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Lion Links: 6/30/18

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Orlando gets its head coach, Yoshi is an MLS All-Star, Meram gets a break, Krieger’s back, and more.

Philadelphia Union v Olando City Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Happy double match day, everyone. Both of our purple teams are in action today with the Orlando Pride hosting the North Carolina Courage and Orlando City visiting Atlanta in what should be the final game of the second Bobby Murphy era (more on that below). Hopefully the lads can get Bobby a win before he turns over the team to the new gaffer.

Let’s get today’s party started.

James O’Connor Returns to Orlando City as Head Coach

It’s probably hard for many MLS-only Orlando City fans to fathom but it shouldn’t be a huge surprise to the original Lion faithful that James O’Connor is coming back to the team as the new head coach. O’Connor was a successful player/coach with the USL version of the Lions, helping the team win hardware under Adrian Heath. He then went off to take over Louisville City FC in 2015 and was immediately successful, leading LCFC deep into the playoffs for two seasons before finally breaking through and winning the whole damn thing last year. He also took this year’s Louisville squad into the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals. Those of us who have never stopped paying attention to the USL after the Lions made the jump have seen how well his teams have played over the years and this is not a case of the club “settling” by any means.

You don’t have to take my word for it. Here are the words of someone who played against O’Connor’s teams.

Hey Now, Yoshi’s an All-Star

Get your game on, go play, Mr. Yotún, because you’re an MLS All-Star. Yoshimar was named as a member of the 2018 MLS All-Star Team by Atlanta boss Tata Martino yesterday and he’ll get to return to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to face Italian giant Juventus on Aug. 1. This is an excellent decision by Martino, because Yotún has had an excellent season so far for Orlando City. If not for helping his country reach the World Cup, perhaps the Lions would have grabbed a few more points over the last two months. Yoshi should be back this weekend and will hopefully be part of the starting lineup against LAFC on July 7.

Meram Given Time Off for Personal Reasons

Justin Meram’s transition from Columbus to Orlando hasn’t been as smooth as anyone would have liked. However, I really don’t get how much abuse the guy has taken. He was hired to come in and take on defenders, which he’s done. That’s who he is and what he does. It hasn’t turned into a lot of goals (just two in all competitions), but he’s among the club’s assist leaders (3) and I think he’ll get it turned around. The Lions gave Meram three days off for personal reasons, so he won’t start that turnaround tonight. I’m not reading too much into this because it’s not that uncommon for players to be given some personal time on occasion for various reasons. (Marta went to Brazil just last week, for example and Dani Weatherholt had an excused absence from the Washington game.)

Hopefully O’Connor will get Meram back to his old form, which an unfortunate number of Orlando fans have yet to see.

Ali Krieger Available vs. North Carolina

The Pride’s back line is getting a boost now that Ali Krieger is fit to play. Krieger injured her knee in Orlando’s 5-2 win at Chicago back in late May and Tom Sermanni says she’s good to go.

“She’s fit, healthy and ready to be selected,” Sermanni said after training Friday.

Camila has been on the bench for the last two matches but has yet to play. Is this the day we finally get all of the Pride’s biggest stars on the field? Maybe. The only player on the team’s injury report is Monica (hip contusion) who is listed as questionable.

Minnesota’s Collin Martin Comes Out on Pride Night

Minnesota United midfielder Collin Martin came out as an openly gay MLS player yesterday, announcing it as the Loons were preparing for their Pride Night match at home against FC Dallas (ultimately a 1-0 Dallas win). Martin is the league’s first openly gay player since Robbie Rogers, who retired after the 2017 season. He made the announcement on Twitter, saying that his friends, family, and teammates had already known.

It may be 2018, but there is still a lot of hate, fear, and intolerance in our world, so I applaud Collin for having the courage to be himself and I applaud his teammates for accepting him for who he is.

Free Kicks

That’s all from me today. Keep it right here at The Mane Land for full coverage of today’s Orlando Pride and Orlando City games. Vamos!