It's odd to think that Orlando City has already wrapped up the first month of the season, but with the international break this week, it's already time to wave goodbye to the month of March and prepare for April. OCB has one March match this weekend, which I'm sure everyone here is planning to attend, before the organization as a whole puts a bow on the month. With five games on the slate for both OCSC and OCB and with the Pride kicking things off mid-month, April is going to be much busier. March has been like when you get a new car and drive around locally for a bit, but April is when you finally take it out on the highway.
Buckle your seat belts.
Júlio Baptista to Join Orlando City...Maybe
I guess Júlio Baptista liked it here. After training with the club earlier this month, it seems that the player and club have come to an agreement for a longer stay. Or, depending on who you ask, they haven't. Check out the status as detailed by our own Gavin Ewbank. Baptista, who happens to be good friends with Kaká, is likely to back up Cyle Larin, but the big question will be how the team frees up an international roster slot.
Larin Producing Early
Through the first three weeks of the season, Cyle Larin has three goals -- a rate that would see him have a truly spectacular season (fun with early season projections!), and concerns of a sophomore slump are, at least temporarily, put to rest. While there's a chance that he does eventually have a scoreless game, and while the most recent goal was hardly the stuff of legend, it's definitely a positive sign to see Larin find the back of the net as frequently as he has. As the team gets healthier and more accustomed to each other's play, Larin should see his opportunities increase, and his goal total continue to rise.
Pride Keep Rolling
Proving once again that if they were still in college, they would be dominating women's soccer, the Orlando Pride defeated the Florida Gators 5-1 in Gainesville. Alex Morgan and Christina Burkenroad each scored twice and Sarah Hagen scored once before the Gators put one in in the final minutes. Morgan now has six goals in her last two games, albeit both against college teams. The team continues its preseason on March 30 against the University of South Florida before finishing off April 2 against Florida State University.
NWSL All-Star Game
The NWSL doesn't have an All-Star Game, which is pretty much a staple for every other U.S.-based sports league. Midfield Press makes the case that this is hurting the popularity of the sport because fans don't know anyone not on the national teams.
Furthermore, should the USWNT perform well in the Rio Olympics this summer (as they should be reasonably expected to), an All-Star Game would help leverage that popularity to bring further visibility to the league. It's an interesting conundrum, as I would venture to say that the reason for the lack of an All-Star Game is probably the lack of a business case surrounding it. The league will have to draw a certain amount of fans to that game in order to make it viable, and unless they're confident of getting that turnout, they may be cautious against it. Then again, with the current popularity of the women's game and the pending Olympics, there may never be a better time to try.
USWNT Roster Set for Colombia
Speaking of the women's game, the USWNT announced the roster for the upcoming games against Colombia. Not surprisingly, Ashlyn Harris and Alex Morgan of the Pride were named to the roster. The matches will take place on April 6 and 10 in East Hartford, CT, and Chester, PA, respectively. The team will, however, be practicing in Orlando.
MLS Players Speak
Before the season started, ESPN anonymously polled MLS players on a series of subjects, mostly revolving around the quality of competition and the future of the league. Some of the more interesting responses, to me at least, are the salary disparity -- where one player commented that players are looking at the league as only a two- to four-year stop -- and that 2/3 of the players would still leave for Europe. Obviously, the quotes are cherry picked out, but the results are interesting.
Additionally, players were asked to weigh in about their peers. Mix Diskerud was named the most overrated player (though his performances against Orlando City say otherwise). Aurélien Collin came in ninth in the poll. On the flip side, Dax McCarty and Darlington Nagbe tied for the most underrated, and Bruce Arena was named the favorite coach.
International Champions Cup Schedule Release
The International Champions Cup released most of its North American and European schedule yesterday with all games and locations released with the exception of the location of a handful of games. One of those is Real Madrid vs. Chelsea on July 30, which happens to be my wife's birthday, so you can pretty much lock it in that it will be somewhere nearby, and I won't be able to go.
Those are your links for this fine Wednesday. Be sure to use them to impress your friends and family.