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Lion Links: 1/9/18

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Dwyer called in to USMNT camp, Gonzalez switches to Mexico, NASL moves to a new calendar, and more.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Philadelphia Union Bill Streicher-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Tuesday, Mane Landers, and happy birthday to Orlando City’s Rafael Ramos, who turns 23 today. There’s a wealth of soccer-related news to get into, so let’s get cracking.

MLS Strength of Schedule Rankings Released

Major League Soccer has released its rankings for the strength of each team’s 2018 schedule. The rankings are calculated by taking last season’s average points per game both at home and on the road for every team’s opponents. At the most difficult end of the spectrum are the Montreal Impact, while new club Los Angeles FC has the easiest schedule. Your Lions come in at the No. 12 spot out of 23 total teams, putting them about as smack in the middle as they can be. The actual differences between the clubs, according to these rankings, are slim at best and there’s also no telling how good or bad LAFC will actually play, so at the moment it’s hard to put too much stock in these.

Dwyer Called Up for January

Orlando forward Dom Dwyer has been called up for the USMNT’s January camp. The camp starts tomorrow and concludes with a friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Jan. 28. Once again, the roster is almost entirely MLS players, with 28 out of the 30 playing for the U.S.’s top league. Dwyer will be one of six forwards and will surely be looking to catch the eye with only Juan Agudelo and Jordan Morris having more experience in the January camp than Dwyer. With a little luck he’ll do exactly that, so keep your eyes peeled for that friendly at the end of the month.

Gonzalez to Switch to Mexico

Jonathan Gonzalez, the 18-year-old Monterrey midfielder, has confirmed that he intends to play for the Mexican national team. Gonzalez played for the United States at the U-17 and U-20 levels but was not capped for the senior team. He now intends to file for a one-time switch that would see him become eligible to represent the Mexican national team instead. Recent weeks had seen the two CONCACAF federations vying for the young midfielder’s affections.

U.S supporters had hoped he would decide to represent the Stars and Stripes and he was seen as the possible future of the heart of the midfield, with his ability to shield the back line well documented at Monterrey. However, that future will now have to be found elsewhere and surely questions will be asked regarding how a player who only ever played in the U.S. youth setup was allowed to switch to the federation’s mortal enemy.

U.S. Soccer Denies SUM’s Influence on Venue Decision

U.S. Soccer and USSF presidential candidate Kathy Carter have issued statements denying Kyle Martino’s allegations relating to the decision to host September’s World Cup qualifier at Red Bull Arena. Martino suggested that Soccer United Marketing (the USSF’s marketing partner) decided to place the USMNT’s qualifier against Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena because it was a location that would draw the most Costa Rican fans. In essence, he alleged that SUM prioritized profiting from the game over getting the best possible result for the team.

Both U.S. Soccer and Carter stated that SUM had nothing to do with picking the venue location, and that the USSF alone made that decision. Martino also went on to say that he spoke with Bruce Arena and was told that the coach had personally lobbied to have the site changed, but was told no. Whether there’s any truth to these claims or not, the mere discussion isn’t a good look for a federation in the midst of a massive transition year.

NASL to Switch to International Calendar

The North American Soccer League has announced its intention to switch to soccer’s international calendar. Kickoff is planned for mid-August 2018, with the season to conclude in early June 2019. The planned switch will make NASL the first U.S. professional league to use the international calendar, something that some people have criticized MLS for refusing to do. The change of schedule is still pending, and will be determined by NASL’s appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals.

Free Kicks
  • Eric Lichaj’s wife apparently told him he could get a dog if he scored a hat trick in Nottingham Forest’s third-round FA Cup tie with Arsenal. When Lichaj came up one goal short, he encouraged the world to bombard his wife with all manner of dog-related media in an attempt to change her mind.
  • A good show for a good cause.
  • You don’t say?
  • Today’s birthdays include Kate Middleton, Sean Paul, Jimmy Page, J.K. Simmons, and Richard Nixon.

That’ll do it for today’s Links. Keep it here on The Mane Land for more Orlando City content than you can brandish a yellow card at. Ciao.