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Lion Links: 12/30/18

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Orlando City to sign Homegrown forward, SeaWolves go on the road, another off-season overhaul is in the works, and more.

MLS: Orlando City SC at New York Red Bulls Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

Happy final Sunday of 2018, Mane Landers! I hope that you’re all doing well with your plans, if that’s your thing, for the New Year’s Day festivities — if you’re hangin’ in for the evening, enjoy yourself! Relax, kick back, and ring in the new year the way you see fit. Just be safe no matter what you do. For now though, I’m here to feed you a nice heaping serving of Links...so, enjoy!

Report: Orlando City SC to Sign Homegrown Forward Benji Michel

The Lions will soon ink a Homegrown deal with Benji Michel, a forward that grew up training in the Lions’ youth system before moving on to play for the University of Portland, where he excelled, playing for three years and scoring 31 goals across 53 matches. Michel was named to the All-American Second Team in 2018, and also plied his trade in the Monteverde Academy. Hopefully, he can translate his college success to the next level and become a threat for the Lions in time, as he grows and adapts to a new league.

SeaWolves Drop First Indoor Florida Derby

The Orlando SeaWolves went on the road for the first time ever, shooting down I-4 to Lakeland to take on the Florida Tropics. It didn’t go well, as the SeaWolves fell behind 8-1 before clawing back to within two goals late. The Tropics finished them off, however, and Orlando fell, 9-6. Former Orlando City defender Tyler Turner scored his first indoor goal in the game.

Another Off-season, Another Overhaul

The characters were different, but we’ve heard this story before. With the sale of Yoshimar Yotún to Liga MX side Cruz Azul, the Lions have set themselves up, yet again, for an off-season of roster reconstruction. The good news? Head Coach James O’Connor and the front office have done an excellent job of clearing cap space for future additions, and they’ve clearly learned a lesson or two from last year’s acrimonious divorce with striker Cyle Larin, shown in their willingness to let Yotún leave for Mexico. The bad news? We all had to say farewell to one of the best and favorite players on the roster in Yotún. Hopefully, the off-season additions will help cover the team’s holes. We’re going to miss you, Yoshi. Here he is practicing with his new club:

Alphonso Davies is Here

I was actually present, in person, for Davies’ first training with the first team in Munich with Bayern Munich. It was as obvious then as it was when he was tearing up MLS and leaving defenders in his wake that he has the talent and composure required to make a huge impact at the next level. He’s impressed during his brief time in the German powerhouse too, leading manager Niko Kovac to go as far to say that he would consider deploying Davies in first team competitive matches as soon as the Bundesliga returns to play in late January.

“If I compare him with our U23s, then he is already ahead of the others,” Kovac said. “He has to acclimatize, that’s clear. But he has quality and we will not slow him down if he can help us.”

To top that off, Davies was also just named as Canada’s Postmedia Male Athlete of the Year - a recognition that had never before been awarded to a soccer player.

Joe Bendik, Columbus Crew, and the Heavy Competition for a Potential Backup Role

Now that the Crew have been saved, the front office can truly move forward and focus on their search for glory in 2019. A spot that they may address again, even after adding Orlando’s former No. 1 Joe Bendik for $50,000 in allocation money, is the goalkeeping role. With multiple other established professionals on the roster for the crew, including the club’s 2018 first-round draft pick Ben Lungaard, it will be tough for Bendik to win a backup role, let alone the starting job, once superstar Zack Steffen leaves for Manchester City in July. It’ll be an interesting situation to keep an eye on, and Columbus will be an interesting club to play against down the road considering the recent affairs of seasons past.

Free Kicks
  • MLS’s Charles Boehm released a list of what he thought were the top 10 MLS moments of 2018. Do you agree with his rankings? Here’s a little taste/spoiler: the Lions were included in the list twice, but not for their own accomplishments.
  • MLS’s Greg Seltzer also released a list, this one identifying who he thought could be the top 10 MLS players that he felt were poised for a breakout in 2019. Another little taste/spoiler? the Lions’ recently acquired Joao Moutinho ranked in at number five on the list!
  • Congratulations, Rangers supporters! #CurseBroken
  • Juventus is just on a different plane right now...but will it translate to European glory?

Well, that’s all that I’ve got for you this week folks. Like I said earlier, enjoy your New Year’s Day and stay safe! I’ll see you on the other side.