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Lion Links 4/4/18

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City training updates, Pride absences not an excuse, an eMLS update, and much more.

MLS: D.C. United at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

It’s Wednesday, Mane Landers and we are jam packed this week on plenty of updates for Orlando City, the Orlando Pride, and the U.S. Women’s National Team as everything is back in full swing after the men’s international break. So we're going to jump right in.

Trio of Orlando Players Back to Training

Slowly but surely, Orlando City is getting healthy and it’s coming at the right time as it can “tune up” against a Portland Timbers side this Sunday that only has two points from four matches.

Saturday’s second half saw the Lions almost with what most project as the team’s starting lineup, only missing two expected starters in defensive midfielder Uri Rosell and center back Jonathan Spector. But good news on both fronts:

Additionally, there was some great news regarding Stefano Pinho’s ankle injury from earlier this season:

All of this is great news as it’s been a tough go with the injury bug for the beginning of this season. But getting all three players back will be a giant plus. While City took the win, 4-3, against the New York Red Bulls, the two areas noticeably lacking were center back and defensive midfield — the latter being a tough fill all season. But, hopefully Rosell and Spector will lock down a shaky defense that gave up three goals.

Getting Pinho back to the bench will only increase the attacking power Orlando’s needed so badly this season. Tracking the numbers, City scored double the amount of goals this Saturday than it had in the previous three.

It’s amazing what getting your starters like Dom Dwyer and Josué Colmán back can do to actually have a semblance of a competent attack. Getting Pinho back off the bench will help in the substitute department as Dwyer works his way back to full fitness.

Pride Won’t Make Excuses Despite Injuries

The Orlando Pride recently lost to the 2017 bottom-dwelling Washington Spirit this past Saturday in a 2-0 defeat. It was a match that had quite a few missing starters with Alex Morgan still in concussion protocol, Alanna Kennedy still not with the club, and Brazilians Monica and Marta away from international duty.

The even tougher part is that the team is missing 10 total players this week, so it’s not like it can just get back to training as normal. Brazilians Mônica, Poliana, and Marta have been in South America. Australians Alanna Kennedy and Emily van Egmond haven’t made their way to Orlando yet. Americans Alex Morgan and Ashlyn Harris left this week, along with Shelina Zadorsky (Canada), Nádia Gomes (Portugal) and Lotta Ökvist (Sweden).

But Head Coach Tom Sermanni isn't making excuses.

“It’s easy for me to go on excuses about that in relation to results and preparation, but we feel that we’ve built a squad here that’s capable of winning games regardless of who’s playing,” Sermanni said. “The lack of numbers or lack of bodies at training does obviously impact how much you can do and what you can do. But outside of that, you know, you have to prepare with what you have to prepare with.”

We’ll have to see how the Pride adjust after the international break with a tough trip to the Portland Thorns on April 15.

eMLS Kicks Off with eMLS Cup as Abe Valbuena Represents Orlando City

Are you a huge fan of watching other people play video games? Me neither. But in case you are, the eMLS will kick off this week with the eMLS Cup. Nineteen different MLS clubs feature a contracted individual playing on behalf of the club. Orlando City’s is Abe Valbuena, signed earlier this year and he is a top 32 competitor in the U.S.

For help on understanding the rules, here’s a quick video summarizing eMLS.

U.S. Women Feature a Strong Bevy of Young Players

Last week it was the men, this week features the women in international competition as they get ready for matches against Mexico Thursday in Jacksonville, FL, and Sunday in Houston, TX. Just as the men held a roster with a strong influx of youth, the next generation for the U.S. women will feature heavily this week. The 23-player roster is set with 13 players born in 1993 or later (25 or younger).

Those young players are Morgan Brian (25), Emily Sonnett (24), Abby Dahlkemper (24), Lynn Williams (24), Jane Campbell (23), Lindsey Horan (23), Savannah McCaskill (23), Andi Sullivan (22), Haley Hanson (22), Hailie Mace (21), Tegan McGrady (20), Tierna Davidson (19) and Mallory Pugh (19).

This is a wildly encouraging sign for the future of the U.S. Women’s National Team and the NWSL. There have been times when the rosters have been very heavy with older players and at times it came at the expense of the development of the youth in matches that are very important to future stars.

I cant wait to watch this week as many of the young stars of tomorrow — some already today — will take the field.

Pride Players Take Each Other On

Here’s a fun, quick video covering a one-on-one drill in recent Pride training:

Free Kicks:
  • Later this week, check out Tony Rocha in a player appearance.

And that’s it! I’m on my way to snowy temperatures in Cleveland, OH, so hopefully I’ll be watching the Lions take care of Portland from there. But I leave you today with quite possibly one of the best goals I've ever seen from my modern GOAT, Cristiano Ronaldo, in UEFA Champions League action yesterday: