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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: 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.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

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.

โ€œI am sad, shocked and heartbroken that everything I have built in my professional playing career has been taken away from me,โ€ Pogba said. โ€œWhen 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.โ€

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.

Free Kicks

  • 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.

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: 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.

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Image courtesy of Orlando City SC / Mark Thor

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.

โ€œStrategically, we wanted to frustrate them in the first half with an extra defender, and often at times we were in a back five,โ€ Wheeldon said. โ€œAnd second half, we wanted to unleash with more attackers and have a go, because it was 0-0. We thought โ€ฆ 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.

Free Kicks

  • 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.

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.

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Lion Links

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.

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Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

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 letโ€™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.

Free Kicks

  • 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.

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Wednesday and Iโ€™ll see you next time.

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