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Lion Links: 1/21/17

Orlando signs an academy grad, an affiliation with River Plate could be in the works, Kaká talks transitioning to MLS and more.

Matt Starkey The Mane Land

It’s a special Saturday today in Orlando, Mane Landers. The players are finally reporting for medicals and the off-season is technically over. It’s been a grueling two and a half months without Orlando City soccer but that will be fully remedied on Monday when training officially begins. We’ll have coverage from the scene today after the players get their medicals, so be sure to check back later today for that.

It’s also a special Saturday because two Orlando players are celebrating birthdays today. Orlando City’s new Canadian midfield maestro, Will Johnson, turns 30 today. The newest Australian addition for the Pride’s back line, Alanna Kennedy, turns 22. Everyone here at The Mane Land would like to wish both a happy birthday.

City Signs Academy Product

If you turned on an OCB match this past year, you probably saw Pierre Da Silva wreaking havoc on the left side of the pitch. After graduating from the Orlando City Development Academy in 2015 and signing his first pro contract with Orlando City B in 2016, he inked an MLS deal yesterday. He’s the first player to sign contracts with all three levels of the Orlando City setup and hopefully he won’t be the last. He’s got sky-high potential and should be a key piece for the Lions down the line.

Kaká Warns Europeans: MLS isn’t Easy

MLS has done a lot in recent seasons to raise its profile on the international stage by signing impact players in their prime. Having one of the faces of the league speak on its behalf helps a bit, too. Kaká has experienced a variety of soccer leagues all over the world and he knows a thing or two about the varying levels of competition. He went so far as to warn those coming over from Europe that MLS won’t be easy, especially from a physical standpoint. You can check out his whole interview with ESPNFC about the transition to MLS.

Orlando City working with River Plate?

Word out of Argentina is that Adrian Verela, president of River Plate’s public relations department, had a meeting with Orlando City execs on Tuesday to discuss a partnership. River wants to get more exposure in the U.S. and also wants in on some of City’s marketing and training secrets. There was also mention of an exchange of scouting and player personnel. I’ll just go ahead and request Lucas Alario right now.

River says that nothing is official but they felt good about the meeting and things could progress from here. It would be nice for Orlando to add one of the Argentinian giants to their list of affiliates, which now stands at Brazilian club Atlético Paranaense, Stoke City from the Premier League, and SL Benfica of Portugal. You can never have enough.

Is Orlando City Will Johnson’s Last Stand?

Will Johnson has been to three Cup championships during his tenure in MLS, winning two, but he’s had to watch Portland and Toronto win from the sidelines after suffering major leg injuries during the year. He hasn’t been able to play his preferred position in his last year in Portland or in Toronto, but maybe he can find that stability under his old boss. Johnson has had disappointing departures from both of his last two clubs and will hopefully be able to sustain some success here in Orlando. If he can be the same leader that elevated the young Timbers to new heights, he could be a linchpin for the Lions.

Five Things About Alanna Kennedy

I’ve already mentioned that it’s her birthday today, so why not learn a little more about the Pride’s newest player? The club has put together a quick list of five things you need to know about the Australian defender. Spoiler: she’s accomplished a lot of things for just turning 22 today. Hopefully she settles in quickly and the Pride back line can stifle opponents all season long.

Those are all the links we have for you today. Enjoy the rest of your weekend and remember to check back early and often for all of the preseason coverage you could ever ask for. And we’ll have full coverage of the third-place and championship matches from the 2017 Florida Cup this afternoon and evening.