of my work with The Mane Land, and I appreciate her greatly. Now, let’s get to the links.

Olympic Pride

The Olympics are upon us, and thus the opportunity to watch the Orlando Pride’s representatives in action. You will definitely want to check out the matches, as it is Marta’s last Olympics. The Brazilian is playing in her sixth Olympics, though she isn’t there just because of her name. She has earned it through her play. It’s no surprise to Orlando Pride supporters that Marta secured her place on the squad, as she has looked much more like her old self this season during the Pride’s undefeated regular season run.

MLS Skills Competition and MLS NEXT All-Star Game

The MLS Skills Competition took place Tuesday at Lower.com Field in Columbus, OH. Liga MX won the Shooting Challenge, MLS won the Touch Challenge, Liga MX took the lead again on the Cross & Volley Challenge, and MLS tied things up by winning the Passing Challenge. The Crossbar Challenge tiebreaker went to the visitors, as Liga MX won the overall competition. Special Olympics Ohio received a $25,000 donation as Liga MX’s charity of choice.

The Philadelphia Union’s young star, Cavan Sullivan, scored a goal and provided an assist as the East squad came from two goals down to win 4-2 over the West in the MLS NEXT All-Star Game on Tuesday. Orlando City was represented by Colin Guske and Juan Rojas on the winning side. It was quite a showcase for the future of MLS.

U.S. to Face Host France in Olympic Opener Today

The U-23 USMNT starts its Olympic journey today against host France. Orlando City’s Duncan McGuire will likely be leading the attack for the Yanks. He will be a part of a squad unlike those that many are accustomed to watching, since the normal stars won’t be in attendance. Of course, that does give players like McGuire a chance to shine on the international stage.

USWNT Prepares for Zambia

The USWNT begin its quest for Olympic gold tomorrow against the Zambian National Team. Obviously, Orlando Pride supporters will get to watch Pride players Barbra Banda and Grace Chanda for Zambia. USWNT Head Coach Emma Hayes is aware of the expectations surrounding her squad, and knows the challenge that Zambia presents. Hayes said the assumption that the U.S. will simply dominate is “disrespectful” of the growth of the women’s game across the world.

This is Zambia’s second Olympics, though the road to Paris was not an easy one, thanks to the Football Association of Zambia. There are accusations of money laundering by the president of the association, and sexual misconduct by a coach. It really is impressive that the team made it and will compete. Of course, Banda and Chanda are not the totality of the Zambian team, meaning there is a lot more to know about the USWNT’s first opponent.

Free Kicks

  • The Concacaf Award Nominees have been announced. U.S. national team players Sophia Smith and Christian Pulisic are up for their respective Player of the Year awards.
  • The New Zealand Women’s National Team was allegedly spied on by a drone for the Canadian Women’s National Team during training for the Olympics. The two teams will meet on Friday for their fist match.
  • Former Lion Denny Chin has a new gig with Young Money APAA Sports.
  • The Orlando Pride are also participating in a school supply drive for the Orlando community, and you can contribute as well. Here’s Simone Charley to tell you all about it.

That will do it for today.

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 7/23/24

Duncan McGuire’s road to Paris, MLS transfer happenings, USWNT will play Iceland after the Olympics, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Jeremy Reper

Happy Tuesday, everyone. It was a rather odd weekend as all three of Orlando’s soccer teams recorded 1-1 draws. The games will continue to come thick and fast between the Orlando Pride’s Summer Cup participation, Orlando City’s Leagues Cup opener, Orlando City B’s regularly scheduled programming, and the start of the Olympic tournaments. Before we get into today’s links, let’s all wish a happy birthday to Orlando Pride forward Alex Kerr!

Duncan McGuire’s Path to Olympics

Orlando City’s Duncan McGuire will likely suit up for the United States Olympic team in just one day’s time, and he’s had quite the interesting journey to arrive at this point. After being overshadowed in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft despite the Lions selecting him with the sixth overall pick, McGuire proceeded to have an outstanding rookie season by bagging 13 goals. His family members have long been some of his biggest supporters, and it’s good to hear that they’ll be on hand to cheer him on over in France. As the only traditional striker on the roster, he’ll have a good chance to make an impact. With as odd as his road has been to get here, it won’t be at all surprising if he does.

MLS Transfer Happenings

There are a number of MLS transfer moves that we need to catch up on. We’ll start with something that’s been rumored for awhile, as Atlanta United has officially sold Caleb Wiley to Chelsea for a fee reported to be in the area of $11 million. We stay in the Eastern Conference with Nashville SC, which has used a U22 Initiative spot to sign midfielder Patrick Yazbek from Viking FK. D.C. United has signed Boris Enow from Maccabi Netanya, a move that will add some important depth to the midfield. Shifting to the West, FC Dallas has signed Manuel Cafumana from Maccabi Haifa on a year-long loan deal. He continues the trend of midfield signings, and has experience playing for the Angolan national team. Finally, LAFC has sold defender Mamadou Fall to Barcelona after he spent last season on loan with the Spanish club.

USWNT Will Face Iceland in Friendlies

The United States Women’s National Team has announced that it will play a pair of matches against Iceland in October. The friendlies will take place on Oct. 24 in Austin, and Oct. 27 in Nashville, and will be the team’s first games following this summer’s Olympic tournament. Iceland is the 14th ranked team in the world, and should present a good test for the U.S. team. Additionally, a third match will take place on Oct. 30, with an opponent and location still to be announced. The USWNT will begin Olympic play on Thursday against Zambia.

Mexico Names Head Coach

Mexico has named Javier Aguirre as the team’s new head coach with legendary former defender Rafa Marquez joining the staff as an assistant. This is Aguirre’s third stint as the head coach of the team, but he will only have the job through the 2026 World Cup, after which he will turn the duties over to Marquez ahead of preparations for the 2030 edition of the tournament. Aguirre led Mexico to the round of 16 in the 2002 and 2010 editions of the tournament, and recently spent time coaching Monterrey and Mallorca. Marquez’s playing career needs little introduction, but he recently left his post as manager of Barcelona B in order to join Mexico’s staff.

Free Kicks

  • Make sure to participate in Orlando City’s school supply drive.
  • The Lions held steady at 14th in ESPN‘s MLS power rankings.
  • West Ham United has brought a very striking bus with them on the team’s tour of the United States.

That’s all I have for you this morning. Vamos Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 7/22/24

All three Orlando squads finish with 1-1 draws over the weekend, and much more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

Hello, Mane Landers! I hope all is well with you down in Florida. I’ve just been busy at Under Armour and working the Def Leppard concert and Cubs baseball games at Wrigley Field within the past week. All of our teams, Orlando City, the Orlando Pride, and OCB, picked up 1-1 draws in their matches. It’s not often that all three teams pick up the same exact result. We’ve got plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links. 

Orlando City Trades Goals in 1-1 Draw vs. NYCFC

Orlando City and New York City FC split the points in a 1-1 draw at Inter&Co Stadium on Saturday. After a scoreless first half, the Lions struck first with a goal from Ramiro Enrique — his fourth consecutive game finding the net. New York City FC got an equalizer five minutes later to tie the match, and neither side could find a winner. Orlando’s four-game winning streak ends but its unbeaten run now stands at five matches. New York City FC is fifth in the Eastern Conference with 38 points, while Orlando City stays seventh with 34 points. There will be a break in league play as the Leagues Cup kicks off this week after Tuesday’s MLS All-Star Skills Competition and Wednesday’s MLS All-Star Game, and the Lions’ next match is at home against CF Montreal on Friday.

Lions Acquire 2025 MLS SuperDraft Pick

Orlando City has acquired the higher 2025 second-round MLS SuperDraft pick and $50,000 in 2026 General Allocation Money in exchange for the right of first refusal to sign former Orlando City forward Benji Michel. Real Salt Lake announced the club had added Michel last week. Following his departure from Orlando, Michel was with FC Arouca in Portugal. Michel played 118 matches across all competitions as a Lion, scoring 19 goals and adding nine assists.

Pride Draw North Carolina Courage Away

The Orlando Pride came from behind to snatch a 1-1 draw against the North Carolina Courage in their NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup opening match Saturday at WakeMed Soccer Park. The Courage struck just before halftime to take a 1-0 lead, but Celia scored the equalizer for the Pride late to earn Orlando its second point at North Carolina this season and its first-ever Summer Cup result. The Courage won 5-4 in the ensuing penalty shootout to claim a second point. The draw extends the Pride’s unbeaten run to 17 matches across all competitions. Orlando sits third in their group after the first round of games in the Summer Cup and will face Monterrey at Inter&Co Stadium on Saturday.

OCB Picks Up Late 1-1 Road Draw at New York Red Bulls II

Orlando City B and New York Red Bulls II also battled to a 1-1 draw at Montclair State University Soccer Park. After a scoreless first half, New York Red Bulls II took the lead early in the second half, but Justin Ellis scored a stoppage-time equalizer for the Young Lions. The Baby Red Bulls won 8-7 in the shootout to secure the extra point. OCB remains 10th in the Eastern Conference with 24 points, and its next match will be on the road Saturday at Finley Stadium against Chattanooga FC.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando City studio host Gabrielle Amado announced over the weekend she was leaving the club after four seasons and will be moving to Spain to work for LaLiga TV.

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

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