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Lion Links: 7/26/18

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Meram training separately with former USMNT forward, Lions prepare for Pigeons, USWNT set for Tournament of Nations, and more.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Columbus Crew SC Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports

What’s going on, Mane Landers? It’s game day against rival New York City FC as the Lions are coming off of a seventh straight road loss in MLS but come back home to Orlando City Stadium. Also, some training updates from yesterday as well as other news around Orlando, MLS, and more. Let’s get right into the links for today.

Justin Meram Training With Eddie Johnson

As the bizarre story builds regarding Justin Meram’s future with the Lions, it was confirmed that he has been training with former USMNT forward Eddie Johnson. Johnson posted this video on Instagram as he was with Meram at Free Kick Orlando.

Meram has not been in the game day squad for the last three matches and last played in the 4-1 loss to LAFC. Trade reports have also surfaced over the last week with rumors of Meram moving back to Columbus Crew SC or FC Cincinnati. Meram has had arguably his worst MLS season to date, with only one goal and two assists across 17 MLS matches. Orlando has not commented on Meram missing training.

Orlando City Hosts NYCFC In Mid-Week Duel

After a rough loss to Columbus Crew SC, which involved a questionable penalty and a blown lead, the Lions come home for the first time since July 14 to host their expansion rivals from the north, New York City FC. Orlando City has lost three straight matches against NYCFC, including a 2-0 and 3-0 loss this season. Cyle Larin, oh how we love when he’s brought up, scored all of the Lions’ goals in the series in 2017, so no player other than Larin has scored against NYCFC since 2016, per this nugget from our managing editor.

“The biggest thing for us is making sure we’re prepared. [New York City] are having a fantastic season, very strong team,” Lions head coach James O’Connor said. “We need to reinforce some of the positives we saw in Columbus, try to make sure there’s a good understanding of what we’re trying to do and then there’s a few things we need to be a little bit sharper on. We’ve got a group of guys that are open to growth, and that’s what we’re looking for. We want to make sure that we get good understanding of what we’re trying to achieve, and that we bring the same level of intensity that we did in Columbus.”

The match is huge for both clubs, as the Citizens are trying to keep pace with Eastern Conference leaders Atlanta United, while the Lions are six points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The match begins at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN. Stay tuned to TML for full coverage.

USWNT Begins Tournament of Nations Against Japan

As the Lions play the Citizens, the USWNT will be playing Japan in Kansas City tonight to kick off the Tournament of Nations. The tournament, which includes the USWNT, Australia, Brazil, and Japan, starts tonight and ends on Aug. 2. The competition will allow the USWNT to get prepared for the Concacaf Women’s Championship later this year. Head Coach Jill Ellis named 23 players for training including Orlando Pride’s Ashlyn Harris and Alex Morgan. The most recent meeting between the USWNT and Japan came at last year’s Tournament of Nations with the U.S. coming out victorious, 3-0. The match starts at 7 p.m ET on FS1. We’ll have more on this match later, as well.

Phoenix Rising Officials Discuss Expansion with MLS

As expansion teams continue to flood MLS, USL side Phoenix Rising FC requested and held a meeting with MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Deputy Commissioner Mark Abbott. The club has been in pursuit of rights to an MLS expansion team. Phoenix had plenty to tell MLS, with one of the major issues pertaining to playable conditions in Arizona during the MLS season, but the league was impressed with the turnout against Seattle Sounders 2 last week. If Phoenix was added to MLS, the club would be the 28th team to be added to the ever-growing league.

Free Kicks
  • MLS has a new version of its app and here is everything you need to know about it.
  • Eloi Amagat signed with NYCFC as a free agent on Wednesday.
  • FC Dallas signed its 23rd Homegrown player in 17-year-old Thomas Roberts.
  • Ashanti will perform the National Anthem at MLS All-Star Game in Atlanta in place of T-Pain.
  • Did Putin give President Trump a soccer ball with a transmitter chip inside?