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Lion Links: 12/31/16

Next year is crucial for Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger, comparing the stadiums of Stoke City and Orlando City, an interview with Mark Clattenburg, and more.

Soccer: International Friendly Women's Soccer-Romania at USA Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the final Lion Links of 2016, Mane Landers, and what a year it’s been. On this final day of the year we’d like to wish happy birthday to new Orlando City B defender Scott Thomsen. The former Richmond Kicker is 23 today.

Hopefully you’ve been keeping up with our top ten countdown of Orlando City-related moments from the past year, with the top spot being unveiled later on today. Until then, though, we’ve got you covered with the last Links of the year.

Make or Break for Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger?

If you read last week’s Links, journalists felt that 2017 would be pivotal for both Carlos Rivas and Brek Shea. That seems to be a growing trend for Orlando players, except this time it’s Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and new fullback Ali Krieger who could be under the microscope in the coming year for the USWNT. Harris — who struggled to move up the depth chart in 2016 even with a stellar club season — has a brilliant opportunity in the wake of Hope Solo’s suspension. She’ll still need to beat out Alyssa Naeher, but whoever takes the starting spot could hold it for the foreseeable future.

Krieger’s situation is entirely the opposite. She has proven time and again that she’s one of the best fullbacks in the American pool, but she has a wealth of young talent trying to take her place in 2017.

Comparing Stadiums

Orlando City’s relationship with Stoke City goes a bit beyond the formal agreement they penned earlier this year. With Phil Rawlins’ experience with the Potters, some of their influence was bound to show up in OCSC. The most obvious is probably Orlando’s new downtown venue, which takes quite a few things from the Britannia. Lucas Casas, a member of the Orlando City communications team, got to tour the Staffordshire club and noted several similarities between the partners’ match day experiences. If you’re interested in what life will be like under Orlando City’s roof come March, check out Lucas’ story of his trip across the pond.

2016’s Penalty Kick Saves

If you’re like me (and I’m sure you are), there’s nothing more inspirational than watching goalkeeper highlights. And what’s even better than your standard queue of Joe Bendik’s Save of the Week winners? Highlights of stopping the hardest shot in soccer, penalty kicks. Joe had a couple pen saves in 2016, stonewalling Didier Drogba and Fanendo Adi. So sit back, relax, and check out a montage of keepers doing the improbable. I won’t blame you for fast-forwarding through Kaká’s miss.

Inside the Mind of Mark Clattenburg

Being an official for one of the most publicized leagues in the world is never an easy thing. As this AP interview points out, there’s never much praise for making the right decisions, but when you’re wrong it’s broadcast across the globe. He recognizes that he makes those mistakes and he almost always knows when he’s erred. In fact, he’s often got videos of the incidences on his phone right after the match. And the mistakes eat at him just as they enrage fans of the team that the call went against. Clattenburg is one of the most well-known referees in the soccer world, presiding over some of the most important matches in England and Europe. Take a look at what he has to say about the challenges of officiating in such pressure-filled climates.

Top Soccer Moments of 2016

If you’ve been having trouble trying to rank the best soccer moments from the past year, don’t worry, The Football Republic has done that for you. From the top performances from the Euros to Liverpool’s stunning comeback over Borussia Dortmund at Anfield, relive some of the great moments from the year that was.

That’s all for your Lion Links in 2016. Have a great New Year’s Eve.