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Lion Links: 11/23/23

Lions prepare for the Columbus Crew, learn more about Kerry Abello, USMNT will face Jamaica, and much more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Thanksgiving, Mane Landers! I hope it’s a nice and stress-free holiday for you, whether it be with family, friends, or just yourself. I’ll be spending the day with some relatives I don’t get to see all too often and enjoying some oxtail and sweet potato pie. But before you start jumping in the car to travel or get that oven preheated, enjoy today’s links from around the soccer world.

Lions Spending Thanksgiving On the Training Fields

It may be a holiday, but the Lions will be hard at work at training this morning to stay focused ahead of Saturday’s Eastern Conference semifinal between Orlando City and the Columbus Crew at Exploria Stadium. These days are critical for the Lions to get back up to speed after a lengthy break since advancing past Nashville SC in the first round on Nov. 7. Head Coach Oscar Pareja spoke on the team’s drive with the chance to make club history on the line.

“We are very grateful for this opportunity to bring this club and this team in these circumstances to have on Thanksgiving Day this responsibility to be preparing for our match and the playoffs,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said on Wednesday at the Orlando Health Training Ground at Osceola Heritage Park. “That’s what we aimed for at the beginning. So we’re here, we’re grateful for this, but at the same time, just seeing how the families use these holidays to get together, and this is something good. It’s a good feeling. Now we are obviously going to be with our families, and we’re very grateful for many things but very focused on our responsibility to Saturday. There is no other space for any other thoughts.”

Orlando City’s Match Will Be a Clash of Styles

Saturday’s semifinal between the Lions and Crew will pit two of the league’s hottest teams against each other. The Crew have scored eight goals this postseason, while the Lions didn’t concede in either of their matches with Nashville. Pareja and Columbus Crew Head Coach Wilfried Nancy deploy different styles, but both teams play with plenty of intensity to try controlling the game. Columbus attacks freely, but Orlando’s defense is as tenacious as it is resolute. This game may come down to Orlando’s ability to execute set pieces, which the Crew have struggled with this year. The last time these two played was on Sept. 16, with the Lions coming from behind to win 4-3 in one of the most thrilling matches of the year.

Getting to Know Kerry Abello

Orlando Pride defender/midfielder Kerry Abello was the latest player to field questions for fans to learn more about the club’s players. Her soccer journey began at a young age and she detailed how she steadily fell in love with the sport, eventually choosing it over gymnastics and fulfilling her dream of becoming a professional soccer player. Abello was drafted by the Pride in the 2021 NWSL Draft and she spoke on how special it was for her to notch an assist in her home debut. The 24-year-old also talked about her Cuban heritage, her playing style while on the field, and that she’d choose Taylor Swift if she could have dinner with any celebrity.

Concacaf Nations League Semifinals Are Set

The United States Men’s National Team will take on Jamaica in the Concacaf Nations League semifinals, with the match set to take place next year on March 21 in Arlington, TX. The four remaining teams were matched up based on their performances in the quarterfinals, with the other semifinal being a clash between Panama and Mexico. The U.S. reached this point by advancing over Trinidad & Tobago in a two-leg series, while Jamaica progressed after coming from behind to beat Canada in Toronto. All four of these teams have clinched a spot in next year’s Copa America, but there are still two spots available for the teams that lost in the quarterfinals. On March 23, Canada will take on Trinidad & Tobago and Costa Rica will play Honduras to determine which other Concacaf sides will participate in the tournament. The Concacaf Nations League’s third-place match and final will take place on March 24.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando City B defender Nabi Kibunguchy made his first appearance with Kenya earlier this week, coming off the bench in a 5-0 win over Seychelles in a World Cup qualifier.
  • In a scenario where the remaining MLS playoff teams were Thanksgiving dishes, Orlando City was designated as the stuffing. Other than the turkey, which was determined to be the Seattle Sounders, I can think of no other food as necessary as stuffing to call a meal a Thanksgiving meal.
  • Orlando’s Wilfredo Rivera earned recognition from EA Sports after doing well in Concacaf Nations League play.

That’s all I have for you today. While today is a fun holiday for many, it can be a bit of a stressful and lonely day for many as well. It’s a great time to shoot a text or make a call to a friend or family member who might be having a tough time during this holiday season. If there’s anyone you’re thankful to have in your life, let them know today. Have a happy Thanksgiving!

Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/22/24

Orlando City draws CF Montreal, Pride and OCB win, FA Cup drama, and 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. Orlando City drew, while the Pride and OCB both won over the weekend. I had friends in town, so I went to Wrigley Field to check out a Cubs game and show them around Chicago. Let’s wish former Orlando City midfielder Kaka and Pride defender Brianna Martinez a happy birthday! There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Lions Draw at CF Montreal

Orlando City again had to overcome a 2-1 deficit on the road when it faced CF Montreal Saturday night. The Lions needed a late stoppage-time goal from Ivan Angulo to walk out of Stade Saputo with a 2-2 draw. Orlando has now picked up points in each of the last four matches. Orlando City will face CF Montreal again on July 26 in the MLS Leagues Cup during the competition’s group stage. The Lions’ next match will be Saturday at Inter&Co Stadium as it takes on Toronto FC.

Orlando Pride Defeat San Diego Wave

The Orlando Pride shut out the San Diego Wave 1-0 on Friday at Inter&Co Stadium and got their second consecutive win with that same scoreline. Summer Yates scored the lone goal in the first half to seal the win for Orlando. Zambian international striker Barbra Banda made her debut for the Pride, coming off the bench in the second half. The Pride remain undefeated through five league matches and are fifth in the NWSL table with nine points. The team will be on the road to face the Washington Spirit Friday.

OCB Wins on the Road at Crown Legacy FC

Orlando City B got a 2-0 win against Crown Legacy FC at the Sportsplex at Matthews on Friday. Alex Freeman and Shak Mohammed scored for the Young Lions, and Javier Otero made six saves. OCB completed its two-match road trip, securing four out of a possible six points, and has kept its unbeaten streak on the road alive at four matches. OCB is in fifth in the MLS NEXT Pro Eastern Conference with nine points, while Crown Legacy is winless in five matches. OCB will be back in action this Sunday as it hosts Toronto FC II at Osceola County Stadium.

Manchester United and Manchester City Advance to FA Cup Final

Manchester United won 4-2 on penalties after a 3-3 draw against Coventry City in the FA Cup semifinals to advance to the final. It was a thrilling match at Wembley as United had a 3-0 lead before Coventry City rallied to get back into the match. USMNT forward Haji Wright scored the equalizer to tie the match 3-3 late into stoppage time. Coventry City thought it scored the game-winning goal late into extra time from Victor Torp, but it was ruled offside after video review. Casemiro missed his penalty for United, while Wright and Torp gave Coventry City a 2-1 advantage. United converted four straight penalties while Coventry City missed two to seal the win for the Red Devils. Manchester City edged past Chelsea 1-0 in their semifinal matchup, with Bernardo Silva scoring the lone goal in the second half. The FA Cup final will be played at the end of May and will feature a Manchester Derby for the second consecutive time.

Free Kicks

  • In case you missed it, check out this video on Orlando City’s social media page on Ivan Angulo’s equalizer to tie the match in stoppage time against CF Montreal on Saturday.

According to OptaJack, the Pride have secured the most points at home during the regular season since last May, with 26.

  • USMNT defender Sergino Dest suffered a knee injury during training with PSV Eindhoven over the weekend. Dest will miss the remainder of the Eredivisie season and could miss the 2024 Copa America this summer.
  • Real Madrid came back from being 2-1 down to defeat Barcelona 3-2 and stay ahead of its rivals by 11 points with six league matches left.
  • Bayer Leverkusen extended its unbeaten run to 45 matches after scoring a late goal from Josip Stanisic in stoppage time to get a 1-1 draw against Borussia Dortmund.
  • Serie A side Udinese is reportedly set to hire former Juventus and Real Madrid player Fabio Cannavaro as its next head coach.

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

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/19/24

Orlando Pride host the San Diego Wave, Orlando City B faces Crown Legacy FC, Europa League action, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride

Happy Friday! Make sure to get your night plans in order as both the Orlando Pride and Orlando City B have games tonight. Figure out your drink of choice, charge those devices if you don’t plan on heading to the stadium for the Pride game, and knock out any chores before things get rolling. It should be a fun day, so let’s get it started with some links!

Orlando Pride Host the San Diego Wave Tonight

After earning their first win last week in Utah, the Orlando Pride are back in the City Beautiful for tonight’s game against the San Diego Wave at 8 p.m. The Pride’s four-game unbeaten run is on the line and will be put to the test against a Wave team that has four points from three games. San Diego has only scored two goals this season, but it has also secured a pair of clean sheets so far. The biggest storyline heading into the match is whether or not Barbra Banda will make her Pride debut. Hopefully Orlando can light it up at home and keep former Pride forward Alex Morgan and the rest of the Wave’s offense in check.

Orlando City B Takes On Crown Legacy FC

The Young Lions are also in action tonight at 7:30 p.m., with a match against Crown Legacy FC in North Carolina. Crown Legacy is only a point behind OCB, but is still searching for its first win of this MLS NEXT Pro season. OCB has played every game away from the Orlando area so far and ground out a 1-1 draw against Philadelphia Union II last weekend. Orlando hasn’t won a game since its season opener on March 16, but has been proven capable of getting points on the road. Wilfredo Rivera and Yutaro Tsukada linked up for the equalizer in that match, so hopefully they can keep that momentum rolling into tonight’s game.

Americans to Watch This Weekend

European soccer seasons and tournaments are nearing their ends and there are many Americans in important games this weekend. Haji Wright’s heroics put Coventry City into the FA Cup semifinals, and he will have a chance to impress again on Sunday against Manchester United. Elsewhere in England, Fulham duo Antonee Robinson and Tim Ream could put a dent in Liverpool’s title hopes, while Nottingham Forest’s Matt Turner and Giovanni Reyna will square off against Everton, as both sides aim to avoid relegation. Over in Italy, AC Milan duo Christian Pulisic and Yunus Musah will try to stop Inter Milan from claiming the Serie A title in a rivalry match at San Siro. There’s also a showdown between Americans in the Scottish Cup semifinals, with Celtic’s Cameron Carter-Vickers going up against Aberdeen and Dante Polvara.

Europa League Quarterfinals Come to a Close

The Europa League quarterfinals are done and dusted and only four teams remain in contention for some silverware. West Ham United took the lead against Bayer Leverkusen, but couldn’t overcome the aggregate deficit and the German club advanced. Leverkusen also scored a late equalizer to make it a 1-1 draw and extend its unbeaten streak to 44 games. Marseille scored at home against Benfica to send the game to extra time and then won the eventual penalty shootout. Atalanta did enough in a 1-0 loss to Liverpool to advance on aggregate, with Liverpool’s lone goal coming from an early Mohamed Salah penalty kick. AS Roma is also through to the semifinals after a 2-1 win against AC Milan, despite a red card in the first half. In the semifinals, Marseille will face Atalanta and Leverkusen will take on Roma.

Free Kicks

  • Houston Dynamo Head Coach Ben Olsen has agreed to a new contract that will keep him with the club through 2026. Olsen has quietly dragged the Dynamo out of the Western Conference’s basement and won last year’s U.S. Open Cup as well.
  • New York Red Bulls defender Andres Reyes was suspended an additional match for violent conduct in the team’s match against the Chicago Fire. This means Reyes will miss tomorrow’s match against LAFC and the home game against the Vancouver Whitecaps on April 27.
  • American left back Jorge Villafana is hanging up his cleats. He won the MLS Cup with the Portland Timbers back in 2015 and the Concacaf Gold Cup with the U.S. in 2017.
  • Replays won’t be a part of the FA Cup for the next six years. This will ease some of the schedule congestion for English Premier League teams, but it denies lower-division sides the chance at more revenue.
  • The folks over at Stars and Stripes FC shined a spotlight on forward Jubilo Iwata, who currently leads Japan’s J1 League in scoring after eight games. It’s always cool to learn more about some of the lesser-known players in the U.S. player pool.
  • An NFL game between the Philadelphia Eagles and Green Bay Packers will be played in Brazil at Corinthians Arena. However, there’s an unofficial rule at the stadium that green can’t be worn, as it is the color of Corinthians rival, so we’ll see if that’s adhered to come September.
  • Megan Rapinoe and Sue Bird’s production company will adapt Cleat Cute, a romance novel by Meryl Wilsner about love between teammates on a women’s soccer team. As someone who’s read it and loved it, I’m pretty excited for the show to say the least.

That’s all I have for you today. Stay hydrated and enjoy the games today. Go Orlando!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 4/18/24

Barbra Banda’s opportunity in Orlando, Omar Gonzalez’s mental health struggles, UEFA Champions League quarterfinals finish, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Mark Thor

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope this week has been treating you well as we gear up for another weekend packed with Orlando soccer. It’s been a fairly busy week for me as I juggle work with keeping an eye on my cat. He’s a bit of a menace, but at least in a cute way. I’ll spare you my rambling on how great he is, and instead give you today’s links from around the soccer world.

Opportunity Knocks for Barbra Banda

Orlando Pride forward Barbra Banda landed in the City Beautiful and spoke on how her first week with the team has been going. While there’s plenty of buzz surrounding the Pride on how Banda should improve the team’s offense, playing in the NWSL will also help the 24-year-old further develop her game.

“I think the league is quite good. I’ve been following it from way back,” she said. “I think it’s a very interesting league, very strong. All the teams are very physical, fast. So I think it’s good for myself to improve.”

Now that she’s with the Pride, soccer fans around the world will now have better access to watch one of the best forwards in women’s soccer. Banda also talked about the warm welcome she received at the airport and you can check out more of her reaction to that and some of her first few days in Orlando in the video below.

Portland Thorns Head Coach Reassigned

Mike Norris is no longer the head coach of the Portland Thorns after the club made him a technical director instead. The Thorns have never had a worse start to an NWSL season, losing three of their four games this year and still searching for their first win. Rob Gale will serve as the team’s interim head coach while the club does a global search for a replacement. I’m a bit surprised that Norris wasn’t given a few more weeks to turn things around, considering Portland is just a win away from being back in the thick of things. We’ll see if the Thorns will get that win with Gale at the helm when they take on the struggling Houston Dash Saturday.

Omar Gonzalez Shares His Mental Health Journey

American defender Omar Gonzalez discussed the difficulties he’s had over the course of his year and the toll it has had on his mental health. His own goal in the USMNT’s loss to Trinidad & Tobago that cost the team its chance to qualify for the 2018 World Cup would be rough for any player to overcome, but Gonzalez stated that head injuries made a stressful few years of his life much more difficult. Gonzalez admitted that he had daily suicidal thoughts until he reached out for needed help while with Toronto FC. Things have since improved and he’s currently with his hometown team, FC Dallas. I think it’s helpful for players like Gonzalez to be open about the mental health problems athletes face. Hopefully this lets other athletes know they aren’t alone in these struggles and encourages them to reach out for help if needed.

UEFA Champions League Semifinals Are Set

Only four teams are still standing in the UEFA Champions League after the quarterfinals wrapped up with plenty of dramatic soccer. The matchup between Real Madrid and Manchester City lived up to expectations with a penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw in England. Real Madrid prevailed and ended City’s run, with Andriy Lunin making two saves in the shootout. In the other quarterfinal, Bayern Munich advanced after beating Arsenal 1-0, thanks to Joshua Kimmich’s head.

It all sets up for a thrilling pair of semifinals and potential storylines for the final. Will Bayern and Borussia Dortmund reach the final for a rivalry match for the ages? Can Kylian Mbappe finally give Paris Saint-Germain a Champions League title, and will it be at the expense of Real Madrid? If the semifinals are anything like the quarterfinals, it will be great soccer to enjoy.

Free Kicks

  • Orlando City Director of Equipment Operations Charles Raycroft received some deserved recognition after reaching an impressive milestone in his career.
  • Romario, who was named FIFA World Player of the Year in 1994 after helping Brazil win a World Cup, has registered himself as a player for America Football Club. The 58-year-old has been the president of the club since 2009 and now has the chance to play alongside his son Romarinho.

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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