Lion Links

Lion Links: 11/23/23

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



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!


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