Man, it’s already March. Hard to believe the new season is only a few days away. For some of you lucky Lions out there reading this, you are only a few days away from witnessing — in person — the first game in Orlando City’s sparkling new park. Whether you take in the game from the stands or from your La-Z-Boy, today’s links will keep you up to date on Orlando and MLS happenings as we anticipate Sunday’s match.
Before we get started, today is a special day for two members of the Orlando City family: Happy Birthday to Jonathan Spector and OCB defender Zach Ellis-Hayden from all of us here at The Mane Land.
Spector a Top MLS Signing
Speaking of the birthday boy, Fox Sports included Jonathan Spector-to-Orlando as one of its top MLS acquisitions this off-season. Spector’s arrival is arguably the most important signing for Orlando this year, as he adds some much-needed security to a defense that led the league in goals conceded.
Spector and Redding Ranked in America’s Top 100
American Soccer Now’s latest ranking of America’s best 100 players included Spector at No. 72 and Tommy Redding at No. 84. The highest-ranked MLS player was Michael Bradley, in at No. 5, while the site ranked Fabian Johnson as the country’s best player. Newly departed Lion Brek Shea checked in at No. 91.
And Speaking of Tommy Redding...
The Orlando City defender answered fan questions on Facebook coming off the big U.S. U-20 win over Mexico. Redding talked about how the team is preparing for the next match against El Salvador, and settled a contentious debate by choosing Superman over Batman.
Cyle Larin is the fourth-most-likely player to finish 2017 as the top scorer in MLS, according to those willing to put money on it at Bovada.
And Golden Boot. That Ola Kamara number looks mighty enticing. pic.twitter.com/mQgO5TmV2I— Jason Davis (@davisjsn) February 28, 2017
If the Lions’ last preseason game is any indication, the new Larin-Carlos Rivas strike partnership has the potential to propel Larin to the top of the charts. Even Lions Head Coach Jason Kreis thinks so.
Kreis says Carlos Rivas is poised to make an massive contribution to the club this year.— Alicia Rose DelGallo (@OSAliciaD) February 28, 2017
Kaká also made the list of possible top scorers, listed down at 18th with +3300 odds. Ricky is a long shot, to say the least.
OCB Falls to OKC Energy in Preseason Friendly
OCB continued its preseason preparations with a busy afternoon, which featured a game against OKC Energy and a short 30-minute scrimmage against the U-17 U.S. residency team at IMG Academy in Bradenton. The young Lions lost the match against OKC, 3-1, but won the second match of the day, 2-0. Joe Gallardo and Elvis, a trialist from Brazilian side Clube Atlético Paranaense, each tallied a goal in the game.
Orlando Has Some Pretty Sweet Digs
This won’t come as a shock for City fans, but the new stadium is impressive. Now the rest of the league is starting to take notice of the Purple Paradise. MLSsoccer.com noted that the stadium is equipped with over 550 Wi-Fi access points, as well as the impressive slope of the stands to keep fans as close as possible to the action.
Want more stadium gloating? You got it. The Guardian, in another piece by Simon Veness, ranked Orlando’s new pad as the No. 1 venue in MLS. That’s right: The best stadium in the land beat out the likes of Sporting KC, Seattle, and Portland for the top spot. Nothing short of beautiful.
What are We Eating, Orlando?
Of course, no stadium experience is complete without the food. The club wanted to offer some options that represented the cultural diversity of the city while including the normal stadium fare of pizza and such. Lauren Delgado, the Orlando Sentinel’s resident Foodie, highlighted some of unique food options available to City fans at the new stadium. The Cuban Bowl with carnitas is one option the club hopes will make fans feel at home. Thomas Anastasia of Spectra, the food service hired by Orlando, commented:
“We wanted to create signature items that the stadium will be known for and that fans know they can get [at] their own stadium,” Anastasia said.
MLS Announces New Roster Rules
MLS released new roster regulations allowing teams to sign two additional Homegrown players to their rosters, moving the total roster number from 28 to 30 players. The announcement is consistent with the league’s focus on growing the American game through academy players. Teams will now be permitted to use $200,000 of Targeted Allocation Money to sign Homegrown players above the $53,000 league minimum for the two spots. The league hopes the new rules allow MLS to compete with European teams looking to swoop in on young American talent.
As always, thanks for tuning in to the Wednesday edition of Lion Links. Feel free to drop a comment or question below. Take care, friends.