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Lion Links: 5/12/18

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Cristian Higuita is making the leap, Orlando as a Lions town, Alex Morgan discusses her UNICEF Kid Power involvement, and more.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Happy match day, everyone. The Orlando Pride visit the Portland Thorns today at 3:30 p.m. ET. Will today finally be the day the Pride’s offense gets on track? Will it be Orlando’s first ever win at Providence Park? A draw or better would be fine with me to wrap up the club’s longest road trip.

The men take the stage tomorrow, of course, with Orlando City battling Atlanta United in a search for the Lions’ first true signature win. We’ll have full pre- and post-game coverage of both matches and you can follow us on Twitter for everything in between.

I was delighted to hear our little merry band had been honored on this list even though I’m not familiar with the outfit handing it out. It’s a tribute to the good people who give their time to bring you anything they can think of regarding Orlando City and the Pride.

Now for the news.

Cristian Higuita Has Officially Turned the Corner

I have been quite critical of midfielder Cristian Higuita in the past. Like his Colombian countryman, Carlos Rivas, Higuita has tantalized fans for three previous seasons but hasn’t been able to make the leap and become a key player for Orlando City. With Rivas gone, Higuita reported to camp out of shape and it really seemed that his days in Orlando were numbered with the arrivals of Yoshimar Yotún and Uri Rosell. But Higuita picked himself up, worked hard, and has done so many great things over the club’s six-game winning streak — avoiding unnecessary petulant bookings, taking care of the ball, becoming a brick wall in the central midfield, covering for Yotún’s frequent forays into the offensive third, and even scoring a wondergoal. Seems like I’m not the only person who sees a whole new Cristian.

“Looks like different people,” Kreis said of Higuita. “He was probably 20 pounds heavier when he came in the beginning of preseason, and nowhere near as fit and nowhere near as hungry and nowhere near as professional as he’s proving himself to be right now.”

“Progress has been really good, I’ve matured and gained a lot of experience through playing with big players who have more experience than me,” said Higuita. “Those players usually help you become a better person, but also a better player, so I think it’s been a really good time of growth for me.”

Orlando: A Lions Town or a Magic Town?

Are folks in the City Beautiful more partial to Orlando City or the Orlando Magic? This is a question posed by Orlando Sentinel writer George Diaz. In the column, which includes a poll where you can vote your conscience, Diaz points out the pros and cons of both teams. Of the two, the Lions are seemingly more on the upswing but it’s still early in the season. My own anecdotal evidence would suggest it’s more an Orlando City town, based on the magnets, shirts, and hats I see and the general discussion I’ve witnessed in public places. But others may have different experiences. What do you think? And, more importantly, does it even matter? It doesn’t seem like it should.

Alex Morgan Discusses Her Involvement with UNICEF

Orlando Pride and USWNT star Alex Morgan continues to use her platform as a well-known athlete to help others in need. One of her projects is being involved in the UNICEF Kid Power. The program promotes physical activity in children and it’s tied to UNICEF’s greater goals. Alex talked about her good work over at The Players’ Tribune, and spoke out on what inspired her to be a part of something bigger and more global.

Atlanta United Injury News

Orlando City’s visitors on Sunday are formidable and ideally you’d like to see both sides enter such an important match with their full complements of players. However, we already know the Lions are still waiting for the return of Jonathan Spector and Scott Sutter, and Amro Tarek is working his way back from a knock as well. What about Atlanta United? They’ve gotten both good and bad news on the injury front entering this weekend.

NWSL Still Has No Commissioner...Is It Costing the League?

Howard Megdal over at Deadspin wrote this piece about the NWSL being more than a year without a commissioner now and how it could be hurting the young league. Megdal’s points out that the NWSL is not part of the SheIs partnership, which features the WNBA, NWHL, USTA, CWHL, Women’s Pro Fastpitch League, and WWE. The partnership is dedicated to promoting one another and raising the profile of all, but the NWSL is not a part of it because it has no clear-cut leadership (and hasn’t for more than a year). Personally, I thought that by now Amanda Duffy would have successfully landed the job but that hasn’t happened and it may never happen. Megdal further explained the league’s current position.

But the real issue extends beyond a single missed partnership opportunity. For the large majority of NWSL players, the league itself is not a source of much money: team salary caps are set at $350,000 this season, with a minimum salary of $15,750 and a maximum of $44,000 for non-national team players. This is an implicit bargain: players are playing for relatively little money today because they want to see progress for the league in the future. This is an act of self-sacrifice in some senses, but it’s not just that—it’s a bet on the good faith of the people in charge of the league, and an implicit statement of trust on the players’ part that they believe the NWSL is doing all it can to grow as fast as possible. The SheIs misstep is not a fatal blow by any stretch, but it’s another reason to wonder if the NWSL is willing or able to hold up its end of the deal.

Hopefully the league will find someone capable of driving the NWSL forward. To me that means getting a TV deal on a higher profile network which would air more games and eliminate my need to use go90.

Concacaf U-17 Women’s Championship to Resume in Florida

You might (or might not) remember that the Concacaf U-17 Women’s Championship was underway and was postponed due to safety concerns in Nicaragua. To ensure the security of the players, the confederation halted the tournament on April 22. The tournament will resume June 6 at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL, to determine which teams will qualify for the 2018 FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup in Uruguay. Three teams will advance from Concacaf. The U.S. is 1-0-0 after a 4-0 win over Costa Rica and still has to play Canada and Bermuda in group play.

Free Kicks
  • Those born on this date include Florence Nightingale (1820), Katharine Hepburn (1907), Yogi Berra (1925), George Carlin (1937), Steve Winwood (1948), Billy Squier (1950), 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey player Dave Christian (1959), Ving Rhames (1959), Emilio Estevez (1962), skateboard wiz Tony Hawk (1968), Jason Biggs (1978), Mr. Robot star Rami Malek (1981), and Emily VanCamp — a.k.a. Sharon Carter in the Marvel film universe (1986).

That seems like enough for one day. Don’t forget to check back for full coverage of the Pride at Portland today and Orlando City vs. Atlanta United tomorrow!