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Lion Links: 3/3/17

History between Orlando City and NYCFC, Cyle Larin an MLS Golden Boot candidate, City partners with JetBlue, and more.

MLS: New York City FC at Orlando City SC Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, and welcome to Friday’s Lion Links. As stated, today is Friday, which means yesterday was Thursday and tomorrow is Saturday, which is a blessing. Weekends are nice, but these Links are nicer.

City Squares Off Against City — Then and Now

The Lions’ opener, just two days away, excites and enthralls Orlando City fans everywhere. The first match of the season looks to bring beautiful soccer alongside wonderful fan participation. New York City FC travels to Orlando in what will be a well-fought 90 minutes, and the rivals have a history between the two.

March 8, 2015 brings memories to supporters as it marked the official first match either club has ever played. The 1-1 draw sparked a fire in Orlando and New York fans alike, and ever since both clubs have looked forward and progressed as organizations.

Head Coach Jason Kreis, who was NYCFC’s manager in 2015, looks to build upon last year’s close postseason push this year by making much-needed amends to the defensive line.

A new season brings a new hope, and the 5 p.m. kickoff begins Orlando’s campaign to make the postseason. Expectations are high as it’s playoffs or bust this time around.

Cyle Larin Predicted to Compete for MLS Golden Boot

Our very own Cyle Larin was listed as one player who could win the MLS Golden Boot by FourFourTwo. Larin scored 14 goals last season in a 4-2-3-1, but a switch to a two-striker system should help increase his already impressive tally.

Titled as an “outside contender” for the league’s top scorer by the article, the Canadian is considered one of the top eight strikers in the league. Sebastian Giovinco is FourFourTwo’s favored contender to win the Golden Boot, with the Italian racking up 17 goals and 15 assists the previous season, but I think Larin will be up there competing for the prestigious award as well.

Tommy Redding and Donny Toia Listed as Top Homegrown Players

Will Parchman over at The 91st Minute ranked the top five Homegrown players at every position. Two Orlando City players made the list, with Tommy Redding and Donny Toia shining in their respective defensive spots.

Parchman praised Redding for his overall defensive skill and rated him the third-best Homegrown center back product in the entire league. Toia was ranked the best left back to go through an MLS club academy and was praised for racking up lots of first team minutes during his career.

City Further Secures JetBlue Partnership

Airline company JetBlue has agreed on a three-year extension for a partnership with Orlando City. The union names JetBlue as the exclusive air service for OCSC and Orlando Pride.

“Fun is one of JetBlue’s core values. We are excited to further our partnership with Orlando City and add Orlando Pride to our roster, said Nicole Tesser, JetBlue regional marketing manager, southeast. Orlando sports fans and JetBlue customers have one thing in common – loyalty. In turn, we look forward to showcasing our loyalty and commitment to customers and fans.”

The affiliation between Orlando City and JetBlue comes with benefits, as JetBlue will fly the Lions and the Pride to and from all away games. Another perk is the addition of the “Fly Away of the Game” giveaway before regular season home matches, where JetBlue will gift two fans two round-trip tickets applicable at any JetBlue harbor.

NWSL Commissioner Steps Down

The National Women’s Soccer League brings interesting news as its commissioner steps down. NWSL Commissioner Jeff Plush has chosen to pursue a new career path, more than two years after being inducted as head of the NWSL in January of 2015. Plush helped the league grow and oversaw the Orlando Pride’s induction into the NWSL in 2016 as an expansion club.

“It has been a privilege to play a role in the growth and promise of the NWSL, and especially so when I think of the talented and committed individuals I’ve worked with who will continue to dedicate themselves to the women’s game and this truly amazing league,” said Plush. “I thank Dan Flynn, Sunil Gulati, team owners and the players for their trust and belief in me as a steward of their league and our game. I now look forward to my next adventure with the comfort in knowing NWSL is in a great place today, with even better days ahead.”

That’s all for today, comrades. MLS kicks off tonight with Minnesota United squaring off against the Portland Timbers. If I’m still awake after track practice I’ll be tuning in.