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Lion Links: 2/14/18

Back line position battles, MLS’s most tradable assets, MLS streaming moving to ESPN, and more.

MLS: New England Revolution at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Valentine’s Day! Can you feel all that love in the air? I can. And you know why? Because Champions League is back! My yearly ritual of spending the day with my one true love — soccer, of course — will continue as I’ll be glued to the TV, hopefully watching Real Madrid take down PSG, because I’m always Team Ronaldo (unless he’s playing Gigi Buffon or Manchester United).

And quickly before we jump in, let us wish a very happy birthday to Orlando City midfielder, Dillon Powers! May his birthday be filled with the love and affection that the holiday he shares it with is known for.

Preseason Training is Getting Intense as Camp Battles Continue

A welcome problem at Orlando City this year will be who actually plays on a week-in, week-out basis in the first XI. There look to be a variety of battles happening in camp, but the ones Orlando Assistant Coach CJ Brown is keying in on would be the ones happening across the back line.

“I think we’re going to have some really hard questions to answer come [Opening Day],” Brown said Monday after training. “It’s been very intense.”

These battles have revved up with new additions RJ Allen, Mohamed El-Munir, and Amro Tarek. While the glitz and glam of Sacha Kljestan, Josué Colmán, and the other attacking-third additions have people excited, these defensive additions and battles could prove the real success of Orlando City as the Lions look to shore up a defense that ranked 16th out of 22 in MLS in goals allowed.

Allen is battling with Scott Sutter for the right back slot, Donny Toia is being pushed by El-Munir, and Tarek is looking to claim that spot next to Jonathan Spector in the central defense. If you ask me, I expect the back line — barring injury — on opening day to be Sutter, Spector, Aja, and El-Munir. Notably, I think Aja’s experience next to Spector wins out early, but don’t expect him to win that job all year.

What is best about this is the depth Orlando hasn’t had for a while: “We need enough guys to alternate quite a bit because the heat here is so strong, guys can’t be playing three, four games back to back,” Brown said. “You need special guys to come in and do that and then keep alternating, be fresh the whole year.”

Dom Dwyer is Valuable and So Are Multiple Lions

Pro Soccer USA’s Tutul Rahman (Atlanta correspondent) took on the huge task of ranking MLS’s most valuable trade assets from 75-1. The list includes multiple Lions:

57. Sacha Kljestan.

32. Dom Dwyer.

31. Justin Meram.

Overall, the list isn't too bad. Kljestan was held back by his age, which I can’t argue with too much, and the guys above Meram were pretty spot on.

I do think the guy that may be undervalued here is Dwyer. Dwyer has the chance to really prove himself with the collection of talent around him. If he fires on all cylinders this year, he could be looking at a Golden Boot chase and thus, his value increased even beyond the $1.6 million in total money Orlando paid Sporting Kansas City. And considering the current TAM/GAM exchange rate, he cost more than that.

MLS Live is No More as it Deals with ESPN

If you didn't know, ESPN will be releasing a new online platform, ESPN+, that will carry a host of broadcast content not on ESPN or ESPN2. Think of this like Watch ESPN (old ESPN3) without the cable subscription needed.

MLS is one of the first leagues that has entered into a direct partnership as they look to feature about 250 out-of-market games for the consumer. This will be a cheaper option than MLS Live and will come as part of the existing platform that will feature a variety of sports. So, all in all, a huge win for soccer junkies who want to watch Portland vs. LAFC on a random Wednesday.

What’s even better? According to Bloomberg’s sources: “ESPN+ will debut this spring, likely after the March 3 start of the soccer season, so matches will be available for free on until the new service is available, according to one of the people.”

Don’t sleep on this move either, as this should increase visibility and the value of MLS as well:

Behind-the-Scenes Look

City is providing us with some behind-the-scenes looks into preseason as the Lions continue to build towards kickoff in 2018:

Free Kicks:
  • Cam Lindley’s hamstring issue from the Minnesota friendly seems to be a non-issue.