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Lion Links: 9/2/17

USMNT hosts Costa Rica, big honor for Alex Morgan, Lions try to ease travel effects, and more.

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Costa Rica v United States - FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Photo by Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images

Mane Landers! Hopefully as you're reading this, you're already sitting back with a drink in hand on this wonderful holiday weekend. And we thank you for taking the time on your vacation to read my very first — of many to come — Lion Links. But if you're like me and may not be as lucky, then know it's been an exciting week and will be a busy weekend so you came to the right place to keep tabs.

This weekend sets up for two-thirds of the Orlando contingent with matches for both Orlando City and Pride tonight. Additionally, there’s a full slate of World Cup qualifiers and plenty of MLS news to keep you occupied.

Yanks Upended by Costa Rica, 2-0

All the momentum the USMNT had built under Bruce Arena came crashing against the back wall of Costa Rica’s five-man defense at Red Bull Arena last night as the Ticos handed the Yanks a 2-0 loss in New Jersey. It’s not that the U.S. didn’t have chances, but, like we’ve seen with Orlando City, too many of those chances lacked that final bit of quality to end up in Costa Rica’s net. It didn’t help that Keylor Navas was excellent in goal and that the Panamanian referee (no bias there, obviously) ignored a sure penalty when Jozy Altidore was taken down from behind in the box with a dangerous cross on the way from the right flank. In the end, though, it was a bad outing from center backs Tim Ream and Geoff Cameron and good finishing by Marco Ureña that undid the U.S.

This puts the USMNT in a near must-win position Oct. 6 in Orlando as we attempt to hold on to the third automatic qualifier to the World Cup. We face Panama in what is expected to be a battle to secure that final qualifier to avoid an eventual playoff.

Orlando City Eases Travel as Youth Set to Feature at New England

Travel conditions have always been a catalyst for debate around the league, and with the rough stretch Orlando City has endured, both in miles and results, Jason Kreis has his side up in New England for an extra day of acclimation, in what shapes up to potentially be a match flooded with young players as the FIFA weekend, injuries, and card accumulation takes many key players out of consideration.

Check out our match preview here

Orlando Pride Look to Continue Streak Against Boston Breakers

Orlando Pride look to extend a league-leading, five-match unbeaten streak against bottom of the table Boston Breakers and the hopeful return of young USWNT starter Rose Lavelle. On a four-match winning streak, the Pride seek to hold their current fourth place in the table and the playoffs. With the Pride playing exciting, attacking soccer this match lines up to be one you won't want to miss.

Support them tonight at Orlando City Stadium, 7:30 p.m. kickoff

Morgs Named NWSL Player of the Month

Speaking of the Pride, striker Alex Morgan has been crushing it of late, scoring in five straight games — every single match in August. As a result, she’s been named the league’s Player of the Month for August. In all, Morgan scored seven times and added two assists to help Orlando go 4-0-1 and complete the team’s first ever undefeated month.

U.S. Soccer Girls Development Academy Kicks Off Inaugural Season

This weekend the U.S. Soccer Girls Development Academy kicks off. While the boys have had a 10-year head start, it's now the girls' time to shine. We give you some different insight and share a great conversation between legends, Julie Foudy and Brandi Chastain, on the necessity and advantages of the new system.

David Villa Proving National Team Still in Sight for MLS European Players

Unfortunately the MLS has not been kind to European players in regards to their national teams. Cases like Sebastian Giovinco notoriously being blocked is just one of many cases of the global perception that the MLS remains a "retirement home" for those that can no longer cut it. David Villa breaks that perception into pieces as his success in MLS has brought him back into the Spanish National Team for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers.

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So, there you have it — all the news you'll need to gear up for the weekend. Now go and enjoy your holiday! And I hope to see some of you tonight at the Orlando Pride as yours truly will be cheering them on!