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Lion Links: 12/1/17

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Cryptic Rafa, College Cup stage ready, MLS Cup set, Rhinos out for 2018, and much more.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Orlando City SC
Rafael Ramos
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Well Mane Landers, here we are at the start of December. The MLS Cup Final is set, the winter transfer window opens in nine days, and the “group(s) of death” will be known later this morning.

I don’t know about you, but I haven’t even begun getting in the whole Christmas spirit yet. I have zero decorations up, I have not begun shopping for my wife and daughter, and I have already gotten in trouble with my in-laws for requesting the Christmas music at dinner a few nights ago be turned off. No, I am not a Scrooge. I just want to get through my birthday before I get geared up for Christmas. In the meantime, let’s dig into what we are here for.

What is Rafael Ramos Really Saying?

If you were paying attention on social media yesterday morning, you may have seen this social media post from Orlando City right back Rafael Ramos.

Shortly after the rumor frenzy and Twitter storm that erupted trying to decipher what the message meant, the club answered:

The message on the photo posted by Rafa has many still scratching their heads, as it seems to be the harbinger of finality, although Orlando City exercised its option on Rafa’s contract after the season. This will be something to watch, and if any more information can be dredged up, we will certainly let you all know.

2017 NCAA Women’s College Cup Stage is Ready

Orlando City Stadium received a bit of a makeover this week in preparatiuon to host the 2017 NCAA Women’s College Cup. Teams from Duke, South Carolina, Stanford, and UCLA will battle it out in The City Beautiful. We wish all the ladies good luck in the tournament (Go Gamecocks, because if I don’t say that my family in South Carolina might disown me. The only worse offense would be to cheer for Clemson). Check back later for our preview and how to watch the College Cup, as well as full coverage of both matches tonight.

Seattle Returns to MLS Cup Final

After beating the Houston Dynamo on the road 2-0 last week, the Seattle Sounders took care of business at home with a 3-0 win to advance to the 2017 MLS Cup Final. The Sounders won their semifinal on an aggregate score of 5-0 and will face Toronto FC in a rematch of the 2016 MLS Cup Final, which ended with the Sounders winning in a tight penalty shootout. The defending champions are riding high and haven’t conceded a goal in MLS play since early October. The stage is now set and the MLS Cup Final will take place on Dec. 9 in Toronto.

Contract Deadline Day has Come and Gone

For all non-playoff MLS teams, this past Monday was the deadline to pick up or decline player contract options for the 2018 season. Some clubs, Orlando City included, made their decisions weeks ago. Other teams waited until the deadline. Here is a good breakdown of what went down for many clubs on Deadline Day.

USL Rochester Rhinos to Take a Hiatus

Even with a community that rallied to help raise funds, the Rochester Rhinos have decided to take a one-year hiatus from competing in the USL. As the only non-MLS club to win the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup since the formation of MLS, the break will not hurt the club’s standing with USL as the Rhinos try to solidify a stable environment from which to operate for the 2019 season.

Baby Yanks Open the Nike Friendlies with a Loss

The U-17 USMNT opened up the Nike Friendlies against England in a hard-fought 1-0 loss to England at the Premier Sports Campus in Lakewood Ranch, FL. Brazil played the Netherlands in the other match which saw Brazil win, 2-1. The Baby Yanks play again tonight at 7 p.m. and look to bounce back as they face the Netherlands. Never heard of Lakewood Ranch? Here is a map to show you just how close the matches really are.

Free Kicks:
  • The 2018 World Cup group draw is today. Keep your eyes fixed on The Mane Land for coverage and breakdown a little later this morning. Do you have any guesses on the Group of Death? I think there will be two.
  • Vancouver Whitecaps announced the addition of Venezuelan International striker Anthony Blondell through 2020, with an option for 2021. The Caps sent TAM and GAM to FC Dallas for his rights to make the deal happen.
  • Atlanta United signed defender Greg Garza to a multi-year contract.
  • Keaton Parks might be a name to keep track of over the next few years. American, 20 years old, central midfielder, and traveling with Benfica on the first team roster for the Portuguese club’s match against FC Porto.

That’s it for today. I hope you have a fantastic Friday, have some amazing plans with friends and family, and get to enjoy this beautiful season in Florida I like to call “not summer.” I’ll be watching soccer, planning a beard competition, watching more soccer, and enjoying the weekend as much as I can. Oh, I almost forgot, if you are going to Jacksonville this weekend for WVRM FEST 5, do not miss Dark Castle (no people hiding in caves were hurt by the CIA using this track). My 9-year-old daughter thinks it is pretty cool that this is just a girl on guitar/vocals and a guy on drums/vocals. What can I say? We listen to music and watch footy on weekends.