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Lion Links: 6/23/18

O’Neill signing is official, Murphy gets players’ buy-in on shape change, OCSC academy playoff updates, and more.

MLS: U.S. Open Cup-D.C. United vs Orlando City SC Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

Happy double match day, everyone! The Lions finally return home and look for revenge against the Montreal Impact tonight at 7:30 p.m. Hopefully the lads in purple can give Bobby Murphy his first MLS victory. Meanwhile, the Pride visit the Maryland SoccerPlex tonight at 7 p.m. to face the Washington Spirit.

But what about the time between now and then? How will you fill it? Well, you can go down and start tailgating soon but before then, let’s get caught up with what’s going on.

O’Neill is O’fficially O’fficial

What we mentioned on Thursday afternoon has become official, as Orlando City has announced the signing of center back Shane O’Neill to a three-and-a-half year-deal with club options. The 24-year-old former Colorado Rapids Homegrown Player should fill a much-needed depth role on Orlando’s back line for some time to come, and could possibly grow into a starting caliber defender down the road after learning from the likes of Jonathan Spector and Lamine Sané.

We are pleased to add Shane to our roster,” Orlando City SC general manager Niki Budalic said. “He is an athletic defender who is competitive and hungry to succeed. Shane’s experience in MLS and Europe in addition to various U.S. national teams will be valuable as we head into the second half of the season.”

Murphy: Players Bought in to Shape Change

The Lions came out in a 3-4-3 on Wednesday against D.C. United and it surprised a lot of fans. But Murphy said his decision to change the shape wasn’t unilateral. The interim gaffer talked to his players in advance to gauge their reaction to the change.

“It’s not something I went into just on my own,” Murphy said. “I think if you’re going to change things, you have to have buy-in. I’m a big believer of buy-in versus compliance. If it was something they weren’t comfortable with or didn’t feel good in, then it’s not something we would have done. The players were happy and I think it’s always important to have a ‘Plan B.’”

For the most part, I thought the change went well. We’ll find out tonight if Murphy sticks with it or tries something else against the Montreal Impact.

Orlando City U-18/19 Team Finishes Group Play

The young Lions completed group stage play at the U.S. Soccer Development Academy playoffs on Friday, defeating BW Gotschee, 1-0, on a goal by A.J. Seals. Orlando City finished the group stage with a 1-1-1 record and four points, finishing behind Real Salt Lake (2-0-1, 7 points) and Baltimore Armour (1-0-2, 5 points). It was a competitive group, with one goal separating RSL and OCSC in the opener. Baltimore Armour drew both MLS sides and beat BW Gotschee, which went 0-3-0 in the round robin. The top three teams could hardly have been more evenly matched but Real Salt Lake will move on to the knockout rounds.

I, for one, appreciate the pun, academy Twitter folks.

The U-16/17 side will face Barca Academy today at 4 p.m. A win for the baby Lions would leapfrog them to the top of Group H and into the knockout rounds. Barca can clinch the group with a draw or better. Elsewhere, the U-15 side beat down Internationals, 5-2.

Former Lion Talks About Career-Ending Injury

Sean St. Ledger, a former Orlando City center back, discussed with The Times the knee injury that cut his career short and what that experience was like for him.

“When I was 18 or 20 the older pros were saying to me, ‘It’s not a long career. You need to plan ahead’,” he says. “So obviously I didn’t listen to that. I thought it would last forever but it went so quick. For the majority of the time you’re having the time of your life, getting paid to do something you’d do for free. I never saw the end coming — not until I went back out to train after surgery and my knee would just swell up.

“It really hit me that I’m really struggling. ‘What if it doesn’t get any better?’ The surgeon told me that that might be it. There was no other surgery that could be done. ‘Wow, what am I going to do now?’ It’s difficult to prepare for that. When you spend your whole life — I started playing for Peterborough at nine — it’s such a difficult transition, it’s not easy to get your head around it. You can’t blame anyone who finds the transition difficult.”

St. Ledger has his coaching B license and is working on getting his A license. So it looks like a career on the sidelines may be in the cards for the ex-Lion.

Montreal Impact Waive Marco Donadel

When the Impact take the field tonight at Orlando City Stadium, a veteran face will be missing. The Quebecois club waived veteran midfielder Marco Donadel on Friday. The Italian has been an integral part of the Impact the past few seasons, but had made only two appearances in 2018 under Remi Garde. The 35-year-old scored three goals and added 10 assists for Montreal in 67 MLS games (61 starts) and produced three assists in eight MLS playoff matches.

Free Kicks
  • The Washington Spirit will be without Mallory Pugh tonight (and possibly without Rose Lavelle), but Orlando Pride gaffer Tom Sermanni says there are no easy games in the NWSL. And he’s right!
  • Don’t forget that tonight is a Pride in Our City match to honor and remember the victims of the Pulse nightclub shootings and to support vital community organizations.
  • USMNT defender Eric Lichaj has signed with Hull City, moving over from another Championship side, Nottingham Forest.
  • Those born on this date include “Bow-Tie Bill” Torrey (1934), the man who was architect of four New York Islanders Stanley Cup teams and helped build the Florida Panthers. Bill died last month and it’s a shame. I spent some time with the Panthers’ front office and Bill was a legend but he treated everyone like they were important. Others born on this day include Academy Award-winner Frances McDormand (1957), writer/filmmaker Joss Whedon (1964), French football legend Zinedine Zidane (1972), former NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira (1976), Jason Mraz (1977), football’s LaDainian Tomlinson (1979), and The Big Bang Theory’s Melissa Rauch (1980).

That’s all I’ve got for you today, folks. Get yourself a device to watch the Pride match on while you’re at the stadium cheering on the Lions tonight! We’ll have full coverage of both matches, though due to the nature of them both occurring at the same time, it’ll be...well...interesting.