Good morning, Mane Land readers. I hope you enjoyed last Friday’ Lion Links from our managing editor while I was out of the office. And if you didn’t even realize that I was gone, well...I forgive you and hope that you continue to enjoy reading our coverage of everything that is Orlando soccer and more.
With that said, I am happy to be back and eager to bring you the top news so let’s not waste any more time.
Kreis Admits Molino Asked to Leave OCSC
There were mixed reviews to say the least when Orlando City elected to ship Kevin Molino to Minnesota United in a reunion of sorts with former Lions head coach Adrian Heath. It became apparent that Molino was a part of what Jason Kreis referred to as an “in-house” issue when he was distant from his teammates in training and didn’t travel to Jacksonville for preseason camp. With that said, many were still sad to see the Trinidad & Tobago international go after he capitalized regularly in 30 appearances in 2016 with 11 goals and eight assists. But the player himself asked out of Orlando, expecting a big raise after one year of production that the club couldn’t (and wouldn’t) cave in to.
“We tried to do what we could in offering a contract that we felt was competitive to what he was hoping for, but the player was still unhappy. For me, what’s most important is whether a player wants to be in the team, and the last question I asked him was, ‘Kevin, do you want to be here?’ And he said, ‘No I don’t, coach. I’d like a change of scenery’. At that point, that’s who we want to be going forward, a club that wants players to desperately be a part of it.”
While replacing the midfielder’s production on the field will be no easy task, Kreis made it clear that the culture in the locker room comes before all else.
Kreis Pleased with Lions’ Preseason Trajectory
If fans are upset about Molino’s departure, maybe this will help. Jason Kreis told Orlando Sentinel writer Alicia DelGallo things are going well this preseason.
“The effort they’ve been putting in has been second to none. The commitment level, the competitiveness in training sessions I think has reached a new level, which is exactly what we wanted.”
Kreis went on to praise the team’s fitness level, something he criticized after he was hired in July, calling it “at a different level than it was last year.”
“I couldn’t be happier with where we are right now, but I know we have a ton of work left to do still,” Kreis said. “The good thing is we have five weeks left to get it done in.”
That’s great news. A fit and committed Orlando City team should challenge for the postseason in 2017.
Deakin Looks to Make Senior Team
Orlando City’s only SuperDraft selection in 2017 came in the third round in the person of forward Danny Deakin. The Sheffield, England native has arrived at Orlando City’s preseason camp and is looking to get first-team games in his rookie season.
“It’s very good,” Deakin said. “I knew it was gonna be a lot better than college. The speed of play is very high and everyone’s very consistent on the ball. But yeah, I’m enjoying it. I think I’ve adapted pretty well to it. But yeah, it’s good and I’m enjoying my time here.”
Deakin doesn’t have a lot of goals for his rookie season. He’s focused on contributing to his team and getting as much time on the pitch as he can. “I’d like to play. I’d like to start games and show what I can do,” Deakin said. “I’d like to be involved in the first team and be around things. But you just never know, I’m just gonna do what I can and see where it takes me.”
Orlando City B Announces Preseason Schedule
As OCB looks to improve upon its first USL season in 2017, the club announced its preseason schedule that consists of seven friendlies beginning on Feb. 23. Following the preseason opener against the University of Central Florida, it will take on OKC Energy FC in Bradenton at the IMG Academy in the only game that will be streamed live at Live.IMGAcademyTV.com. Check out the link for the full slate.
Lifetime to Broadcast NWSL Matches
The NWSL has announced a partnership with A+E Networks that includes Lifetime broadcasting a weekly NWSL match Saturdays at 4 p.m. Lifetime will serve as an official sponsor and broadcast partner for the league.
In addition to the broadcast, the partnership will feature a joint venture, NWSL Media. According to the press release, NWSL Media will oversee the live streaming of matches, including pre-game, halftime, and post-game segments.
“This partnership is not only tremendously significant in the continued growth of NWSL, but representative of how far the league has come in four years and where it can go in the future,” U.S. Soccer president Sunil Galati said.
In addition, the Lifetime logo will feature on the right sleeve of all teams’ jerseys.
Pereira Called into U.S. U-17 Residency Program
Alejandro Pereira, current member of Orlando City’s academy set-up, has been called into the U.S. Soccer Residency Program in Bradenton for the 2017 Spring Semester. Head coach John Hackworth invited Pereira along with 31 others in pursuit of qualifying for the 2017 FIFA U-17 World Cup.
Pereira was one of the 28 players invited for the spring semester that were also in residency last fall. Hackworth also called in several new players, including Ethan Bartlow, Tyler Shaver, Grayson Barber, and David Ochoa. Notable players that will not return for spring residency are Chris Goslin and Chris Durkin, who will be looking to earn a first-team place in preseason with Atlanta United and D.C. United, respectively, after signing homegrown deals.
The U-17 World Cup qualifying tournament is set to begin April 14 in Panama. The emphasis of this semester will be preparing the players to not only qualify, but make an impact in the World Cup.
Lampard Calls it Quits
Few players in the history of the game have experienced the long-lasting success that Frank Lampard has. After 21 years, 13 of which were spent at Stamford Bridge with Chelsea, Lampard has made the decision to hang up his boots.
Lampard last played for New York City FC after leaving Chelsea in 2014 and spending the 2014-2015 season with NYCFC parent club, Manchester City. The England international is one of just three players to record over 100 goals and 100 assists. The others on that list are Manchester United legends Ryan Giggs and Wayne Rooney.
This MLS off-season has seen world football legends retire after coming stateside. First it was Liverpool legend, Steven Gerrard, and now Lampard. Gerrard recently joined Liverpool’s coaching staff at the academy level, and with Lampard giving thanks to the Football Association for the opportunity to study for his coaching badges, Lampard could follow in his footsteps by making a return to Stamford Bridge.
That should more than do it for today’s links. It sure is good to be back, and I can only hope that your weekend is as enjoyable as writing for you all is for me. Sit back, relax, and enjoy the good times!