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Lion Links: 1/15/17

Kaká praised for his leadership, Johnson regrets comments about TFC, Alex Morgan debuts for Lyon, Florida Cup action and more!

New York City FC v Orlando City SC

Welcome to Sunday’s Lion Links. The MLS SuperDraft weekend has felt a tad underwhelming without an Orlando pick in the first two rounds. Unfortunately, we’ll have to wait until Tuesday to see who the Lions add to the ranks. In the meantime, we have a full list of off-season links for you today.

Former Lion Praises Kaká’s Leadership

Current New York Red Bulls defender and former Lion Aurelien Collin had high praise for his old teammate, speaking on a French talk show. Collin said that Kaká was “the best player I’ve ever trained with. Not at all for his talent, but for his simplicity, the basics of football: control, touch, the way in which he orients his first touch, it's extraordinary.” Aside from Kaká’s obvious talent, Collin discussed Kaká’s importance as a leader for Orlando:

"He's charismatic. Just from his smile, you want to give him a hug. The influence he has on the squad is huge. He doesn't talk a lot, but when he does, everyone listens."

2017 is the last year of Kaka’s contract with Orlando, and only time will tell if 2017 will be his last year in a Lion shirt.

Will Johnson Expresses Remorse for Comments About Toronto FC

Will Johnson took the opportunity to clarify his recent statements about swapping Toronto for Orlando this off-season. The Canadian midfielder was quoted in the Toronto Star earlier this week discussing his disappointment for how his return from injury was handled compared with other player injuries on the TFC roster. In an interview with The Red Card, Johnson addressed his earlier comments:

“The part that you bring up about my teammates is something that yeah, probably not a good idea to bring up individuals just because injuries happen at different times throughout the year [and] opportunities are based on results to get their spots back. When you bring up the part about naming individuals and specific injuries and getting their spots back, I agree with you: That’s not me and that’s the part that I regret."

Also in the Red Card interview, Johnson mentioned working with Jason Kreis again and playing in Orlando’s new stadium as reasons for his move to Florida. With Johnson, Kreis has a very crowded midfield to sort out this preseason.

Alex Morgan Debuts for Olympique Lyonnais

Alex Morgan contributed two assists in her first appearance for the French side on Saturday. The striker helped Lyon down EA Guingamp, 3-0. The match report is only available in French at the moment, but you can translate the page using your browser. Yay, technology!

Galaxy’s Brian Rowe Called Into USMNT Camp

Brian Rowe will get an opportunity to impress his former boss, Bruce Arena, with the United States Men’s National Team. Rowe’s chance comes at the expense of Seattle’s Stefan Frei, who was forced to leave camp with an ankle injury. The USMNT will begin 2017 action with a friendly match against Serbia on Jan. 29, in San Diego.

Atletico Mineiro Tops Tampa Bay in Florida Cup

The FC Challenge phase of the 2017 Florida Cup is almost over. Despite Germany clinching the FC Challenge on Thursday, the final games must be played. Brazilian side Atletico Mineiro visted St. Petersburg yesterday and took down the Tampa Bay Rowdies, 2-0, at Al Lang Stadium. Leonan Jose and Rodrigo Prado scored the goals for Atletico. The Rowdies went 0-2 in the Florida Cup and fell by a combined score of 4-0, with the first loss coming to Wolfsburg a week ago. Atletico Mineiro finishes 1-1, with the loss coming to Bayer Leverkusen on Friday.

The Florida Cup FC Challenge concludes today at UCF’s Bright House Networks Stadium, with Bahia out of Brazil’s Serie A taking on Estudiantes from Argentina at 4:45 p.m. The FC Playoff phase of the tournament kicks off today as well, with two matches at 2 p.m. — Brazilian club Vasco da Gama faces Barcelona SC out of Ecuador at Central Broward Stadium and River Plate from Argentina taking on Millonarios FC from Colombia at UCF. You can get discounted tickets to the UCF double-header here. Our Michael Citro will be live on the scene to cover the two matches in Orlando.

San Diego MLS Expansion Interest Heats Up

San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer met with Don Garber on Friday, as news of the NFL’s San Diego Chargers move to Los Angeles broke this week. San Diego is one of 10 cities MLS has acknowledged as being interested in an expansion spot — 11 if you include Miami’s tenuous situation. Best of luck to San Diego fans, but the competition for expansion spots isn’t getting any easier.

Thanks for spending your Sunday with us at The Mane Land. Enjoy the rest of your Martin Luther King Jr. Day weekend.