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Lion Links: 8/10/18

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O’Connor hints at additions, Pride prepare for NWSL gauntlet, Leroux remains out, and much more!

MLS: Toronto FC at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

What’s up, Mane Landers? It’s Friday, so congratulations on making it to the best day of the work week. We’re another day closer to a weekend of soccer with the Orlando Pride playing tomorrow night here in the City Beautiful and Orlando City traveling to the nation’s capital to take on D.C. United on Sunday night. But until we can cheer them on, we have to get through one more day and what better way to start that day than with some links?

Orlando City Head Coach Teases Possible Additions

The Major League Soccer secondary transfer window ended quietly for Orlando City fans. The signing of center back Shane O’Neill and the trade that sent Justin Meram back to Columbus were the only moves made. However, Head Coach James O’Connor has made comments hinting that some new players may be joining the Lions as they try to make a push for the playoffs.

“We’ll just have to see. The window is shut, but it’s still open in regards to players that are free, …[Wednesday] Niki worked really hard on a couple of things. I think there was one that didn’t come through. There’s still a couple of things that we’re looking at. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

It’s far from certain that acquisitions are on the way, but O’Connor also stated that the front office worked hard and late to explore all options to help the team’s glaring needs at the striker position and in the back line. We will have to wait to see if those efforts bear fruit before the rosters freeze on Sept. 14.

O’Connor Impressed With Offensive Performances

It’s no secret that Orlando City has given up the most goals in MLS, but it’s what the team is doing on the other end of the pitch that has O’Connor smiling. For only the second time in the club’s MLS history, the Lions have scored at least three goals in back-to-back games, although one of those goals was an own goal. The increase in offensive production has been encouraging, but O’Connor is ready to turn good performances into points.

Orlando Pride Enter Playoff Mode With Big Matches Looming

Currently in third place in the National Women’s Soccer League, the Pride only have four games left in the regular season to hold on to their playoff spot. With the stakes high and the playoff race tighter than any season before, the Pride are looking at every game as if a win was necessary. Tomorrow night, the Pride will welcome the fourth-place Portland Thorns to Orlando City Stadium at 7:30 p.m. ET in perhaps the biggest game of the year for both teams with only one point separating them. The winner of that match will likely get some breathing room, while the loser will have to scramble to stay in the playoff picture with the Chicago Red Stars and Utah Royals FC not far behind.

“We’re definitely fighting each game and we know we need to come out on top with a win,” defender Alanna Kennedy said. “Every game is do or die for us at the moment. They are all must-win games.”

Sydney Leroux Out for Tomorrow Night

The Pride will have to find a way to defeat the Thorns without the help from veteran striker Sydney Leroux as she continues to deal with an undisclosed illness that has sidelined her since July 31. The team’s leading scorer with six goals this season, Leroux will be missed in the Pride’s attack, but the offense will not be too lacking in options with superstars like Marta and Alex Morgan and a great supporting cast with players like Chioma Ubogagu and Rachel Hill. Leroux is anticipated to return next week when the Pride travel to face the North Carolina Courage on Aug. 18. Get well soon, Syd!

Orlando City Hires New Director of Fitness

Isaac Ramos was hired as OCSC’s new First Team Director of Fitness to help the Lions stay healthy as they fight to make the playoffs. The former Venezuelan player has worked extensively in South America, serving on the staff of some of the best teams in Venezuela, Paraguay, and Bolivia. His addition should help stymie the fitness issues that have plagued the Lions in the past, although obviously not all of Orlando’s injury woes could have been prevented by a better fitness plan. This addition also comes with the club parting ways with Dave McKay, who has been with the team since 2015.

Kaká Returns to AC Milan

One of the four faces on Orlando City’s metaphorical Mount Rushmore, Brazilian legend and former Lion Kaká will be returning to the club where he won his Ballon d’Or. Not yet a year since retiring from Orlando and his playing career, Kaká will head to AC Milan next month to become a director. Although the specifics of his role are unclear at this time, Kaká will learn the ropes of the position from fellow AC Milan alumni Leonardo and Paolo Maldini.

Free Kicks
  • After a loss to Japan earlier this week in the U-20 Women’s World Cup, the U.S. responded with an incredible 6-0 win over Paraguay in the second of three group matches. Midfielder Savannah DeMelo scored a hat trick, phenom Sophia Smith netted a brace and an assist, and forward Ashley Sanchez added a goal of her own. Smith, who is celebrating her 18th birthday today, stole the show with a great strike and fancy footwork.
  • Pride forward Chioma Ubogagu was featured in the NWSL’s three moments from the past week of play for her nutmeg to find space and whip a ball in the box.
  • Columbus Crew Head Coach Gregg Berhalter believes that Justin Meram will have a smooth transition back into the Crew’s offense.
  • Seattle Sounders forward Will Bruin won MLS Goal of the Week for his stoppage-time winner against Minnesota United. Coming off the bench, Bruin was able to get on the end of a beautiful headed pass into space by Raul Ruidiaz to chip the ball over a rushing Bobby Shuttleworth to find the back of the net.
  • The Chicago Fire waived both defender Kevin Ellis and midfielder Tony Tchani. Orlando fans may remember Ellis from his five appearances while on loan with the Lions in the USL.

That’s all from me folks! I wish you a great Friday and an even greater weekend. Vamos Orlando!