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Lion Links: 12/24/16

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2017 could be make or break for Carlos Rivas and Brek Shea, Orlando City’s new field could be its best off-season addition, some major moves around MLS, and more.

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-Orlando City SC at Jacksonville Armada Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Christmas Eve, Mane Landers, and I hope you’re all well and spending the holidays with loved ones. It’s going to be another 80-degree Christmas here in the Sunshine State and it’s hard to find anything wrong with that; you can’t beat the option to wear shorts in late December while the rest of the country freezes in the cold and the snow.

Orlando City fans must have been good this year because we’re reportedly getting major upgrades on the defensive end just in time for the holidays. There’s nothing like waking up on Christmas morning and finding a French center back under the tree. But until then, we’re going to have to wait patiently and to help you pass the time we’ve got a full slate of links for you.

Orlando’s Best Acquisition for Next Season

The turf monster at Camping World Stadium has claimed countless ligaments and tendons over the past two seasons. But now, professional soccer players won’t have to cower in terror every time they step out of the locker rooms. The all-grass pitch is finally installed at City’s new downtown stadium. You can check out a time lapse of the process here.

Matt Bruderek, the club’s groundskeeper, sat down with Simon Veness of MLSSoccer.com to discuss it and why it should help save some players’ seasons. Bruderek and his team have a lot of work ahead of them to make sure the surface is set and ready for the opening match.

Make or Break in 2017?

There are several players on Orlando City’s roster who have yet to deliver on high expectations. Two have landed on FourFourTwo’s “Now or Never” for 2017, but under different circumstances. For Carlos Rivas, it’s about showing more of the potential that earned him a Young Designated Player tag. He’s had his matches where he looks like a future star, but more often than not he’s attempting to peg someone in the last row with his shot attempts. With a full off-season under Jason Kreis, perhaps Rivas can find the net more than the parking lot in the upcoming season.

Brek Shea also has something to prove in the coming year, both at the club level and on the international stage. New USMNT manager Bruce Arena has made a point of trying to bring in more MLS talent to the national team. Unfortunately for Brek, he hasn’t made much of an impact in Orlando and that’s affected his prospects for the U.S. But with Arena at the helm and changes on the way, perhaps Shea can break back into the national team picture.

Alex Morgan Wins U.S. Goal of the Year

The Orlando Pride captain was up against goals from all age groups on both the men and women’s sides for the U.S., but her solo effort against Germany defeated strikes from the likes of Jozy Altidore, Clint Dempsey, and Carli Loyd. Her equalizer helped the USWNT take the inaugural She Believes Cup, but the touch to corral the ball was world-class.

Pride Among Best New Crests for 2016

The folks at SportsLogos.net have come out with their lists for best and worst new team logos from the past year. Orlando had not one but two teams in the top 50 for best logo, with the Pride coming in at 39th. Surprisingly enough, the Orlando Waves came in at 13th. I wrongly assumed that this was the Magic’s new D-League team, and instead found out that the ABA is still a thing and Orlando now has two mediocre pro basketball teams.

Soccer teams were all over the sports logo landscape for 2016, with Bethlehem Steel and D.C. United landing in the top ten of the best category and four clubs in the top 10 worst new crests of the year. Minneapolis City SC was voted the worst, followed by Toledo United FC, Rayo OKC, and Kalamazoo FC.

Major Moves Around MLS

It’s been a busy few days around the league as teams gear up for the new year and a plethora of talent is on its way. Former Galaxy midfielder Juninho has returned from his stint in Liga MX to join the Chicago Fire, who already look to be much-improved from last year. Meanwhile, Atlanta United continued its run of top-level signings by bringing in USMNT fullback Greg Garza from the same club.

Seattle is quickly reloading after its first MLS Cup. The Sounders brought in talented midfielder Harry Shipp earlier in the week and now they’ve added big striker Will Bruin from the Houston Dynamo. The Sounders are making quick work of bringing in quality depth to make another push and potentially repeat in 2017.

That’s all we have for you for these Christmas Eve Lion Links. Enjoy the rest of your weekend and happy holidays from everyone here at The Mane Land.