Oh Thursday, we meet again. Today is the fourth of the month, and that means you now have single-digit days to plan for Valentine's Day. So, switch things up from wine and cheese and move in a direction that includes chocolates, which are a classic, and Grand Marnier. The orange cognac gives a sweet citrus flavor to balance out the cocoa of a dark chocolate. Where else can you get prime Valentine's Day suggestions to go along with your soccer news? Brad's Food, Drink, and Footy Pairing can only be found here at The Mane Land.
Now, on to the links!
MLS Releases Strength of Schedule Rankings for the 2016 Season
Well, as it turns out, Orlando City has the fourth-easiest schedule according to MLS and, personally, I think it's because they can't play themselves. The Colorado Rapids have the hardest, and New York Red Bulls have the easiest, respectively.
Strength of schedule is calculated by taking the 2015 average points at home and on the road for each opponent. Each team in MLS faces its conference opponents two to three times and its out-of-conference opponents once. With a fully fit team and a relatively easy schedule, Orlando City could be primed to make a run towards the playoffs in its second MLS season, but that is not taking into account off-season changes for any team.
Harrison Heath, Tyler Turner and Tommy Redding Looking Forward to OCB Action
Paul Tenorio of the Orlando Sentinel has a great write-up of the opportunity that the trio of young Orlando City players is presented with by getting game minutes with the club's USL side this season. Harrison Heath talked told the media:
"I think it's a massive opportunity for all of us young guys ... I think that [games in USL] can only improve myself and speaking for the other guys, too, game time is the most important thing for us, especially at this stage of our career. Training takes you so far, but that next step is getting game experience."
Given that Heath only played 136 minutes for Orlando City last season, the chance to get consistent game time would be exciting for any 19-year-old. Meanwhile, Turner is looking to rebound from a disappointing end to his 2015 season and Redding is looking to prove himself ready for future consideration with the MLS squad.
Collegiate Soccer to be Well-Represented by Orlando City Youth Players
Yesterday, SB Nation was abuzz with news of National Signing Day, and The Mane Land was no exception. Orlando City Youth players will be going to a wide variety of schools across the country. Abigail Foels, Alexandra Rost, and Logan Laskey will all be staying in the Orlando area playing for Rollins College. Meanwhile, another notable player, Mercedes Sapp -- daughter of Warren -- will be playing for the Mizzou Tigers. Best of luck to all of our young Lions and hopefully we get to see them return to the City Beautiful and continue to represent.
Orlando Pride Has its First Supporters' Club
Orlando has been greeted with its first NWSL supporters' club. Joining the likes of the Iron Lion Firm, The Ruckus, and Harbor City Hooligans (OCB supporter's group), The Crown hopes to carry on the passionate reputation of Orlando City fans for their clubs and their city. The club also announced that away viewing parties will take place at the Graffiti Junktion in Oviedo. Details on how to join the club can be found on its website.
U.S. Soccer Sues USWNT Players Association
The union representing the U.S. Women's National Team was sued Wednesday by U.S. soccer. Since legalese is not our forte, here's the basic premise:
U.S. Soccer sued the union representing the world champion United States women's national team in federal court Wednesday, a sudden escalation of a labor fight over the team's collective bargaining agreement.
In the lawsuit, U.S. Soccer, the national governing body for the sport, is seeking to have a court rule that the terms of the agreement â which expired in 2012 but has continued to be the guiding document over the relationship between the federation and star players like Hope Solo and Alex Morgan – remain valid.
The suit was filed "reluctantly" by U.S. Soccer.
Stu Holden Retires
The former USMNT and Bolton Wanderers midfielder is calling it a career after 11 years. Holden is hanging up his boots after an outstanding career that, unfortunately, has been cut short due to injury. Holden's final USMNT appearance was in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup Final where he suffered a torn ACL. Holden's announcement came shortly after the birth of his daughter. We here at The Mane Land wish the new parents and baby all the best in the future, hopefully we get to see another Holden debuting for U.S. on the women's side in 2033 or 2037.
Today in 1789, George Washington was unanimously elected as first president of the United States. Today's birthdays include Rosa Parks who passed away in 2005, Alice Cooper is 68, Lawrence Taylor is 57, Oscar De La Hoya is 43, and Cam'ron is 40. Kaylyn Kyle wants you to follow your heart (no word on Earth, Fire, Wind, or Water); The Orlando Pride midfielder discussed symptoms of a heart attack and opened up the discussion with parents about taking care of their health. After Wednesday's Antonio Nocerino hijinks, our Philadelphia Union site The Brotherly Game wrote on whether single-entity helps MLS GMs stay competitive. Besides having three Canadian clubs in MLS, the Canadian Premier League is almost a thing. Recent Chelsea addition and former New York Red Bull Matt Miazga made the club's Champions League roster and, noticeably, Radamel Falcao was left off.
That's it for today. Play us out, Falcao!