Happy Saturday, Mane Landers. We're just one day away from Orlando City's 2016 season opener against Real Salt Lake. The off-season was dark and full of terrors, but we did it. It's just like Christmas Eve and it will probably be just as difficult to sleep tonight as it is for a kid who knows Santa is on his way.
We'll have coverage of Orlando City B's friendly this afternoon and more preparation for tomorrow's MLS opener, where we hear you can see the Copa America trophy at the Citrus Bowl prior to the match. While you wait, here's a sizzling plate of piping hot Lion Links for you to enjoy.
Nocerino Lands in Orlando
He won't play on Sunday, but newest Lion Antonio Nocerino finally made his long-awaited arrival at Orlando International Airport yesterday morning, to a waiting group of Orlando City fans. Donning a club scarf, the Italian midfielder shook hands and waved to the adoring supporters before making his way to join his new team. Adrian Heath has confirmed he won't be ready to join his teammates on the pitch tomorrow, but if he's truly kept himself in good shape in Milan, Nocerino will perhaps be able to play Friday against the Chicago Fire.
More Good News for the Lions
Nocerino's arrival wasn't the only big news for the lads in purple. Midfielder Carlos Rivas has apparently had a breakthrough in his comeback from injury. Just days since rolling his ankle in training, Rivas was out there mixing it up yesterday and could be available for the opener tomorrow. Heath said:
"Either we've got a miracle worker as a physio, or Carlos is a very quick healer."
Kaká Finds Balance in Faith, Family
Paul Tenorio may have bid farewell to us the other day as he leaves the Sentinel en route to Chicago, but he provided a parting gift yesterday with this piece on Orlando City captain Kaká. The captain just wants to be plain old Ricky, but that went out the window when he scored a pair of goals as an 18-year-old in the Rio-São Paulo championship. To stay grounded despite his worldwide fame, the Brazilian leans on his family and his faith. Give Paul's going-away present to us a read.
Orlando City is Ambitious
Grant Wahl of Sports Illustrated released his "ambition rankings" yesterday, and he's got the Lions at No. 6, behind the LA Galaxy, Toronto FC, Seattle Sounders, Sporting Kansas City and the Portland Timbers. Wahl provides some nebulous criteria for his rankings, but it seems fairly unscientific to me. Still, it's good to see Orlando City alongside a bunch of teams that have either won hardware in recent years or seem likely to do so soon. Oh, and speaking of SI, their entire roundtable picked Orlando City to make the playoffs in 2016. Speaking of roundtables, you'll get ours later today.
Orlando Pride Players and U.S. Women's Teams in Action
There was plenty of international women's soccer action on Friday, just one day after Alex Morgan and the USWNT defeated England 1-0 over in Tampa. Orlando Pride defender Josée Bélanger didn't get the start in Canada's 1-0 win over Belgium in the Algarve Cup. Orlando defender Monica Hickmann Alves ahd Brazil also won 3-1 over Portugal in the Algarve Cup. The Pride's Steph Catley and Laura Alleway both featured in Australia's 2-0 Olympic qualifier win against Korea Republic yesterday.
Pride midfielder/forward Sam Witteman started and went all 90 minutes, but she and her U-23 USWNT teammates only played to a scoreless draw with Poland's U-20 team on Day 2 of the 2016 Istria Cup in Umag, Croatia. The U.S. is now 1-0-1 in the tournament and has yet to allow a goal. Although no Orlando players were involved, the U.S. U-17 women's team was also in action, destroying Jamaica 8-1 in U-17 World Cup qualifying in Grenada. The Yanks, who are top of the table by virtue of goal differential, take on 1-0 Mexico on Sunday for group supremacy.
The Colorado Rapids made a trade yesterday with the New England Revolution to acquire midfielder Jermaine Jones...Skysports decided Orlando City's EPL analog is Watford, because reasons. So, Watford fans should support Orlando City. Every EPL team's fans should, I say...Want to beat traffic and get mad at PRO refs now, before the rush? They'll be making offside calls, bench behavior and dissent a point of emphasis in 2016...the USSF vs. USWNT union lawsuit hearing has been set for May 25...The number of MLS female supporters is growing, says Howler.
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That'll do it for your Saturday Lion Links, folks. One more wake-up until game day. Get some rest.