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Lion Links: 6/6/18

Orlando City kicks off U.S. Open Cup play, an NWSL Save of the Week honor for the Pride, a look at who the real Lions are, Pride Month, and more.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Orlando City SC Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

It is another Wednesday here at The Mane Land and I am currently reporting to you from Houston, TX for no other reason than that I was sick of the rain in Florida. So I plan on enjoying some quality new breweries (for me) like St. Arnold, hoping my Cavs might actually win a game, and maybe hunting down J.J. Watt and fanboy a bit.

Today we’ve got a look at tonight’s Open Cup match vs. Miami United FC, a look at why Orlando City is struggling, and Pro Soccer USA evaluates the big trades from the off-season — including the Sacha Kljestan deal. We’ve also got updates on Pride Month events and some interesting free kicks as always.

Orlando City Begins U.S. Open Cup Play Tonight

The Lions kick off their U.S. Open Cup play down in South Florida tonight against Miami United FC. Miami United has won three matches to get to the point of facing its in-state brethren in the fourth round of the competition. And if you're unfamiliar with Miami United FC and the NPSL, you can catch up here.

If you’re not familiar with the tournament, the Cup is a domestic competition where clubs from all professional leagues — including MLS, NPSL, USL — and amateur leagues alike compete for a piece of silverware and a place in the Concacaf Champions League. The age-old question is whether to prioritize this competition over the regular season and MLS playoff potential. Orlando has never really gone for it in this tournament since its USL days. With a lot of injuries and a tough run of form lately, I’ll be intrigued to see what type of lineup Head Coach Jason Kreis puts out there.

Some of us here think that any silverware should be the priority and that this event has the best chance for the Lions to garner some. Others believe the MLS playoffs, somewhere City hasn't ventured, have to be priority No. 1. I guess we’ll see tonight where the club stands on the season’s priorities.

Who is the Real Orlando City?

Benjamin Baer of wonders about the cause of the Lions’ struggles over the past four matches. He does take a quick dive into some pretty geek-driven stats if you’re into expected goals and such. He touches on a lot of the obvious things with strength of schedule and injuries as well. Simply put: If Orlando was healthy, it probably doesn’t see four straight losses. Plain and simple. But it goes to show that a season will be up and down and Kreis may need to look to the transfer window for some additional help.

However, there are still 21 matches to go! That’s right, we are barely one-third of the way through the schedule and Orlando basically hasn't had its full team available at any point and still sits above the cut line with a game in hand. So take solace in that and breathe.

If MLS wants to knock Orlando down to No. 17 in its power rankings, so be it. I like this team with its back against the wall and with no one believing. The good news is that Kreis has stated the entire squad will be traveling this week minus Yoshimar Yotún who is on World Cup duty with Peru. So it looks like we’ve got the band back together and should see many of them this week against Miami, Vancouver, and Montreal.

Haley Kopmeyer Takes Save of the Week

In her first start of the season, backup goalkeeper Haley Kopmeyer took the NWSL’s Save of the Week with this nice save and parry over the bar to preserve a shutout this weekend.

I will fully admit that I voted for the Emily Boyd’s fantastic save on the 1-v-1 in space, but it doesn't matter what I think. The fans have spoken.

Additional awards were:

Congrats to everyone on their weekly awards. In other news, the Pride stayed at No. 3 in the NWSL power rankings.

Orlando Supports Pride Month in a Variety of Ways

If you did not know, it is Pride Month across the country — an annual celebration of tolerance and acceptance for all, but namely those in the LGBTQ community. Orlando’s community, which includes its soccer fan base, has never been shy about its support, especially after the tragic events of the Pulse shooting. The city is bonded in this cause with a booming voice nationally.

Orlando City, in my opinion, has been a benchmark for professional franchises with its support. Orlando City and Pride will be supporting the local event on June 12 to remember those lost in the tragic events with a few additional activities:

  • The stadium will open its doors on June 12 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from 4-6 p.m., allowing fans to visit the 49 permanent #OrlandoUnited rainbow seats.
  • They will be releasing designated Pride merchandise on June 11, the proceeds from which will go back to five pride organizations.
  • Each organization will receive a unique ticket link available here, with $5 from every ticket purchased at each link donated to the respective nonprofit.

Please show your support in any way you can. To be honest, click here if you don’t want to support this and really give it some thought.

Sacha Kljestan Trade Evaluated After 11 Matches

Tutul Rahman from Pro Soccer USA takes an early look at MLS’s biggest off-season deals as we enter the second third of the season. One of the biggest deals obviously involved Orlando City and the New York Red Bulls in a blockbuster move for midfielder Sacha Kljestan. A reminder of that deal: Orlando City got Kljestan and $150,000 in General Allocation Money; New York Red Bulls got Carlos Rivas and Tommy Redding.

Again, this is very early in the season to be looking at this, especially considering how young Rivas and Redding are, but one can say that Orlando is certainly winning this deal if you must evaluate it today. Rahman brings up some good stats that have Kljestan projecting to have a better season in 2018 than 2017. Sacha may not be living up to the Designated Player impact level, but he's still there. However, Redding and Rivas are not contributing on just about any level.

Redding has been dealing with a labrum injury preventing him from getting minutes even at the club’s USL team, RBII, after a dreadful 90-minute showing in his only MLS match, while Rivas has only appeared in five matches to date. Maybe neither team is getting true value on the salaries, but at least Kljestan is on the field.

Free Kicks
  • Jordan Culver (ProSoccer USA) sat down with Jose Villarreal — acquired from LA Galaxy this season — on his first minutes of the season.
  • Yaya Touré going on the Pep Revenge Tour. I love it. Come on over to the Red Devils, sir.
  • FourFourTwo ranked every World Cup Kit. I vehemently disagree with Nigeria not being No. 1 and, considering it sold three million units in minutes, so do the fans.
  • And finally, I leave with a video of from the GK Nation. While it didn’t amount to much, I still enjoy any time a keeper wants to have a little fun.

That’s it for today! Have a great rest of the week. Find yourself a new beer like I’m doing. And just pray your sports teams win. Because really, what else can you do? Cheers!