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Lion Links: 10/14/17

Will Johnson won’t be prosecuted, Bruce Arena resigns, Sunil Gulati won’t fall on his sword, Atlanta promotes ex-Orlando GM, and more.

Soccer: 2018 World Cup Qualifier-Panama at USA Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Saturday, people of purple. If you’re looking for something to do today, go to the NWSL championship match down at Orlando City Stadium. A professional sports league is having its final right here in our city, so we should turn out for what is sure to be an exciting match between the Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage. I’ll be at the stadium later to cover the game and am looking forward to it.

Hopefully you’ve already secured your tickets for Kaká’s final match with Orlando City. Ballon d’Or winners don’t come our way every day and we’ve had Ricky for three years. It’s been a pleasure to watch him show his skills for the Lions and even though I think it’s time for him to move on, I might find the conditions a little dusty tomorrow. Just in case you haven’t gotten your tickets yet, it’ll be your last chance to enjoy The Mane Land ticket discount.

All right, let’s get to your Saturday links.

Prosecutors Won’t Pursue Charges Against Will Johnson

MLS announced last night that the prosecution will not pursue domestic violence charges against Will Johnson. The Orlando City veteran midfielder was arrested Sept. 6 after an altercation with his wife, with whom he is going through a divorce. As a condition of not pursuing the charges, Johnson will undergo a diversion program for a year, which includes a 26-week domestic violence counseling component. Per MLS:

The evidence reviewed by the MLS league office does not establish that Johnson physically assaulted his wife. Nonetheless, the league office has concluded that his overall conduct the night of the incident was not consistent with league policy. As a result of all of the circumstances, the league office has concluded that the five-game suspension served was appropriate.

Johnson, who began training with the team early this week, will be eligible for selection on Sunday when the Lions host the Columbus Crew. It will be interesting to see if he gets on the field and how fans react to his return.

Bruce Arena: He Gone

Three days after the debacle in Trinidad, Bruce Arena resigned as head coach of the United States Men’s National Team. Arena was hired to get World Cup qualifying back on track after a horrible start to the Hex under Jurgen Klinsmann. Things started off well under Arena and qualifying was nearly a sure thing after a 4-0 demolition of Panama here in Orlando just eight days ago, but the perfect storm happened Tuesday as the USMNT lost while both Honduras (vs. Mexico) and Panama (vs. Costa Rica) upset the top teams in CONCACAF.

Here’s Bruce’s parting statement.

An Honorable Captain Goes Down with the Ship, Sunil

While Arena bowed out gracefully, U.S. Soccer Federation President Sunil Gulati dug in on Friday and said he’s staying put. In fact, he’s actively seeking nominating support to run for a fourth term. That’s a little like the guy who burned down your house asking for your support in being elected fire chief.

"I don't plan to resign...it's not the right day for me to talk about my personal future plans in terms of the fed presidency. It’s not the right time," Gulati stated early during the press conference. While he danced around several questions over whether he would run for re-election as USSF president in Feburary at the Annual General Meeting, he did acknowledge that he had sent a letter to board members asking for their nomination for a 4th four-year term. What is clear is that he intends to see out the United bid for the 2026 World Cup and believes he should be the person in charge when that happens.

Gulati pushed back on reporters who asked why he feels resigning is not what necessary, stating “This is not something that they do in other countries. Maybe coaches resign, but presidents do not...this is not something I’m planning to do.” He further cited the fact that he shouldn’t be judged on Tuesday night’s game but the overall growth of the game in the United States since he was elected president in 2006.

Part of the USSF president’s job is to grow the game at all levels in our country on both the men’s and women’s side. Yet Gulati held his defense-first conference call — in which many writers with uncomfortable questions for him were left on hold until time ran out — at the same time that NWSL Media Day was going on in Orlando. As the NWSL is the women’s top flight in our country, this was an incredibly tone deaf move by a guy in charge of an organization that continues to force the USWNT to play on artificial turf fields. There was no need to steal the NWSL’s moment in the soccer spotlight.

How do U.S. supporters feel about Gulati not only staying on but also seeking reelection? Well, the American Outlaws released a statement.

Another Look at the Legacy of Kaká

Paul Tenorio over at FourFourTwo gave a fair assessment of Kaká’s value on and off the pitch for Orlando City and discussed how the two sides of what the captain brought to the club built the Brazilian’s MLS legacy. The TLDR; version is that Kaká did a boatload for the team and the league and was somewhat productive on the field — just not $7 million worth of productive.

As the highest-paid player in the league, Kaka’s production was just OK. In three seasons in MLS, he never scored double-digit goals – eight of his 24 goals across three seasons were from the penalty spot – and he hit double-digit assists just once. He played 28 games in his inaugural season, 24 games in 2016 and will finish his career with 23 games played in 2017. Sometimes, his defensive deficiencies left his team exploited.

The bigger problem was that, at his price, Kaka also represented an opportunity cost. With David Villa producing in back-to-back MVP-caliber seasons in New York, and Sebastian Giovinco turning the league on his head, Kaka’s $7 million price tag was as much a negative as it was a positive. His peers were changing games every week. What could Orlando City do with that Designated Player spot if given the chance?

Tenorio’s piece also has a good breakdown of how much money Orlando City could clear off the books this off-season, so head on over and give it a read.

Orlando Pride U-18/19 Team to Face North Carolina Today

Before this afternoon’s NWSL final, Orlando Pride’s U-18/19 team will host the North Carolina Courage U-18s/19s in Sanford, FL, at the Seminole Soccer Complex. The match will take place at 11 a.m. and will be streamed on the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Facebook page. Good luck to the Baby Pride. (Sorry, I couldn’t think of a catchy nickname for the team.)

Atlanta United Promotes Ex-OCSC GM Paul McDonough

Remember Armando Carneiro? Of course you don’t. Nobody does. You’re completely forgiven if you have forgotten the guy who was hired to be then-Orlando City GM Paul McDonough’s boss and the club’s “chief soccer officer.” After all, he was only on the job for about two months before resigning for personal reasons in December of 2015. But those two months were long enough to chase McDonough out the door. He ended up in Atlanta, as director of soccer operations. After helping build an Atlanta United team that made the playoffs in its inaugural season, McDonough has been promoted to vice president of soccer operations and his contract was extended for four years.

From my few chats with him, I think Paul’s a pretty good dude and there’s no question he learned a lot from the mistakes that were made in the early days of building Orlando City. While I wish nothing but pain and misery for the insufferable Atlanta fans who have slid into my DMs, I’m happy to see McDonough having success and can only shake my head at the entire Carneiro fiasco yet again.

Free Kicks
  • MLS will hold an Expansion Draft for LAFC but shouldn’t, says FourFourTwo.
  • U2’s tour stop in Buenos Aires included a toast to Lionel Messi.
  • Those born on this date include William Penn (1644), Dwight D. Eisenhower (1890), legendary hoops coach John Wooden (1910), James Bond actor Sir Roger Moore (1927), Ralph Lauren (1939), Jerry Glanville (1941), Moody Blues singer Justin Hayward (1946), former Flyers enforcer Dave “The Hammer” Schultz (1949), Night Court actor and magician/comedian Harry Anderson (1952), Thomas “She Blinded Me with Science” Dolby (1958), A League of Their Own actress Lori Petty (1963), and Usher (1978).

That’s all the time I have for you this morning. Stay tuned to The Mane Land for full coverage of Orlando City’s home game tomorrow against the Columbus Crew and a recap of the NWSL final later today.