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Lion Links: 11/17/18

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Orlando City partners with Bundesliga club, OCB adds a 15-year-old forward, Christian Pulisic could be headed to Chelsea, and more.

England v United States - International Friendly

Welcome to Saturday, everyone. It’s a short week for many of us in the United States, with the Thanksgiving holiday coming up, so you could think of this as the beginning of a long weekend with some intermittent and annoying work tasks that still need to be performed.

It might be the off-season but soccer teams never sleep. Let’s get to the news of the day.

Orlando City, Wolfsburg Partner on Both Men’s and Women’s Side

The club has found a fourth overseas partner in the form of VfL Wolfsburg which has teams in both the Bundesliga and Frauen-Bundesliga. Both Orlando City and the Orlando Pride can exchange information freely with the German club on subjects such as player scouting, marketing, sales, etc. While it’s never a bad thing to have more partners, it would be nice to see more concrete collaboration on the player side with some of these partners at some point. What I mean by that is that if, for example, Wolfsburg finds itself with a crowded position group (say...striker or attacking midfield), perhaps a loan to Orlando to get someone some playing time could benefit both sides.

According to Wolfsburg Head of Corporate Development Felix Welling, the Bundesliga side is thinking along those same lines.

“The football side is the core of it, and I think it’s the main driver for an authentic partnership between the clubs,” Welling said. “We are longing to find the first steps for exchanging players from Orlando to Wolfsburg, because here in the U.S. you have a long offseason, and then we can help you with our infrastructure and training sessions in Germany. But also, we have a lot of talented players who are on the verge of going into the Bundesliga, but they need some development and some other things to see while they’re on their way to be professional players. We think the MLS, especially Orlando, both the men’s team and women’s team, have the best fundament for developing youth players who can make it in the Bundesliga afterward.”

Importantly, this is Orlando’s first partnership that involves the women’s team and the Pride can benefit from a VfL Wolfsburg side that has had a lot of success and has become a fixture in the UEFA Champions League.

Said Budalic: “The fact that our seasons overlap presents an opportunity for our women to go and train in Germany. So, this will help give opportunities for our women’s players to continue their development.”

It’s all just talk at this point, of course, but this seems the most promising of all of Orlando City’s partnerships so far.

OCB Signs Second Player for 2019

Just two days after signing the first player in OCB’s existence as a USL League One team — in the form of 17-year-old Jordan Bender — the Young Lions have added 15-year-old Luc Granitur. The youth national team forward is an Orlando City Development Academy product has four goals in six games with the club’s U-18/19 side this season.

“Luc is a unique talent and one who we feel has the proper mentality and ability to play for the first team in time,” OCB general manager Mike Potempa said. “Granitur will be the youngest signing on our roster at just 15 years old, but he is already showing he can handle the level as he is currently our top goal scorer and points leader for the U19s. Once again, it shows we believe in our Academy and we believe in opportunities for young players.”

If Granitur’s name sounds familiar, you may recall that we told you back in September about Granitur’s call-up to the U.S. youth national team camp and last month we linked to Luc being touted as an example of the academy’s successful beginnings at Montverde. I admit that I have yet to see Granitur on the field but I’m excited to see what he can do.

Christian Pulisic Headed to Chelsea?

According to the Daily Mail’s Martin Samuel, Borussia Dortmund and USMNT attacking midfielder Christian Pulisic looks to be making a move from the Bundesliga to EPL side Chelsea in the winter window. The London side will want to make this move quickly as it faces a potential transfer ban for rules violations. A move by Pulisic to Chelsea would be the highest profile USMNT player transfer in quite some time.

Jordan Pickford Uses Water Bottle as a ‘Cheat Sheet’ for Penalties

I’m not sure how widely spread this is, or if it’s even legal, but it’s a smart idea. England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford wrote out on his water bottle which direction players typically take penalties in case the USMNT was awarded a spot kick on Thursday. Pickford apparently did the same against Colombia in the World Cup, helping him snuff out Carlos Bacca’s effort. He’s stopped three penalties in league play this season. My opinion on this is that if there’s no rule against it, go for it.

U-20 USMNT Advances to 2019 U-20 FIFA World Cup

Down the road in Bradenton, the U.S. U-20 men had no trouble dispatching Costa Rica last night, 4-0, clinching a spot in the 2019 U-20 FIFA World Cup. Alex Mendez, Ulysses Llanez, Juan Pablo Torres, and Ayo Akinola provided the fireworks for the Baby Nats against the toothless Ticos. Just take a look at this golazo by Mendez that got the U.S. started:

My goodness, what a strike. The U.S. will advance to the Concacaf Championship final against Mexico with either a draw or win against Honduras on Monday at 8 p.m. ET.

Free Kicks
  • The NWSL has made some amendments to players’ eligibility for the college draft. Player registration for the draft opens Monday.
  • An unknown number of referees will protest the suspension of ref David McNamara — who got a three-week ban for forgetting his coin for the flip and having team captains play rock, paper, scissors instead — by also having the captains play rock, paper, scissors this weekend. Why not rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock?
  • The MLS Disciplinary Committee has fined three players and added to Dynamo forward Ronaldo Pena’s suspension. Two of the fines were for entering the field of play. Remember how it was a suspension when Antonio Nocerino did it? I remember.
  • Don Garber said MLS and Liga MX are exploring the expansion of the Campeones Cup into a tournament. This is apparently more likely than MLS clubs competing in Copa Libertadores.
  • Those born on this date include astronaut Alan Shepard (1923), science fiction author Alan Dean Foster (1946), football’s Jack Tatum (1948), former Scorpions drummer Herman “Ze German” Rarebell (1949), former Quiet Riot and Ozzy Osbourne bassist Rudy Sarzo (1950), Saturday Night Live alum Kevin Nealon (1953), football’s Warren Moon (1956), Manchester United goalkeeping legend Peter Schmeichel (1963), baseball’s Gary Sheffield (1968), actor Owen Wilson (1968), actress Chloe Sevigny (1974), former Red Sox slugger David “Big Papi” Ortiz (1975), and NASCAR’s Denny Hamlin (1980).

That’s all my time for this morning. I hope you enjoyed your daily dose of Lion Links. We’ll be back to do it all again tomorrow. Enjoy your weekend.