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Lion Links: 1/8/17

Orlando City preseason news trickling out, Rowdies looking forward to Florida Cup, Chicharito rumors are back and more.

1. FC Koeln v Bayer 04 Leverkusen - Bundesliga Photo by Maja Hitij/Bongarts/Getty Images

Good morning, Mane Landers. I hope your Sunday is going to be better than mine. I’m on a liquid diet today in preparation for tomorrow’s always enjoyable colonoscopy. Hey, when you get old like me you have to have these things every once in a while. The day before is usually worse. You’ve got to intake only clear liquids and then the fun begins in the evening while you drink like a gallon of this nasty stuff that will have you running for the bathroom every few minutes. But enough about that.

It’s match day! Florida Cup begins today at St. Petersburg’s Al Lang Stadium, with a pretty awesome doubleheader. Estudiantes is taking on Bayer Leverkusen at 2 p.m. and the Tampa Bay Rowdies will battle Wolfsburg at 4:45 p.m. Why not save 15% on your tickets and head on over today? You can find out how to save that cash here. If you can’t make it, our Gavin Ewbank is all credentialed up and ready to bring you the news from St. Pete. Need info on the teams? We’ve got you covered.

It’s also Conor Donovan’s 21st birthday today. The Generation Adidas product made his return from an ACL injury in 2016 but never quite seemed to reach his full range of mobility and the form he showed in 2015. But sometimes it takes a player nearly two years to fully regain not only the range of motion in the joint but also the confidence to make the sudden, explosive movements they need in order to fully regain their form. Here’s to hoping Donovan can take a giant leap forward in 2017.

Now, for your Sunday Lion Links…

Orlando City Preseason Hints

While many fans around MLS know where their teams will be playing preseason games, the Lions tend to leave these things until later. Orlando City Head Coach Jason Kreis mentioned on the latest episode of the PawedCast that the team expects to play five or six preseason games, including an intra-squad scrimmage. That will take place at the beginning of February. This story from mentions a friendly against Jacksonville University and that three or four matches — “most likely against MLS opponents” — are still being finalized. We look forward to getting the full preseason slate. The agreement with Atletico Paranaense announced Nov. 1 includes a friendly against the Brazilian side in Orlando this year, which could also be part of the team’s preseason schedule.

Florida Cup: Rowdies Look to Make Their Mark

USL side Tampa Bay Rowdies seem to be jumping at their chance to play in the 2017 Florida Cup. With matches scheduled against German side Wolfsburg and Brazil’s Atletico Mineiro, the Rowdies will not be favored to get results in the tournament, but the club has MLS ambition and sees this as an opportunity to grow awareness. Mike Gramajo of the Orlando Sentinel spoke with Tampa Bay’s PR director:

“Playing in the Florida Cup is a no-brainer,” said Nico Castillo, director of public relations for the Rowdies. “The tournament is going to broadcast live in over 140 countries, why wouldn’t we want our brand, our stadium and city to be showcased?

“And when you add our MLS ambitions, it opens up to a new audience, and we’re definitely using the tournament to prepare for our USL season for 2017.”

As mentioned earlier, the Rowdies will face Wolfsburg at 4:45 p.m. today. We’ll have a recap and potentially a chat with newest Tampa Bay defender Luke Boden.

Chicharito Rumors are Back

It’s the gift that keeps on giving, really. As Chicharito’s Bayer Leverkusen side visits the U.S. with a couple appearances in the Florida Cup on the schedule, rumors have been swirling that the German team is willing to sell the Mexican striker this summer. Chicharito’s contract runs through June of 2018, but if the club’s technical staff feel they can get paid for him now, there’s a good chance he’ll at least be offered up. That always fuels the Chicharito-to-MLS rumors, which we’ve enjoyed because — unless something has changed — Orlando City have his MLS discovery rights, per our conversation with Paul McDonough in August of 2015.

How close was the club to landing Chicharito Hernandez?

PM: "There were discussions. It just didn't work out for whatever reason. The club had authorized us to go and try to get it done. We did try. He's back at Man U right now and this is the last year of his deal, so we'll continue to monitor that and see how it goes. We looked at some other guys, too, and the finances in some of the places where these guys went were just so far out of reach it was ridiculous for us to compete with."

Does Orlando City own Chicharito's MLS discovery rights or would his signing require another move?

PM: "We have his discovery rights and we will forever." (laughs)

So get out to Bayer Leverkusen’s Florida Cup games and make Javier Hernandez feel welcome in Central Florida.

NASL Taking Over Our Northern Neighbors

As NASL instability continues, the Jacksonville Armada are being sold. The NASL will take over ownership and operation of the club while looking or a new owner. Armada owner Mark Frisch announced the news yesterday. Frisch said that he’s lost a lot of money getting the team up and running. Results probably haven’t helped, but neither has attendance. Frisch mentioned the team playing in a baseball stadium affecting the atmostphere.

“(The Baseball Grounds) was part of the problem, frankly when we think about the attendance. You don’t really get the atmosphere playing in a baseball stadium. You don’t. It’s a great venue, it’s amazing, first-class, but you’re away from the field and you have the concourse and people are just kind of roaming, they’re not into it,” he said. “A soccer field is just different.”

Good luck to Armada fans as their team goes through some troubling times.

Free Kicks

Everything you need to know about the MLS SuperDraft...Once again this season, the NWSL Draft will be streamed live...Orlando City isn’t the only team re-signing players from the 2016 squad. New York City FC re-signed both Tommy McNamara and RJ Allen...Boom or bust? A history of No. 1 MLS picks...In addition to Conor Donovan, those born on this date include F Troop actor Larry Storch (1923), comedian Soupy Sales (1926), “the king” himself, Elvis Presley (1935), James Bond theme singer for Goldfinger, Diamonds are Forever, and Moonraker, Shirley Bassey (1937), game show host Bob Eubanks (1938), Monty Python’s Graham Chapman (1941), physicist Stephen Hawking (1942), Doors guitarist Robby Krieger (1946), David Bowie (1947...RIP), Loverboy vocalist Mike Reno (1955), R. Kelly (1967), baseball’s Jason Giambi (1971) and Mike Cameron (1973), and Atlético Madrid midfielder Koke.

Well, that’s all I have for you today, folks. I’m off to enjoy a day full of chicken broth and Jello. If you’re headed west on I-4 to check out Chicharito at Al Lang Stadium, have a great time. I leave you with Wayne Rooney making history by equaling Bobby Charlton’s all-time goal-scoring record with Manchester United: