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Lion Links: 4/18/18

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El-Munir leading an improved back line, City reaching expectations, Matildas reach the final, U.S. Youth National Team updates, and more.

Australia v Thailand - AFC Women’s Asian Cup Semi Final Photo by Francois Nel/Getty Images

Happy Wednesday, all you fine people! Hopefully you've gotten some good sun in the last few days and enjoyed getting out of the house with some “cooler” weather before we all deal with the inevitable heat. I’m definitely looking forward to getting out on Saturday for what should be a perfect evening of soccer.

Today we’ve got updates from Orlando City Head Coach Jason Kreis on the team, Ashlyn Harris winning an award, many U.S. youth teams in action, and some international updates from the Aussie contingent.

City Getting Closer to Meeting Expectations; El-Munir Having Consistent Impact

A season is full of ebb and flow. A very slow start with a myriad of injuries and suspensions led to a lot of fans pointing fingers at Kreis for little to nothing in terms of results. Now with a nearly healthy squad, City has earned three straight victories and looks to carry on this winning streak this Saturday against San Jose.

It’s tough enough to get so many new team members all on the same path, let alone having to deal with roster issues, and Kreis knew this wouldn't be easy.

“It [was] a challenge and I’d say it’s still a little bit of a challenge,” Kreis told MLSsoccer.com. “At the beginning of preseason, we worked with the group we had, tried to make it very clear as to, ‘These are our principles of play and this is how we put those things out there and work toward those things,’ and then as players came back in they get folded into that as well.”

One of those new players that have been lucky enough to play every single minute has been defender Mohamed El-Munir. He's one of only four Lions to do so, and the only defender to play in each of the first six matches.

The 26-year-old Libyan international said he was away from the game for “five, six months” before coming to Orlando and was worried about sustaining an injury early on because of his absence from the pitch. He praised the coaching staff for ensuring training sessions steadily increased the fitness levels of the Lions.

He’s had his ups and down early due to the layoff but is working to become a consistent provider who leads the team in a variety of defensive categories.

“I can say I’m happy,” he said. “This is not the best performance I have, but every game, I’m taking step-by-step so I can get the performance I’m going to be happy with and everybody is going to be happy with.”

Alanna Kennedy Helps Lead Matildas to AFC Asian Cup Final

In international play, the Pride’s Australian contingent battled hard with the women of Thailand for a place in the AFC Women’s Asian Cup Final. In a match that ended 2-2 with the Matildas winning the penalty shootout 3-2, Alanna Kennedy proved clutch with a late game-tying goal. The final is set for Saturday against Japan in what should be a tough match against the 11th-best team in the world, but a country that is well known for its quality. Fingers crossed for a great match and a healthy one for all the players as they look to rejoin their NWSL teams after the competition.

Ashlyn Harris Wins NWSL Save of the Week

Chalk up another NWSL Save of the Week win for Pride keeper Ashlyn Harris, something that is not unfamiliar to the high-flying captain.

U.S. Soccer U-17 Girls, U-16 Boys and Girls All Competing Next Week

After a successful cycle so far, the U.S. U-17 Women’s National Team has arrived at its first major international competition: the 2018 Concacaf Women’s U-17 Championship. Three World Cup bids and the confederation title are up for grabs in Managua, Nicaragua. As reigning champions, the U.S. will compete on April 20, 22, and 24 to see if it can repeat. All games will be streamed live on Go90. Fans can follow all of this month’s action on ussoccer.com, U.S. Soccer’s official Facebook, Twitter (@ussoccer_ynt), and Instagram (@ussoccer_ynt) accounts.

The U.S. U-16 Girls’ National Team will travel to Italy and Slovenia to participate in the third annual U-17 Women’s Torneo delle Nazioni, playing four matches from April 25-28. Last year at this tournament, the U.S. U-17 WNT tied Slovenia 1-1, defeated Mexico 4-0, and defeated England 2-0 to win the group before rolling past Italy in the championship game by a 6-0 score.

Finally, the U-16 Boys look to defend last year’s tournament victory at the upcoming Torneo delle Nazioni in Gradisca d’Isonzo, Italy, that runs from April 19-May 2.

Unfortunately, no Orlando City Development Academy players made any of the rosters.

Free Kicks:

That’s all for today! Have a great Wednesday, and to leave you with a little bit of fun, Sam Mewis, Emily Sonnett, and Rose Lavelle have provided some quality laughs by making Lindsey Horan a movie superstar: