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Lion Links: 5/30/18

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Spector back in training, Pride players get national team call-ups, USMNT alters roster for upcoming friendlies, a new MLS club, and more.

Soccer: International Friendly Women’s Soccer-New Zealand at USA Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

Greetings, Mane Landers! At this point hopefully you've recovered from your holiday hangover and you’ve realized that you only have three more days (or fewer) of work until another weekend!

We have a ton of news on this Wednesday morning. Both U.S. national teams have named new rosters, on which you’ll see some familiar faces. MLS has announced another expansion club for 2019. There’s also news on Jonathan Spector and the usual array of free kicks, so let’s dive in!

Spector Finally Cleared for Full Training

It’s been a while since we've seen Orlando City’s rock at center back, and him coming back couldn't be happening at a better time. Jonathan Spector is back in full training with the team after an extended absence due to a concussion.

It’s been since April 8 that we saw Spector out on the field, so he’ll be working back into match fitness but should hopefully be available in the coming weeks. The Lions need him, as the center back position has taken some serious hits with Amro Tarek out for World Cup duty and Lamine Sané and Chris Schuler sustaining injuries.

As for additional updates:

Meram Sends Message to Iraqi MLS Fan

This story is why I love sports so much. Mustafa Abed is of Iraqi decent and is a huge soccer fan. He's been unfortunate, needing a lot of medical attention after being caught in missile strikes.

Orlando City forward Justin Meram heard of the story and prepared a heart-warming message and surprise for the boy.

Three Pride Players Called in for National Team Duty

The U.S. Women’s National Team roster has been set by Head Coach Jill Ellis for camp ahead of two friendlies vs. China starting June 1. You will see many familiar faces including Alex Morgan and Ashlyn Harris. Additionally, center back Shelina Zadorsky got her own call-up to the Canadian National Team as it prepares for a June 10 friendly against Germany.

While there are no reports on the Canadian camp yet, we do know that U.S. players are supposed to be reporting this Friday, June 1, in advance of the Pride’s match against the Seattle Reign on Sunday. This means Orlando will go without both players as it battles another potential playoff team. If there's any consolation, the Reign will also be without two national team players as Megan Rapinoe and Allie Long will both be at camp as well.

I wrote this week about the issues that come with these call-ups. The idea of a national team camp in the heart of the season for friendlies seems a bit odd when it appears that it could have been avoided.

FourFourTwo’s Jeff Kassouf just wrote a fantastic article on the process of how Ellis and BJ Snow are managing player identification and selection, and I highly recommend taking the time.

Rachel Hill Taking Advantage in Whatever Role Given

I speak for many of us at The Mane Land when I say we are big fans of Rachel Hill and have been a bit shocked at her usage this season. While it was in a younger league, she came back from the Australian W-League this summer on a tear after garnering six assists and ranking third in the league with nine goals.

She’s been utilized as both a starter and super sub and got her third goal of the season in the onslaught 5-2 victory over Chicago this weekend. She’s taking her usage in stride though, as the second-year player is a part of an experienced attacking unit.

“I mean, everyone likes to play as much as they can so obviously I’d prefer starting,” Hill said with a smile. “Whatever’s given to me, I’ll take it. Whether I come off the bench or get the start, either way, doesn’t matter. Whatever my role is, I’ll take it and I’ll do the best I can.”

Here’s hoping for continued success and some more starts for Hill, who will be key this weekend with the absence of Alex Morgan.

Vote for Pride Players in Weekly Awards ; Dash Star Wins Player of the Week

Ashlyn Harris is up for NWSL Save of the Week and Sydney Leroux is up for Goal of the Week. Follow those links to cast your votes ASAP!

Also, Houston Dash Forward and English international Rachel Daly was named NWSL Player of the Week for her brace vs. the Washington Spirit.

USMNT Makes Roster Changes for Upcoming Friendlies

As expected, interim Head Coach Dave Sarachan made a fair amount changes in preparation of the U.S. Men’s National Team friendlies against Ireland and France. With tougher competition on deck, a few more veterans were added to the roster, which should help a team that still is carrying an average age of just over 23.

Seven total players departed while 10 were brought in for the trip. Notable departures include Christian Pulisic (a break that was well needed for him, I might add), Alex Bono, and Walker Zimmerman. The players added include veteran USMNT players DeAndre Yedlin and Bobby Wood. But there is plenty of youth here as well, and we’ll get Kenny Saief back in the side, as well as New York Red Bulls Tyler Adams and Tim Parker, as well as Luca de la Torre, a standout with the U-20s who plays for Fulham.

Cincinnati Officially Approved to Join MLS in 2019

MLS has found its 26th club, as it announced Tuesday that FC Cincinnati will join the league in 2019. In a statement, MLS Commissioner Don Garber noted:

“Major League Soccer is proud to introduce Cincinnati as our 26th team,” said Garber. “The rise of Cincinnati as a passionate soccer market in recent years, coinciding with the city’s growing economy and reputation as a top destination for young professionals makes it an ideal city for our growing league.”

It is not really a huge surprise as Cincinnati was considered a finalist in the recent expansion bids. The announcement of Miami had some worried but the club, which had been fantastic from a local support standpoint, finally got its invitation.

Interestingly, while Cincinnati was announced as the 26th club, it will actually enter in as the 24th. Nashville and Miami, which were announced in December and January, respectively, are both slated to join the league in 2020. This is a huge advantage for FC Cincinnati as it won't have to share assets in the expansion process, i.e. allocation spots, draft picks, expansion draft, etc.

Free Kicks

And I leave you with some interesting music news. If I told you a notable soccer TV personality was about to release an album, how long would it take you to get to this individual?

Not gonna lie. I’ll give it at least one listen on Spotify. Why the hell not?