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Lion Links: 2/1/24

Duncan McGuire move to Blackburn reportedly off, Orlando City nears deal for David Brekalo, Lions linked with Luis Muriel, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC

Welcome to February! The first month of the year is officially behind us and the MLS and NWSL preseasons are in full swing. It was a rather hectic month for Orlando’s soccer teams, as players came to the City Beautiful and others bid it farewell. It’s likely going to be a day filled with refreshing and scrolling due to the transfer window, so make sure to stay hydrated, limit screen time, and respond to others responsibly. Now, let’s get into it.

Duncan McGuire Blackburn Deal Reportedly Falls Through

Orlando City found itself in the center of a dramatic transfer deadline day saga that still shows no signs of calming down. The day began with reports that Orlando City forward Duncan McGuire left Orlando’s training in Cancun to head to England to sign with Blackburn Rovers. The new deal Orlando reportedly agreed to was for nearly $4 million, along with another $2.5 million in add-ons and a sell-on percentage.

In a vacuum, that’s a great bit of business from Orlando for a drafted player with only one year of professional experience. However, just when it seemed like a done deal, pending a medical, Blackburn reportedly pulled out of the deal while McGuire was still in the air.

It’s unclear where things go from here. Sheffield Wednesday, which had bids rejected by Orlando already, is now back in the mix again. It’s not certain if McGuire wants to join a team staring down the barrel of relegation, or if Wednesday can come close to the fee Blackburn was willing to pay. Regardless of how this all shakes out, I wish the best for McGuire and relegation for Blackburn.

David Brekalo Saga Continues

Orlando City’s negotiations with Viking FK for Slovenian center back David Brekalo are reportedly back on and nearing completion. You’ll need a translation tool for the full details, unless you can read Norwegian, of course. The latest fee being reported is $2.8 million, with performance-related bonuses and a 15% sell-on percentage involved. Viking has also told Brekalo that his wish to leave the club will be honored.

However, the very same Blackburn that spurned Orlando and McGuire is reportedly trying to sign Brekalo as well. It’s a fairly bizarre development for Blackburn to swoop in at the last minute to pip the same team it was trying to negotiate another deal with. Blackburn’s offer is reportedly a loan with an option to buy in the summer. Have I mentioned I wish relegation upon Blackburn?

Orlando City Linked with Luis Muriel

If McGuire doesn’t return to Orlando, it would definitely leave the Lions thin up top heading into the 2024 season. Reinforcements may be on the way though, as Orlando is reportedly interested in Atalanta forward Luis Muriel.

The 32-year-old has played in Spain and Italy since making the move from Deportivo Cali to Udinese back in 2010 and scored four goals in five games for Atalanta in this season’s Europa League. He’s a veteran player who could fit in well with Orlando’s other attacking players should he make the move to MLS. Even if McGuire does play for Orlando, adding Muriel would be beneficial, considering the club still hasn’t replaced Ercan Kara.

Leagues Cup Groups Revealed for 2024

The second edition of the revamped Leagues Cup, which pits MLS and Liga MX teams against each other, will take place this summer and we now know the groups for the tournament. Orlando City was grouped up with CF Montreal and Liga MX’s Atletico San Luis. A tiered-ranking system was used to determine the groups, and Orlando was in the top tier after finishing second in the Supporters’ Shield rankings last season. The Lions won their group in last year’s tournament, finishing above the Houston Dynamo and Santos Laguna, which is no small feat. Montreal and San Luis are somewhat less daunting, but the tournament’s format with penalty shootouts instead of draws makes for a tense affair regardless. The bracket for the knockout stage wasn’t revealed, so it’s not clear who the Lions will face should they advance out of their group.

Orlando City SC Announces Year-Long Celebrations

This season will mark Orlando City’s 10th since joining MLS, and the club announced a slate of events this year to celebrate. A commemorative logo that incorporates the red from the club’s USL days will be used throughout the year. There are multiple events in place for fans leading up to Orlando’s 10th MLS season, including the kit reveal on Feb. 15, a trivia night on Feb. 22, and a talk with Head Coach Oscar Pareja on Feb. 13. There’s also a reverse car wash on Feb. 17, which I can only imagine involves jumping into a car trunk filled with soap and water and being driven on I-4.

A vault to showcase Orlando City’s and the Orlando Pride’s history will also be installed at the stadium and opened on March 9. Theme nights, honoring of past players, and more are on the docket this year, so it should be a fun time for fans.

Free Kicks

  • The Pride tied with Angel City FC for the NWSL clubs with the most talent returning from last season, with minutes used as the metric. The Pride were at the bottom of this list the past two years, so it’s nice to see how drastically that’s changed heading into 2024.
  • Orlando City midfielder Wilder Cartagena was on fire in training. I think the club should bottle up some Cancun sand for him to use as a talisman this season.
  • Montreal signed Uruguayan forward Matias Coccaro from Huracan in Argentina’s top flight using Targeted Allocation Money. The 26-year-old is signed with the Canadian club through 2026, with option years for 2027 and 2028.
  • LAFC also added a forward, signing Tomas Angel through 2026 on a free transfer. He is the son of Juan Pablo Angel, who starred for the New York Red Bulls.
  • Not to be outdone, the Chicago Fire are reportedly close to signing Belgian forward Hugo Cuype for a hefty transfer fee.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week!

Lion Links

Lion Links: 7/19/24

Dagur Dan Thorhallsson signs new contract, Orlando Pride sign National Team Replacement Players, MLS roster rules change, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

Happy Friday! I’ll be spending a majority of the day traveling, as I have a flight to Boston this morning and then a drive up to Maine. It should be a nice weekend with friends, and I’m planning on consuming as much lobster as possible while I’m up there. Let’s dive into today’s links!

Dagur Dan Signs New Contract

Orlando City has signed Dagur Dan Thorhallsson to a new contract that will keep him in the City Beautiful through 2026, with an option for 2027 as well. The versatile player joined Orlando before the 2023 season and has flourished at right back since moving there. He’s locked down the position, so it makes all the sense in the world that Orlando would want to keep him around. Thorhallsson has two goals and three assists to his name so far this season and is a key part of the team’s game plan when attacking.

Ramiro Enrique Makes Team of the Matchday Bench

Forward Ramiro Enrique earned a spot on the bench of the latest Team of the Matchday for his efforts in Orlando’s 3-0 win over Nashville SC on Wednesday. Enrique’s rocketed strike capped off a solid performance, as he was also a force in the air and looked dangerous at the top of Orlando’s offense. The 23-year-old forward was also selected as Man of the Match in our Nic Josey’s player grades for the game. Enrique now has three goals in his past three games, so it’s nice to see him get some deserved recognition.

Orlando Pride Sign National Team Replacement Players

Midfielder Claire Winter and goalkeeper Kenna Caldwell were signed by the Pride as National Team Replacement Players for this international break. The Pride are without seven players due to the Olympics and Winter and Caldwell are available for selection for the upcoming  NWSL x Liga MX Femenil Summer Cup. Caldwell was a non-roster invitee to the Pride’s preseason and has been training with the team since. Winter has played in Denmark, Spain, Ireland, and Puerto Rico over the course of her career, and she was also a National Team Replacement Player for NJ/NY Gotham FC back in 2021.

MLS Makes Changes to Roster Rules

MLS clubs will have a bit more flexibility in terms of roster construction after the league announced changes that go into effect now that the secondary transfer window is open. Teams can now use all three Designated Player slots and all three U22 Initiative slots, eliminating the limitations that hamstrung some of those slots in the past. There’s also now an option for teams to build their roster with two DP slots, four U22 Initiative slots, and $2 million more in General Allocation Money. Speaking of GAM, up to $3 million of total transfer revenues can be converted into it, which is more than double the amount that it was before.

Only time will tell if these changes are enough to make the league more competitive with others, both on the field and in the transfer market. I feel like the increased flexibility is a positive, and I suspect savvy general managers will find ways to optimize their rosters fairly quickly. Let’s hope Luiz Muzzi can work some magic this transfer window.

USMNT Falls in Latest FIFA Rankings

After a disappointing Copa America that included a group stage exit, the United States fell five spots to 16th in the latest men’s FIFA rankings. While the U.S. underperformed, I do think it’s worth noting that strong tournaments from Uruguay, Germany, and Switzerland also played a part in them rising above the U.S. in the rankings. Mexico dropped two spots to 17th, while Panama and Canada both jumped up eight spots to 35th and 40th, respectively.

Spain moved up five places to third in the rankings following its dominant Euro 2024 run, while Argentina remained at the top after winning Copa America. Colombia jumped up three spots to claim ninth place, while Croatia fell out of the top 10 and is now in 12th.

Free Kicks

  • Former Lion Benji Michel will reportedly sign with Real Salt Lake. The Homegrown Player left Orlando on a free transfer to join FC Arouca in Portugal in January of 2023. It’s definitely going to be weird seeing him play for another MLS team if this comes to pass.
  • The Houston Dynamo made a splash by signing German winger Lawrence Ennali as a U22 Initiative Player. The 22-year-old joins from Polish club Gornik Zabrze for a reported transfer fee of $3 million and should give the Dynamo some needed firepower to compete in the Western Conference.
  • The Philadelphia Union traded away $150,000 in 2024 GAM to St. Louis City in exchange for Samuel Adeniran. The 25-year-old forward scored eight goals for St. Louis last season and the club can receive another $300,000 in GAM if conditions are met as well.
  • Toronto FC added American defender Henry Wingo as a free agent. although it gave $75,000 in 2025 GAM to D.C. United for his discovery rights. The 28-year-old has spent the past four years with Ferencvárosi and has MLS experience due to his time as a Homegrown Player with the Seattle Sounders.
  • The three divisions of the English Football League can be watched through CBS Sports this upcoming season. It’s notable news for those who want to watch Wrexham AFC or Americans like former Lion Daryl Dike.
  • Manchester United has officially signed 18-year-old defender Leny Yoro from Lille. Yoro started in 30 games for Lille last season and United reportedly paid a $67.6 million transfer fee for his services.
  • Patrick Vieira and Strasbourg have parted ways, leaving the French club without a manager just a month before the Ligue 1 season starts. Strasbourg finished 13th in the standings in Vieira’s first year with the club last season.
  • Borussia Dortmund has signed Serhou Guirassy, who scored a whopping 28 Bundesliga goals for Stuttgart last season.

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

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 7/18/24

Orlando City beats Nashville SC, Ally Watt signs new contract, Mauricio Pochettino linked with USMNT job, and more.

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Image courtesy of Orlando Pride / Jeremy Reper

An Orlando City midweek win makes this Thursday morning feel a bit more like a Friday. It’s been a pretty busy week for me as I get all my ducks in a row before a weekend trip to Maine. But for now, let’s get this morning started off on the right foot with today’s links from around the soccer world.

Orlando City Wins Fourth Straight

The Lions went on the road and claimed all three points in a 3-0 victory against Nashville SC. Orlando took care of business against a Nashville team that struggled on both sides of the ball. The offense has also continued to enjoy its renaissance this summer, and Orlando’s goal differential is now a positive number. The Lions have won their past four games, only conceding two goals during that stretch. There’s not much time to celebrate though, as they will host New York City FC on Saturday.

Ally Watt Signs New Orlando Pride Contract

Forward Ally Watt is the latest player to sign a new deal with the Orlando Pride. She’s agreed to a new contract through the 2025 season, with an option for 2026 as well. Watt has been a versatile part of Orlando’s attack this year and has two goals and an assist to her name so far. Her speed is a lethal weapon, no matter if it’s when starting up top alongside Barbra Banda or providing fresher legs as a substitute. The Orlando Pride have been taking care of business during this break in the NWSL season, also signing Bri Martinez, Summer Yates, Cori Dyke, and Viviana Villacorta to new deals.

Mauricio Pochettino Linked With USMNT Coaching Job

Another interesting name has been thrown into the mix for the United States Men’s National Team’s head coaching gig. Mauricio Pochettino, who left Chelsea in May after just one season, is reportedly a candidate for the job. He’s had success at the club level with Tottenham Hotspur and Paris Saint-Germain, but he does not yet have experience coaching at the international level. If he does become the next USMNT coach, I’d be interested to see how well he can elevate the U.S. attack. His past teams have featured plenty of pressing and attacking, but he’s also been fortunate to coach the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Harry Kane, and Neymar.

New Owners Claim Majority Stake in Angel City FC

Willow Bay and Bob Iger have bought a majority stake in Angel City FC at a $250 million valuation, making the NWSL club the most valuable women’s sports team in the world. Iger is the CEO of the Walt Disney Company and Bay is the dean at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism. Bay will have full control of the club’s board of directors and she’ll represent the club on the league’s board of governors. This valuation is a testament to how much the NWSL and women’s soccer as a whole has grown in recent years.

Free Kicks

  • Cucho Hernandez won MLS Goal of the Matchday for his weekend strike from distance in the Columbus Crew’s 5-1 win over LAFC. Orlando’s Facundo Torres finished last in the voting, despite his nice goal against the New England Revolution.
  • Cavan Sullivan became the youngest player to make his MLS debut after coming on late in the Philadelphia Union’s 5-1 win against the Revolution. The midfielder is 14 years old and broke the the record set by Freddy Adu by 13 days.
  • The LA Galaxy is reportedly close to signing German attacker Marco Reus as a free agent. Reus and LAFC’s Olivier Giroud joining the league during the same summer makes me glad that rivalry is in the Western Conference.
  • American forward Alex Zendejas will miss some time after suffering a calf injury in Club America’s match on Friday.
  • Germany will be without one of its best players for the upcoming Olympics, as midfielder Lena Oberdorf will miss out due to a knee injury. It makes things a bit more difficult for Germany in a group that also includes the U.S., Zambia, and Australia.
  • Mexico is on the hunt for its next head coach after firing Jaime Lozano following a disappointing Copa America campaign.
  • There were reports that English defender Lucy Bronze was eyeing a move to the NWSL, but she will be staying in Europe for a while longer after signing a two-year deal with Chelsea.

That’s all I have for you this time around. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week!

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Lion Links

Lion Links: 7/17/24

Orlando City’s attendance is up, Viviana Villacorta signs new contract, USWNT draws Costa Rica, and more.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane land

Welcome to Wednesday, Mane Landers. It’s match day for Orlando City as the Lions hit the road once again for a match against Eastern Conference foe Nashville SC. We will have your preview and full coverage of the match later today. To pass the time until then, please enjoy these links.

Orlando City Attendance on the Rise

So far in 2024, attendance at Orlando City matches has averaged 22,632, which is more than last season’s 20,804 average. That total is good enough to put the Lions at 11th best in MLS attendance this season. Attendance is up across the league this season, with some citing the Lionel Messi effect, but I’m partial to the idea that more people are simply finding out about the beautiful game. I also think that the last few successful seasons for Orlando City have much more to do with the increase at home.

Villacorta Signs New Contract

Haley Carter and the Orlando Pride front office continued their trend of locking down current players by extending Viviana Villacorta’s time in purple with a new contract through the 2025 season with an option for 2026. Villacorta has had a rough go of it due to injuries, but the talent is there for her to contribute to the project Seb Hines is building.

Pride Top the Olympic List

The NWSL will send 56 players to the Olympics, setting a record for most players from any women’s league in the world. The Orlando Pride tied NJ/NJ Gotham FC for the most players participating on the women’s side, with seven. The Pride players making the trip are Barbra Banda and Grace Chanda with Zambia, Emily Sams for the USWNT (as an alternate), and four of the Pride’s Brazilians — Marta, Adriana, Rafaelle, and Angelina (as an alternate). If seeing all of those excellent players compete against each other in the Olympics doesn’t get you excited, you should probably see a doctor.

Orlando City/Pride to Host Olympics Watch Parties

If you were wondering where to watch the Orlando City and the Orlando Pride players representing their individual nations, then wonder no more. Orlando City and the Orlando Pride are hosting watch parties in Orlando. If you want to support the club’s internationals, like Duncan McGuire for the USMNT U-23s, and all of the Pride players, you can do so with your fellow Orlando City and Orlando Pride supporters. There will be four watch parties in total. Check out the schedule and venues here.

USWNT Draws, U-20 USWNT Wins

The United States Women’s National Team played its final friendly before the start of the Olympics against a stubborn Costa Rica side at Audi Field in Washington, D.C. Despite having 80% possession and taking 26 shots — with 12 shots on target — the wasteful Yanks were unable to find the net, playing to a scoreless draw. Costa Rica’s low block was effective, as was goalkeeper Noelia Bermúdez, but the U.S. simply squandered too many opportunities. The USWNT will next play against Banda’s Zambian squad in the Olympics.

The U-20 USWNT defeated the U-20 Mexico Women’s National Team 3-0 at the Jack Turner Soccer Complex at the University of Georgia in Athens. Ally Sentnor provided a brace, and Riley Jackson added the third. The Pride’s Ally Lemos got the start in this match and played just over an hour after subbing on in the team’s most recent match on July 13.

Free Kicks

  • Gareth Southgate will torment England supporters no longer as he has stepped down, having failed to “bring football home.”

That will do it for today. Don’t forget to follow @themaneland on Twitter for updates during the match tonight. Vamos Orlando!

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