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Lion Links: 3/23/18

The Orlando Pride’s new faces, Zlatan comes to MLS, All-Star Game opponent, and much more.

Bristol City v Manchester United - Carabao Cup Quarter-Final Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images

Happy Friday, Mane Landers! The weekend is almost here and although we don’t have any Orlando City soccer, the Orlando Pride have their season opener tomorrow night against Utah Royals FC. I think we could all use a week off from the Lions after recent results, but before we can get to a relaxing weekend, we have to finish today. Luckily, I have some Lion Links to start your day off the right away.

New Faces Take Center Stage in Pride Opener

After a season where the Orlando Pride led the NWSL in goals and earned their first playoff appearance, Head Coach Tom Sermanni and the front office didn’t take their foot off the gas. This off-season, the Pride brought in eight new players, including big names like Sydney Leroux and Canadian international Shelina Zadorsky, to complement a team led by Alanna Kennedy, Marta, and Alex Morgan. It’s that blend of fresh talent and team leaders that has Morgan looking forward to the 2018 season.

“I’m really excited about some of the newer players…there’s quite a few that we’ve picked up over the off-season, said Morgan. “We just have the quality on this team to do really well this year. I think we’re going to start of pretty strong from the beginning.”

But the Pride have more on their checklist this season than just winning the title. With expectations high, the club is focused on delivering not only on the pitch, but by generating a greater sense of community within the club as well. One of the more popular teams in the NWSL, the Pride are hoping to show fans some of the core values that will shape the club in the coming years.

The Pride kick off their 2018 campaign tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m. ET against NWSL newcomers Utah Royals FC, which absorbed the now-folded FC Kansas City roster before trading Leroux to Orlando.

Zlatan to Join the LA Galaxy

A rumor that has circulated for the past two years has now become a reality as reports surface that Swedish superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovich has signed a two-year contract with the LA Galaxy. Ibrahimovich’s former club, Manchester United, confirmed yesterday that it would terminate its contract with the striker four months in advance so that he may move to MLS as soon as possible.

The 36-year-old has not played since December of 2017 thanks to a nagging knee injury but he could be on the pitch as early as this month for his new MLS side. The move may ignite MLS critics who claim the league is a retirement destination for players in the tail end of their careers, but Ibrahimovich remains one of the most dynamic and iconic players on the planet.

The Young Lions Head to GA Cup

Orlando City’s U-17 squad is currently in Dallas, TX for the 2018 Generation Adidas Cup. The academy team will take on Real Salt Lake’s U-17 team at 12:30 p.m. ET in its first match of the tournament that will see the young Lions take on both international and domestic teams alike. Make sure to wish our future Lions good luck!

Juventus Chosen as MLS All-Star Game Opponent

Italian club Juventus was revealed as the club to take on the MLS All-Star Team on Aug. 1 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. One of the most iconic clubs in the world, Juventus has been the reigning champion of Serie A for the past six years and boasts some of the best players soccer has to offer. It’s also my favorite European club, so forgive me when I show up in Atlanta in black and white to support the Old Lady.

Path to 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup Revealed

Although not official, the word around the proverbial U.S. Soccer water cooler is that the United States will host CONCACAF qualifying for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup, with tentative locations in Cary, NC, and Frisco, TX. The USWNT will certainly get a boost from the home-field advantage and should earn a berth into the World Cup when qualifying starts in October. But as we found out last year, nothing can be taken for granted in U.S. soccer anymore.

Free Kicks
  • It looks like some former Lions have linked up at their new jobs over in England.
  • Speaking of new jobs, Orlando Pride goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer is getting her side hustle on by joining Orlando City Youth Soccer Club as a goalkeeping coach.
  • USMNT player Graham Zusi has gotten rid of his signature man bun to donate his hair to a wig donation program for cancer patients undergoing treatment.

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That’s all from me, folks. Have a great Friday! I hope it goes smoothly so you can rest before this weekend’s festivities.