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Lion Links: 4/22/17

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Kaká’s return is close, Marta meets the press, 2017 is big for Ashlyn Harris, Tim Howard apologizes, and more.

Austin David, The Mane Land

Happy #FillTheBowl day, Mane Landers. The Pride have their long-awaited home opener this afternoon and I expect to see about 25,500 of you at Orlando City Stadium later today. If you’re out of town, you can catch the game on Lifetime at 4 p.m.

Before I go any further, I want to wish a happy 35th birthday to Orlando City captain Kaká. We’ve only seen Ricky for about 10 minutes this season but I feel like he’ll have some special moments for the 2017 Lions. While I’m at it, happy 30th birthday to former Lion David Mateos. Regardless of how you feel about his play, Mateos is a part of our club’s history and that makes him #ForeverALion in my book.

It’s also Earth Day, which is an actual thing that has been celebrated since 1970. So everyone go out and hug the planet before you commence reading the following Lion Links.

Kaká Closing in on Return

Speaking of our Brazilian birthday boy, Kaká has returned to training this week and even though there’s virtually no chance that he’s 90-minute match fit, the captain could potentially dress for the game Sunday at New York City FC. Kaká sustained a hamstring injury just minutes into the season opener against the very same NYCFC and hasn’t played since, but his return would be a welcome sight for a team that’s looking to score more goals. Jason Kreis said the captain will slowly do more and more in training after working out for about half the session starting Wednesday.

“No setbacks,” Orlando City head coach Jason Kreis said after the training session. “He’s piecing together a little bit more every single day. Yesterday, he did very little. Today, he did another block of the training. Then Friday and Saturday we look to build him up even more to potentially have him in contention for the game in New York City.”

The captain’s return was also the subject of an MLSsoccer.com roundtable discussion.

Oh, and more good news...center back Jose Aja is also training again.

Marta Meets the Press

The Pride unveiled star attacker Marta at the Marriott in Lake Mary yesterday before the Brazilian took part in her first training session with the club. Marta said her happiness outweighed any travel fatigue she was feeling after arriving from Stockholm, Sweden. She will be available for team selection today and although she may not start, she should see the field, as Head Coach Tom Sermanni said “I’m very confident she’ll be on the field tomorrow.”

After the presser, Marta headed straight to training, where she met her new head coach.

Harris Must Have a Big Season

Our friends over at Stars and Stripes FC wrote this piece on the USWNT players who must come up big this season for their respective NWSL clubs. Among those called out to have a big year is Orlando Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris. Writer Jessica Fletcher cites Orlando’s revamped back line as a reason that Harris must have a successful campaign or find herself struggling to get calls for the USWNT, as younger players are preparing to take the next step in the program.

This season the Pride have done a better job of putting competent defenders in front of Harris, including Australian international Alanna Kennedy and USWNT veteran Ali Krieger. So now it’s up to Harris to prove that she’s more than just an elite shot-stopper. In the past, she’s been criticized for her inability to organize her backline and questionable positioning in the box combined with overaggressive play. If the Pride are going to contend this year, Harris has to show that she can be a calm, organized goalkeeper.

Tim Howard Issues Statement on Altercation

USMNT and Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Tim Howard will miss a few games, including his club’s trip to Orlando a week from today, for an altercation with fans at Sporting Kansas City. Howard took to his Facebook page and issued a public statement in which he apologized and took full responsibility for his actions. He also used his social media account as a platform to discuss fan behavior and how there needs to be more accountability for people being drunken, abusive idiots. It’s hard to argue with that. Anyone who has attended a sporting event anywhere has seen such buffoonery. It’s OK to be loud and it’s fine to be passionate, but let’s not get personal, vulgar, or abusive toward those who play the game we love simple for wearing a different colored kit than the one your team wears.

Free Kicks
  • Orlando City CEO Alex Leitao earned a CEO of the Year award from Orlando Business Journal.
  • The Orlando City Foundation needs your help to build the city’s largest community garden.
  • It’s been more than a thousand days since David Beckham’s group launched its attempt to get an MLS club off the ground in Miami and MLS is starting to look into all the delays.
  • After pleading guilty to accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, ex-president of the Costa Rican Football Association, Eduardo Li, was banned from the game for life by FIFA's independent Ethics Committee on Friday.
  • Former Chicago Fire star and current mayor of Cuernavaca, Mexico, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, has been accused of ordering a murder.
  • In addition to that of our team captain, notable births on this date include Soviet Union founder Vladimir Lenin (1870), J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904), Green Acres star Eddie Albert (1906), jazz legend Charles Mingus (1922), TV producer Aaron Spelling (1923) — he gave us The Love Boat, Dynasty, Charlie’s Angels and Beverly Hills 90210 — actress Charlotte “Mrs. Garrett” Rae (1926), Glen Campbell (1936), Jack Nicholson (1937), Janet Evanovich (1943), John Waters (1946), Peter Frampton (1950), Paul Carrack (1951), Terry Francona (1959), Catherine Mary Stewart (1959), Ryan Stiles (1959), Jeffrey Dean Morgan — a.k.a. “Negan” — (1966), Marshawn Lynch (1986), David Luiz (1987), and John Obi Mikel (1987).

That’s all I’ve got for you today, my friends. Stay tuned to The Mane Land for full coverage of today’s Orlando Pride home opener and tomorrow’s Orlando City and OCB road matches. Play us out, birthday boy!