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Lion Links: 1/24/18

Cyle Larin is training — but not with Orlando City, the Pride make a major trade, news from the second day of preseason, and more!

W-League Rd 7 - Western Sydney v Sydney Photo by Steve Christo

Good Wednesday morning, Mane Landers. We’ve got a nice serving of soccer news for you on this fine morning, but first, birthday wishes are in order: Earl Edwards Jr. is celebrating his 26th birthday today, while former Lion Tommy Redding — the club’s first ever Homegrown Player — has hit 21. Happy birthday to the lads, now let’s get into it.

Cyle Larin is Playing a Dangerous Game Training with Besiktas

The Cyle Larin saga got even weirder Tuesday as he was spotted training with Turkish club Besiktas.

Our Michael Citro previously broke down the craziness before today, but this is a new twist. As another one of our writers said today in our conversations: “There will be a time when a trade situation will be all over the place, but we’ll all say “is it Larin kind of crazy?”

And that might be the truth. The club hasn't come out with any additional comments on the Larin situation, but this is becoming tenuous (understatement). We’re not sure if this is Larin attempting to strong-arm a transfer or him making a statement that he’s ready to challenge the validity of his contract. The interesting question in all this is: could the Players Union be backing this in a move to open up their options? (I certainly hope so.)

Take solace in the number of new attacking options Orlando City has added and, in the meantime, grab some popcorn and enjoy the circus.

Pride Get The Off-season Moving with a Big Trade

The Pride had been awful quiet this off-season as fans were seeing monster trades with names like Press, Lloyd, Kerr, Dunn, and Hatch all moving among five different NWSL franchises in the past two weeks.

Well, Tom Sermanni has finally stepped into the ring and it was a big first punch, trading away backup goalkeeper Aubrey Bledsoe and the Pride’s first-round pick in the 2019 draft for Washington Spirit’s Shelina Zadorsky. Zadorsky, 25, played right center back with the Spirit.

“Shelina brings strong defensive qualities [to Orlando],” said Sermanni in a club press release. “The way we play, one of our emphases this year is that we need to be less vulnerable defensively. Bringing in Shelina, who is an out-and-out center back who also has extensive international experience with the Canadian National Team will be a big asset for us.”

This wasn't a massive surprise as Bledsoe appeared to be one of the more valuable — and exposable — pieces on the Pride roster. Her work this past season in Ashlyn Harris’ absence, combined with her recent run of form in the W-League all pointed to her needing a new opportunity that she wasn't going to get in Orlando anytime soon.

The interesting part of the deal is that it was originally rumored to be a three-team deal where potentially the Utah Royals would be involved, but it only turned out to be two-sided. Why that is interesting is because the Spirit have Stephanie Labbé, who, while 31, has shown little signs of needing to be replaced.

Perhaps there’s more on the way, but we cant help but wonder if this was a little too much as Bledsoe looks to be a rising star in the NWSL if her form continues this way. All the best, Aubrey, and just take it easy on us when we see you again!

Newcomers on Showcase in Second Day of MLS Preseason

We were on hand yesterday for City’s second preseason training session, which saw newcomers such as rookie Chris Mueller, veteran forward Stefano Pinho, and goalkeeper Adam Grinwis.

The rust is visible, but all this new blood has brought a great energy to camp. As Assistant Coach Miles Joseph talked about, this preseason was unlike any other so far:

“Everybody now has a chance to prove themselves,” he said. “And I think we’re going into this preseason with a clean slate, more than we ever have. So we’re excited about that.”

We’ll continue to bring you preseason updates, but it sounds like there will plenty of news coming through as the team adjusts with all the new talent.

Sacha Eager in His First Orlando City Preseason

One guy that is experiencing a different style of preseason is the newly acquired Sacha Kljestan. Kljestan has spent the past three years in New York and now he gets a little bit warmer and thrust into a situation with a variety of newcomers.

His first take on all of this: “Definitely the hardest offseason of my life,” he said. “Hard for me and my family.”

The good part about all this was Kljestan wasn't blindsided and had some notice from NYRB and his agent that it was looking increasingly likely that Orlando was his destination:

“Fortunately, [coach] Jesse Marsch was willing to work with me not blindside me with the trade,” Kljestan said. “The common thing that happened was my agent saying, ‘[Orlando City coach] Jason Kreis reached out again. Jason Kreis called again. He’s very interested. He saw me as an important piece and he really wanted me to be there.”

Overall, Kljestan is excited to lead a young group — both in age and City experience — with some exciting pieces at his disposal.

“My job is to go in and build relationships with the guys around me. It’s about coming in and really competing, getting everyone on the same page.”

He is particularly excited to play with include midfielders Yoshimar Yotún, Josué Colmán, and Cristian Higuita. He also already knows forward Dom Dwyer from training together during off-seasons in Los Angeles.

Colorado Rapids Joining Sporting KC as Diversity Leaders in MLS

Recently we saw the first ever Sporting KC technical position awarded to a woman with Meghan Cameron being named as assistant director of player personnel. And now we’re seeing the Rapids joining in on the diversity train by hiring MLS’s first ever female director of player personnel in Ena Patel.

As The Denver Post reports, Patel was hired to oversee player contracts, salary budget, regulatory compliance, and soccer operations protocols under Pádraig Smith, the Rapids said.

“Ena’s hiring is the final piece of the puzzle for us on the front office side,” Smith, the Rapids’ Executive Vice President and General Manager, said in a statement released by the club. “Bringing in a sharp, legal mind who can oversee our contractual processes and complex league mechanisms is a really important part of ensuring that we’re fielding the best possible team. We can’t wait for her to get started.”

This is a great sight for MLS, which could use some influx of female executives on every level. Believe what you will, but diversity needs to be key in an organization and the doors should be equally open to all candidates. Kudos to Colorado and best of luck Ena!

Free Kicks

I’ll leave you today with some feel-good news. Mason Stajduhar was out today in preseason training and looking good alongside his teammates as he continues his battle with bone cancer. We wish you all the best, Mason, and happy to see you out there.