Good Monday morning, Mane Landers. The weekend brought us some drama-filled conference final action, and we now know who will play for the MLS Cup. But before I dive into that, I just want to take a quick minute to say with mixed emotions that this will be my final Lion Links here, but don’t be sad, because the rest of the boys will still be bringing your daily content needs and coverage. I’ll be stepping away as my wife and I are soon to be first-time parents, and I’m looking forward to all that entails. I appreciate each and every one of you readers for taking the time to scroll through my articles each week. If you’re interested in writing for TML, we could definitely use the help so please reach out. Now, let’s get into the links!
Columbus Crew Claim Hell Is Real Comeback
After a rocky start, the Columbus Crew became the first team to overcome a two-goal deficit on the road and advance in a single-leg round in the history of the MLS Cup playoffs. FC Cincinnati got off to a great start behind USMNT striker Brandon Vasquez, who opened the scoring, but it was captain Luciano Acosta’s sublime free kick finish that stole the show in the first half.
It took trusting the process and the tactics of their first-year manager Wilfried Nancy, but the Columbus Crew fought back with late match heroics to seal the victory. Forward Christian Ramirez bagged the game-winning goal in extra time in the 115th minute.
“You can only fight for someone like that,” said Ramirez. “So many times you can feel that you’re getting the bad end of the stick at certain moments, but I haven’t felt that. I think numerous guys understand how he sees the game now, and we respect that. We talk about writing our story in the Columbus Crew history; this chapter wasn’t done. We got one more week, one more game.”
LAFC Returns to MLS Cup
The league’s defending champion, LAFC, will once again be playing in the final match of the postseason. After frustrating the Houston Dynamo throughout the Western Conference final, LAFC won 2-0. Houston might have dominated the stat sheet in possession, passes, and passing accuracy, but really it was just playing into the gameplan of LAFC.
“We knew that’s what they wanted. They wanted the ball,” said LAFC right back Ryan Hollingshead. “They like to play this little tiki-taka in the middle of the field, these little movements, little one-twos, three of their guys just kind of pass the ball, but they’re going nowhere. And so we just said, do whatever you got, have the ball as long as you want. They created zero dangerous chances. They had a half-chance in the first half on a cross to Baird and that was it. And so a lot of these teams, it’s like, yeah, they’ve got possession, they may be moving the ball. But if they’re not creating dangerous chances, who cares?”
MLS Cup Final Preview
The Eastern Conference champion Columbus Crew will host Western Conference champion LAFC at Lower.com Field on Dec. 9 at 4 p.m for the MLS Cup. The match will be No. 53 across all competitions this campaign for LAFC, and a victory would make the club the first repeat winners since the 2011-2012 LA Galaxy. The storylines leading to the match will likely center around the possibility of it being Carlos Vela’s final game for LAFC, but for the Crew, the bench players will be the ones to watch. In the 65th minute of the Eastern Conference final, Head Coach Wilfried Nancy brought in Julian Gressel and Christian Ramirez, who both played a pivotal role in two of the three Columbus goals in the comeback victory. The Crew last lifted the MLS Cup in 2020, defeating Seattle Sounders 3-0 at Historic Crew Stadium.
2024 National Soccer Hall of Fame
On May 4, the National Soccer Hall of Fame will induct its 2024 class. Most notable will be long-time USMNT goalkeeper Tim Howard, who played 121 matches for the United States and had a successful career in the English Premier League. Other inductees will be USWNT World Cup winner Tisha Venturini-Hoch, 1996 Paralympic captain Josh McKinney, and USL founder Francisco Marcos.
Orlando Reportedly Set to Host USMNT-Brazil Friendly
The United States Men’s National Team is reportedly far along in negotiations to face Brazil in Orlando for a friendly leading to next year’s Copa America. The Yanks and Brazil last met in September 2018 in a friendly match in East Rutherford, NJ. The United States will host the Copa America from June 19 to July 14 as one of six invited teams to the South American competition. Brazil enter as the defending champion and should prove a worthy test for the Stars & Stripes to tune up for the Southern American title.
- Check your pockets and secure your valuables when USMNT left back Antonee Robinson is on the field.
- Liverpool scored in the 87th and 88th minutes to win 4-3 and climb to second in the EPL standings on 31 points.
- Manchester City and Tottenham played to a thrilling 3-3 draw that might find Erling Haaland charged by the English Football Association for criticizing the performance of the referees.
- Bundesliga leaders Bayer Leverkusen saw an eight-game winning run in the league come to an end with a 1-1 draw.
- Inter Milan secured a 3-0 victory at Napoli to reach the top of the Serie A table.
- Arsenal will face Liverpool in a massive FA Cup third-round clash in January.
- Wrexham reached the third round of FA Cup after defeating Yeovil Town 3-0.
That’s a wrap for my personal writing here for a while. It has been a pleasure to bring some coverage to you all for the past couple seasons. It’s not goodbye. It’s see you later. Vamos Orlando!
Lion Links: 3/1/24
Orlando’s girls teams playing in national event this weekend, USWNT will face Colombia, Paul Pogba banned for four years, and more.
Welcome to March! It always feels like a good sign when a month starts on a Friday. Spring may not officially be here, but it definitely feels like winter is truly behind us. I plan on getting plenty of spring cleaning done this weekend before a fairly busy month. Let’s get this month started with today’s links!
ECNL Girls National Event Kicks Off Today
Some of the best youth soccer players are coming to Florida this weekend for the Elite Club National League’s spring event at Lakewood Ranch. It’s a great chance for clubs to play teams outside of their conference and there are plenty of scouts to impress as well. Orlando City will have four youth teams take part and each team will play at least three games over the three days. Orlando’s G07 squad has notably won five of its eight games in conference play and will take on Real Colorado National today. Orlando’s squads in the other age groups have some strong opponents lined up as well, so it should be a great experience for the club.
USWNT Will Face Colombia in Concacaf W Gold Cup
After finishing second in its group after a loss to Mexico, the United States Women’s National Team will take on Colombia this Sunday in the Concacaf W Gold Cup quarterfinals. The U.S. and Colombia squared off in friendlies last fall, with the teams playing to a scoreless draw in Utah before the U.S. won 3-0 in San Diego a few days later. Colombia also finished second in its group, conceding just once so far this tournament. The winner of Sunday’s match will play whichever team advances from tomorrow’s game between Canada and Costa Rica. On the other side of the bracket, Orlando Pride players square off when Rafaelle, Adriana, and Brazil play Mariana Larroquette and Argentina tomorrow. The winner of that match will play the victor between Mexico and Paraguay.
Portland Timbers Cut Ties With Jersey Sponsor
The Portland Timbers have dropped DaBella Exteriors as their jersey sponsor amid allegations that the company’s CEO, Donnie McMillan, Jr., sexually harassed employees. The accusations did not become public until Feb. 23 and the Timbers have removed DaBella’s image from their website as well. It makes sense that the Timbers would want to distance themselves from this. There was an investigation by U.S. Soccer in 2022 regarding former Portland Thorns head coach Paul Riley, and the club was also fined by MLS for not reporting an incident of alleged domestic violence involving former Timbers player Andy Polo in a timely manner. DaBella replaced Alaska Airlines as the team’s shirt sponsor for this season and the Timbers will now go without one until a new sponsor is chosen.
Paul Pogba Banned for Four Years
After testing positive for testosterone while playing for Juventus, French midfielder Paul Pogba was banned for the maximum four years by Italy’s anti-doping court. In response to the ruling, Pogba stated that the verdict was “incorrect” and that he will appeal this decision.
“I am sad, shocked and heartbroken that everything I have built in my professional playing career has been taken away from me,” Pogba said. “When I am free of legal restrictions the full story will become clear, but I have never knowingly or deliberately taken any supplements that violate anti-doping regulations.”
It’s fair to wonder just where this news leaves his career if his appeal is denied and he serves the full ban. Pogba turns 31 later this month and he is still under contract with Juventus through 2026, although this ban may obviously change that. Injuries have limited him in recent years as well, as he missed out on the most recent World Cup with France.
- Toronto FC signed English midfielder Matty Longstaff to a contract through the 2025 season. Longstaff has previous played for Newcastle United and should help improve a Toronto team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2020.
- LA Galaxy midfielder Mark Delgado’s second yellow card he received in his team’s opener has been rescinded and he’s eligible for Saturday’s match against the San Jose Earthquakes. Delgado was sent off while the Galaxy were up against Inter Miami, and the Herons then went on to score and leave with a point.
- The New England Revolution beat Independiente to advance to the Concacaf Champions Cup’s round of 16.
- Bay FC forward Racheal Kundananji had to exit Zambia’s Olympic qualifier against Ghana due to an injury.
- The United States Men’s National Team’s next away kit was reportedly leaked and it sure is something. It’s like a Bomb Pop got mixed into the team’s laundry.
- The USL Super League’s Fort Lauderdale United unveiled its branding and the colors are pretty nice. However, the logo has a bit too much alphabet soup going on for my liking.
- An Atletico Madrid supporter was arrested for racially abusing an eight-year-old who was wearing a Vinicius Junior jersey last year. I’m glad they were able to find the person responsible for this. It’s disgusting behavior that needs to be removed from the sport.
- Vladimir Petkovic was hired as Algeria’s next head coach and will manage the team through 2026 World Cup qualifying. Algeria failed to make it out of the group stage of the recent Africa Cup of Nations and has not qualified for the past two World Cups.
- Grace Wilson became the first Australian soccer player to come out as non-binary. Hopefully this helps make things a little easier for other athletes wishing to come out in the future.
- Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn was named as a part owner of the Utah Royals.
- Wayne Rooney stated that he wants to manage either Manchester United or Everton in the next 10 years. He was just fired by Birmingham City in January.
That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!
Lion Links: 2/29/24
Lions reportedly won’t play in U.S. Open Cup, Cavalry FC reflects on its defeat, gauging the USWNT’s panic meter, and more.
Happy Leap Day, Mane Landers! It’s the rarest day of the year, as we all lean into our procrastination a bit and collectively tell March that we’ll get to it tomorrow. It’s been a pretty busy week for me, but knowing the MLS season is in full swing has helped fuel me a bit. Let’s dive into today’s links!
Orlando City Reportedly Won’t Play in 2024 U.S. Open Cup
The latest reports involving Major League Soccer’s participation in this year’s U.S. Open Cup indicate that Orlando City, along with a majority of MLS teams, won’t be playing their first teams in the tournament. According to ESPN‘s Jeff Carlisle, the Houston Dynamo and the seven best teams from last season that aren’t taking part in the Concacaf Champions Cup will have their first teams take part. The format will reportedly be announced soon and we’ll see if Orlando City B and other MLS NEXT Pro teams will be in the tournament.
It will be pretty disappointing if Orlando’s first team doesn’t end up playing. Even though the Lions suffered an early exit last year, they won in 2022 and Head Coach Oscar Pareja has a penchant for excelling in the U.S. Open Cup.
Cavalry FC Reflects on Loss to Orlando City
Although Cavalry FC lost in both legs against Orlando City in its first Concacaf Champions Cup campaign, the Canadian club can hold its head high. Cavalry Head Coach Tommy Wheeldon Jr. spoke on the team’s tactics in the second leg in Orlando to overcome the hefty aggregate deficit.
“Strategically, we wanted to frustrate them in the first half with an extra defender, and often at times we were in a back five,” Wheeldon said. “And second half, we wanted to unleash with more attackers and have a go, because it was 0-0. We thought … one, we wanted to make history with our first goal, and two, we wanted to get a result here.”
That first goal did come with Myer Bevan making some history for his team to take back to Canada. All in all, Cavalry did pretty well as the underdog and it’s unfortunate it didn’t get a true home game in Calgary. Cavalry’s defense is the real deal and I doubt this is the last time it makes an appearance in the Champions Cup.
Assessing the Fallout From the USWNT’s Defeat
The United States Women’s National Team suffered a shocking defeat to Mexico earlier this week that’s brought on varying levels of panic. The clock is ticking before the Olympics and the USWNT struggled to bounce back after trailing in the first half and had difficulties on both sides of the ball. While the issues at center back will likely be solved once Naomi Girma and Tierna Davidson play, the midfield has plenty of question marks and a weird balance of youth and experience. It’s an awkward stage for the USWNT, as Emma Hayes doesn’t arrive until May and won’t have much time to get the team ready for Paris. Of course, the USWNT could still win this tournament and the return of Mallory Swanson may heal most wounds this summer, leaving this loss as just a minor blemish when the year is up. Only time will tell and the USWNT has plenty of opportunity to right the ship.
FA Cup Quarterfinals Are Set
It was a pretty wild day in the FA Cup, with some of England’s top teams fighting their way into the quarterfinals. Chelsea needed a late winner from Conor Gallagher to beat Leeds United 3-2 at Stamford Bridge. Manchester United’s match against Nottingham Forest also had a dramatic finish, as United’s Casemiro scored the game’s only goal in the 89th minute. Wolverhampton ousted Brighton thanks to an early goal, and Liverpool got the job done against Southampton.
In the quarterfinals, Newcastle will travel to take on Manchester City, Wolverhampton will host the second division’s Conventry City, Chelsea will take on Leicester City, and Manchester United will face off against Liverpool. All four matches will take place on March 16.
- After getting married, Orlando Pride defender Emily Madril will have a new name on the back of her jersey this season.
- Former Pride midfielder Becky Edwards is an assistant coach at the University of Tennessee and shared details about her time as both a player and coach with the U.S. U-20 team.
- Enjoy this captured moment of Orlando midfielder Wilder Cartagena being awesome.
- LAFC forward Mateusz Bogusz’s strike against the Seattle Sounders won the first MLS Goal of the Matchday of the season, claiming 35.4% of the vote.
- FC Cincinnati beat Cavalier 4-0 in the Champions Cup to advance to the round of 16, where it will take on Brandon Vazquez and Monterrey.
- Spain beat France 2-0 to win the inaugural Women’s Nations League final, with Aitana Bonmati and Mariona Caldentey both scoring.
- American midfielder Johnny Cardoso was named La Liga’s U-23 Player of the Month after a strong February with Real Betis.
- After missing the past weekend, American forward Folarin Balogun will no longer be taking penalty kicks for AS Monaco.
- Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain are reportedly the frontrunners to land striker Victor Osimhen, who just had a hat trick in Napoli’s 6-1 win over Sassuolo.
- Former Manchester United defender John O’Shea will serve as Ireland’s interim head coach for a pair of friendlies in March.
That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a pretty great Leap Day and that the rest of the week goes smoothly.
Lion Links: 2/28/24
Orlando City moves on in Champions Cup, Orlando Pride unveil new kits, USMNT to play Brazil in Orlando, and more.
Hello, Mane Landers. I hope you all enjoyed watching Orlando City’s win Tuesday night in the Concacaf Champions Cup. I’ve been staying busy at Under Armour, while wrapping up covering high school basketball playoff action with the state championship this weekend. There is plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.
Orlando City Defeats Cavalry FC in Concacaf Champions Cup
The Lions took care of business on Tuesday, defeating Cavalry FC 3-1 at Inter&Co Stadium to advance 6-1 on aggregate and reach the round of 16 in the Concacaf Champions Cup. Forward Luis Muriel got his first start as a Lion, and there was plenty of rotation from the lineup Head Coach Oscar Pareja used against CF Montreal this past weekend. It was Orlando’s first home win in the continental tournament and the Lions will face Tigres in the next round in a rematch of their series in last year’s Concacaf Champions League. The first match will be in Orlando on Tuesday, with the second leg taking place in Mexico on March 12.
Orlando Pride Unveil New Phoenix and Citrus Kits
The Orlando Pride unveiled two new kits on Tuesday as part of the NWSL’s league-wide kit reset ahead of the upcoming season. The first kit is called the Phoenix kit, which features the Pride’s two recognizable colors, purple and blue. The Phoenix kit also features a two-toned purple gradient that goes from the top right to bottom left on the jersey.
The secondary Citrus Kit is an all new color scheme that pays tribute to Florida’s citrus industry. The Citrus Kit features a new orange and iced-out green color scheme with oranges and leaves, while the letters and numbers have the same green coloring. The socks have “Pride” handwritten on the back, while a stylized “OP” is on the lower end of the jersey.
Both kits will be unveiled during the kit party at the Orlando Regional History Center later today. Fans can purchase replicas of the two new jerseys at ShopOrlandoPride.com, in the Den at Inter&Co Stadium, and on NWSLShop.com.
Philadelphia Union Advance Past Deportivo Saprissa
The Philadelphia Union survived a wild match against Deportivo Saprissa at Subaru Park, securing a 3-3 draw to advance to the next round on aggregate. There were four goals in the first 30 minutes of the match, and Mariano Torres gave Saprissa a needed third goal in the second half to send the game to extra time. Despite playing a man down after defender Jack Elliot was sent off, the Union’s Mikael Uhre scored in extra time and the defense held on to advance. There is more Concacaf Champions League action tonight, as FC Cincinnati takes on Cavalier SC, already up 2-0 on aggregate, while Nashville SC faces Moca FC with a 3-0 aggregate lead. The New England Revolution will host Independiente tomorrow.
USMNT to Play Brazil at Camping World Stadium
The United States Men’s National Team will play Brazil in the second edition of the Continental Clasico on June 12 at Camping World Stadium. Both teams will use this match to test themselves in preparation for the Copa America this summer. This will be the first meeting between these two sides since 2018, when the USMNT lost 2-0 to Brazil in a friendly at MetLife Stadium. In the first edition of the Continental Clasico last April, the USMNT played Mexico in a thrilling 1-1 draw. The USMNT has only beaten Brazil once in 19 matches, but its record in Orlando has been stellar, with a 7-2-0 record in recent years. The 2024 Copa America will kick off on June 20.
- The latest MLS power rankings have been released after opening week. Orlando City dropped three places to eighth after a scoreless draw against CF Montreal this past weekend.
- The Orlando Pride’s Rafaelle started and scored a goal in Brazil’s win against Panama in the Concacaf W Gold Cup. Pride forward Adriana came off the bench for Brazil as well.
- USMNT captain Tyler Adams is back at training with AFC Bournemouth. Adams has been sidelined since last September with a hamstring injury.
- Seattle Sounders legend Ozzie Alonso is returning to the club to sign a one-day contract to announce his retirement from professional soccer.
- Mallorca defeated Real Sociedad 5-4 on penalties to advance to the Copa del Rey final for the first time in 21 years.
- Former Blackburn manager Jon Dahl Tomasson has been hired as Sweden’s next manager and will be the first foreign-born coach to lead the men’s side.
That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Wednesday and I’ll see you next time.
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