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Lion Links: 7/13/17

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USMNT faces Martinique, Jason Kreis not backing off ref remarks, Kaká’s flight path, Homegrown team announced, and more.

MLS: Toronto FC at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Happy I-4 Derby day, Mane Landers. That’s right, the vile enemy from Tampa Bay visits Orlando City Stadium tonight to take on OCB. No doubt Rowdies fans will soon be locking up their double-wides, jumping in their mid-90s Ford pickups and heading east on Interstate 4 to invade our beautiful Purple Palace.

Will they outnumber the home fans? It’s possible. Orlando City’s USL side may have moved to downtown Orlando, but the bump in attendance has been negligible. It’s kind of expensive to support multiple home teams, but this game will be one you’ll want to see. Several of the young Lions on MLS contracts should be in the lineup and you’ll get a chance to see longtime Orlando City player Luke Boden again. Hope to see you there in droves.

While we kill the hours between now and tailgate time, let’s enjoy some links:

USMNT Fumbles Away 2-0 Lead, Still Beats Martinique

In a match that was frustrating to watch if you’re a fan of the USMNT, the Yanks blew a 2-0 lead to tiny Martinique but responded with the final goal to win 3-2 in Tampa. Jordan Morris scored a brace and Omar Gonzalez scored his second career international goal to lead the U.S. to the top of Group B.

In the other Group B match, Nicaragua scored first after a 0-0 opening period, but Panama answered immediately and went on to win, 2-1, moving to four points and the same goal differential as the U.S., but Los Canaleros are in second due to the goals scored tiebreaker.

Kreis Doesn’t Back Off from Ref Remarks

If you thought Orlando City Head Coach Jason Kreis was just angry in the heat of the moment when he spouted off about PRO referees’ treatment of his team after the Lions’ 3-1 loss to Toronto FC last week, well...maybe not. Kreis has had time to look at the film from that match and when asked about those remarks at training, he basically doubled down.

“...it’s one of those occasions where sometimes after a game you say something without maybe being level-headed or having the ability to look at the video first. Often times you’ll change your opinion from those statements,” he paused, “This is not one of those times.”

“I’ve already watched the video, and it’s very, very clear to me that decisions that went against us – in the Toronto game in particular, but I can tell you generally I feel the same exact way in every single match we played this year – the decisions that have gone against us in 50/50 calls, the little things going against us, it’s just not right. And in that game in particular, the decision for a foul that they called against [Jozy] Altidore that led to the third goal that broke our back, um, was critically wrong. And so, it’s another game where you walk out and you feel like if the referees had been better we certainly could have come back in that game and drawn because we had all the momentum, we’d just scored, things were looking positive for us.”

The question now becomes...will there be one fine from the league, or two?

Ramos, Alston Repeat Injuries Confounding Kreis, Trainers, Doctors

The Lions have tried any number of things to prevent the rash of hamstring issues that plagued the team in preseason and early in the MLS campaign. But despite sticking to proper nutrition, training, strength and conditioning tactics, and rehab, Rafael Ramos and Kevin Alston continue to suffer the same types of ailments. The elusive problem has been frustrating Jason Kreis.

“It’s an impossible situation, right?” Kreis said, lowering his gaze in what looked to be sympathy and frustration when Ramos first was mentioned.

“We all want to look for the black-and-white answer. We’re handling all the black and white information. We’re doing all the right things, the rehab, the nutrition, the strength work, the one-v-one work he’s doing outside the field. We’re putting in all the right information, but for some reason it’s still eluding us. So, I just don’t have an answer.”

Compounding the problem is that both play the same position — right back. Kreis is at least hopeful that the latest injury setback for Ramos will be closer to two weeks than four.

“We’re hopeful it’s a small, minor problem,” Kreis said. “It’s also not to the exact same muscle that he’s been dealing with, so we’re hopeful it could be a minor issue that we can move forward from very quickly. But it’s concerning, it’s concerning no doubt.”

Kaká Featured in MLS Flight Path Series

One of the more interesting story series’ that mlssoccer.com has produced recently is the Flight Path series, which talks about a star player’s travels around the world and how they got to North America. Orlando City skipper Kaká got his turn, and the piece highlights his trek from Brazil to Italy to Spain, then back to Italy, before finally landing in the City Beautiful, where he felt he still had something to prove.

"I always heard, 'Americans don't like soccer, they don't want soccer here,' that it would never be a good sport here. I saw that as a challenge. I said, 'I want to go play there and show the people that soccer has a lot of good value.'

No Lions on the MLS Homegrown Team Roster

MLS Homegrown Team Head Coach Brian McBride’s roster for the 2017 MLS Homegrown Game will be the first without an Orlando City player since the team joined the league in 2015. Tyler Turner had made the squad the last two years before leaving the organization this past off-season. Harrison Heath, now on loan to Sacramento Republic from Atlanta United, was selected previously but was injured prior to the match and couldn’t participate. Center back Tommy Redding was not included in this year’s team, although some of his U-20 USMNT teammates were.

Dwyer Talks USL, MLS, USMNT

Former Lion Dom Dwyer talked about his time in the USL, with Sporting Kansas City, and giving his allegiance to the United States rather than his native England for international play in this video interview:

Free Kicks
  • Former Orlando City midfielder Brian “Cobi” Span played 90 minutes in a UEFA Champions League qualifying match for for IFK Mariehamn vs. Legia Warsaw. Mariehamn lost, 3-0.
  • Here’s a profile on how Orlando City broadcaster McKenzie Thirkill has built a career in sports.
  • French Guiana played Florent Malouda, knowing he was ineligible under FIFA rules and the eventual 0-0 draw would likely be forfeited. French Guiana is not recognized by FIFA but is recognized by CONCACAF. So why not play him against Canada in the country’s territory’s Gold Cup opener? A ruling is expected today.
  • Ex-FIFA exec Chuck Blazer died last night at age 72. He did a lot of good things for soccer, and then he did some not-so-good things.
  • Those born on this date include Julius Caesar (100 BC), Hogan’s Heroes star Bob Crane (1928), Patrick Stewart (1940), Harrison Ford (1942), Roger McGuinn of the Byrds (1942), Cheech Marin (1946), Grease actress Didi Conn (1951), boxer Michael Spinks (1956), filmmaker Cameron Crowe (1957), Community’s Ben Chang himself — Ken Jeong (1969), Welsh footballer Craig Bellamy (1979), baseball’s Shin-Soo Choo and Yadier Molina (both 1982), and Mexican goalkeeper Memo Ochoa (1985).

That’s all the time I have for this morning, folks. Check back later for full coverage of OCB-Tampa Bay, and stick around this weekend for the Orlando Pride vs. FC Kansas City and the USMNT vs. Nicaragua.

I leave you today with some I-4 Derby talk from Anthony Pulis and Rob Valentino.