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Lion Links: 11/3/18

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O’Connor keeping eyes on OCSC’s prospects, Alex Morgan in comic book form, UEFA shenanigans, how Eddie met Christian, and more.

MLS: Columbus Crew at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s the first weekend of the off-seasonocalypse and I already miss those terrible purple Lions and their occasional glimmer of coherent soccer. I promise that sounds way snarkier than I feel about the team, but the 2018 season’s bitter outweighed the sweet by a good few metric tons and the stank is still in the air as we watch a pretty exciting start to the MLS playoffs.

The fact that four of the final eight teams fighting it out for MLS Cup were among the Lions’ eight measly victims in 2018 shows that the club was capable of putting together a performance here and there, even against good teams, but with only three wins all year against non-playoff teams, there’s really no explaining what we saw this past season.

Is it 2019 yet? No? Then I’m going back to bed until Media Day. Here is some news for you to read while I’m asleep.

O’Connor Keeping an Eye on Academy Players

While Mike Potempa and Fernando Jose De Argila Irurita are putting together the roster for Orlando City B, James O’Connor is keeping his eye on the team’s prospects, including having some out to training recently. JOC is, himself, the product of an academy background and he knows the development system must align philosophically with the first team, even if the in-game tactics aren’t always the same.

O’Connor clarified that the idea isn’t for OCB to use the same tactics as the First Team -- “the formational aspect is a personal choice for the coach” -- but rather to develop players that can fit into a certain style of play.

“When we have the ball, we want good movement, rotational movement. We want people pulling into space, finding space,” O’Connor said. “And then when we’re defending we want to deny space as much as possible.

“From those pillars you want to create principles of play and make sure that it’s all aligned.”

O’Connor didn’t name any names, but did say that a 16-year-old from the OCSC academy stood out as someone who played well in training. Orlando City B will provide that link between the academy and professional soccer and it’ll be exciting to keep an eye on what happens at Montverde Academy starting in 2019.

Alex Morgan in Graphic Novel Form

It appears that Yahoo Sports writer Dan Wetzel is writing a series of sports biographies for young readers that will include Orlando Pride and USWNT striker Alex Morgan. The book will include comic book-style illustrations from Cory Thomas and will be released next May ahead of the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Here’s the elevator pitch:

Fierce competitor. World Cup winner. Role model.

U.S. Women’s Soccer star Alex Morgan has earned each of these impressive titles throughout her incredible career. As a young girl growing up in Southern California, she dreamed of being a professional soccer player, fighting to compete on the international stage against the world’s greatest athletes. Flash forward to the present and Alex Morgan has emerged as the face of U.S. Women’s soccer, famous for her clutch, late-game goals, and an inspiration to kids across the country.

And here is Alex in comic form:

How Eddie Johnson Ended Up Training Christian Pulisic

Orlando resident and former USMNT striker Eddie Johnson saw his playing career cut short by a heart condition but he’s found his second calling training and mentoring kids as they hone their skills from an early age. That led to a surprise student in current USMNT wunderkind Christian Pulisic. Eddie talked about it on the most recent Planet Futbol podcast, but here’s a shorter version:

“He would just comment on certain videos that I would post about what I was doing with the younger kids, and then after last season he sent me a DM on social media, on Instagram, and said, ‘Hey Eddie, I love what you’re doing I’m going to take some time off in the offseason. I’d love to fly into Orlando and get some work in with you for about four or five days.’ I said, ‘Are you kidding me, man? I’d love to do that.’ He asked me what hotels are close to the training facility where I train, and we just made it work. He came here, and we got five days in doing double days, and it was amazing, man. It was an unbelievable experience.”

The link above also mentions that Eddie will soon be working with Dom Dwyer and Sydney Leroux. He has previously worked with Justin Meram during the now-Crew winger’s exile from training, as well as former Lion Cyle Larin.

Sadly, it’s not been all great for Johnson, as there are apparently clubs in the Orlando area who don’t want their kids training with him for unspecified reasons, threatening to kick them off their teams. That’s a bunch of BS. If my kid hadn’t drifted away from soccer, I’d love for her to learn from a legend like Johnson to augment the skills she’d be learning from her club team.

Report: PSG, Manchester City Had Insider Help Skirting FFP Rules

This is a pretty massive story brewing for those of you who follow the beautiful game in Europe. According to Football Leaks, UEFA officials, including current FIFA boss Gianni Infantino, brokered deals to allow PSG and Manchester City to skirt the confederation’s financial fair play rules. Qatar Sports Investments allegedly spent 1.8 billion Euros that Infantino and Michel Flatini helped cover up.

An investigation conducted by the EIC Network claim that Senior UEFA administrators, including the ex-secretary general and current FIFA president, Gianni Infantino, personally intervened to encourage settlements with big clubs.

They also report that the Club Financial Control Body (CFCB) aggressively pursued poorer clubs in the likes of Turkey and Romania to divert attention.

Stay tuned for more on this particular story as it develops. Meanwhile, Der Spiegel has a full guide on the latest from Football Leaks.

Free Kicks
  • Orlando City’s Yoshimar Yotún is one of four MLS players called up by Peru for November friendlies against Ecuador and Costa Rica on Nov. 15 and 20, respectively.
  • Here’s a quick preview of Major League Soccer’s conference semifinals. Portland-Seattle should be fun. Which series are you looking forward to most?
  • A day after the USL League One inaugural season format dropped, FC Dallas was announced as the league’s 10th founding member. Dallas’ “2” team will join Orlando City B and eight other clubs in competition for four playoff spots in 2019.
  • Leicester City players unanimously chose to honor Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha and the four others who perished in the helicopter crash with him by playing the scheduled match today against Cardiff City, according to Jamie Vardy.
  • The New England Revolution wisely exercised their club options on Cristian Penilla and Luis Caicedo.
  • New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy lost half a million dollars last year through his ownership of Sky Blue FC, according to this nj.com story. Murphy’s total hit from owning the struggling NWSL franchise has exceeded $6 million. Hey, maybe sell the team to a new, more caring owner?
  • Those born on this date include football legend Bronko Nagurski (1908), baseball legend Bob Feller (1918), late actor Charles Bronson (1921), boxing’s Larry Holmes (1949), Rosanne Barr (1952), comedian Dennis Miller (1953), singer Adam Ant (1954), football’s Phil Simms (1955), Mystery Science Theater 3000 puppeteer and writer Kevin “Tom Servo” Murphy (1956), actor Dolph Lundrgen (1957), Porcupine Tree (and solo) musician Steven Wilson (1967), Colin Kaepernick (1987), and Kendall Jenner (1995).

That’s all for me today. Be nice to each other and don’t punch anyone over trivial things like parking spots. Enjoy your weekend and the MLS conference semifinals, everyone.