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Lion Links: 10/23/16

Orlando City Alumni Game, Lions remain committed to youth movement, Lauren Holiday is tougher than you, and more.

MLS: Montreal Impact at Orlando City SC Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

It’s match day, Mane Landers! And that’s not an entirely happy statement. It’s the final match day of the 2016 MLS season for Orlando City, in fact, with no postseason soccer coming in Year 2 of the club’s Major League Soccer existence. Still, let us savor this particular match day against D.C. United at 4 p.m., because a day with an Orlando City game is much better than a day without one, and we’re about to have a whole lot of those in a row.

So get to Camping World Stadium (for the last time) early, party like a rock star, and, when the match kicks off, scream ‘til your brain hurts.

Here are your morning Lion Links:

Orlando City Drops Alumni Game, 3-2

Well, last night’s I-4 Alumni Derby didn’t go as well as we’d hoped. Orlando City fell behind 3-0 in the second half before rallying with two goals to make it a respectable 3-2 final score. Former Lions defender Rob Valentino scored the first goal for City and assisted on the other. Here’s the Valentino goal:

In the end, win or lose, the night was for the fans, and they had a good time.

Orlando City Remains Committed to Youth

With 15 players age 23 or younger, the Lions certainly have been committed to developing a cohesive and strong team by starting young and building by adding key veterans to the mix. City fans haven’t seen the production or results they’d like through two seasons but, as’s Simon Venness writes, the team remains convinced the approach is sound and that it will pay off in the end. Here’s the money quote from Orlando City Assistant GM Niki Budalic:

“A lot of our young players have now been exposed to first team action and have contributed to it this year and last year,” Budalic said. “This club has always valued youth, and it is part of our DNA. I think our fans appreciate that and get excited by it.

“But you have to remember these players are all at different parts of their development. Some have been blooded before they were ready and some have got a lot of action. But it also depends on the balance of the squad and the opportunities that present themselves. The biggest factor this year has been suspensions and injuries, and the fact they’ve come at unfortunate times in some instances.”

I think the philosophy is sound and that some of Orlando City’s young players have a lot of upside. I also think — and I won’t name names here — that there are a few guys that the Lions probably missed on. What do you think about the approach so far?

Lauren Holiday is Tougher than Everyone Else

Former United States Women’s National Team midfielder Lauren Holiday has been through a lot this year. Last month, Holiday gave birth to a baby girl, just a few weeks after being diagnosed with a benign brain tumor. Personally, I’m amazed that the human race exists after seeing what my wife had to go through with the birth of our daughter. I don’t know how women go through that. Most men would tap out when they had to go through that. This week, Holiday had the brain tumor removed.

Think about that: a doctor goes inside your head and cuts something out of your brain. I fainted twice just typing out that last sentence. Clearly Holiday is a force to be reckoned with. Oh, and she also had open-heart surgery when she was three (!). She might be invincible and I miss her on the USWNT.

USL Attendance Climbs 33%

As New York Red Bulls II and Swope Park Rangers get set for today’s USL Cup final, Forbes writes that attendance around the league grew in 2016 by about a third over 2015’s numbers. The league drew about 1.5 million fans this year. The top 10 teams averaged just north of 6,700 fans per game this season, which is a nice sign that the sport is growing in our country. The addition of FC Cincinnati certainly helped with that, as the first-year club averaged a league-record 17,296 fans per game in 2016. Check out the Forbes piece, with tons of interesting info about the league and its “Destination 2020” future.

Free Kicks

New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. showed off his soccer skills ahead of his team’s game in London today against the St. Louis Los Angeles Rams...The 2018 FIFA World Cup has a new mascot and at least it’s not “Pervert Cat”...UEFA is considering moving the Champions League final to locations outside of Europe and the moon is not off the table...Donald Glover as Lando Calrissian? Sign me up for that.

That’s all I’ve got for you today. Check back later for full coverage of today’s Orlando City match vs. D.C. United.

I’ll leave you with the second toughest person (to Lauren Holiday) on the planet — whoever has to take a corner kick in Turkey.