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Lion Links: 8/11/18

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OCSC closing on Carlos Ascues, Yotún’s suspension extended, Tony Rocha’s versatility, Orlando City’s tech proving useful, and more.

Brazil v Peru - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia Qualifiers Photo by Buda Mendes/Getty Images

Happy Orlando Pride match day, everyone. Your Pride face a huge test today when the Portland Thorns visit Orlando City Stadium at 7:30 p.m. The Pride got their first ever win against the Thorns earlier this season away at Portland but they’ll need another to creep a little bit closer to a 2018 NWSL playoff spot. A draw or a loss tonight by Orlando opens the door for the Thorns as well as the Chicago Red Stars and Utah Royals to jump ahead in the race.

The Lions will fly to D.C. today to take on Wayne Rooney and United in the club’s first trip ever to Audi Field. It’ll be another shorthanded squad as Yoshimar Yotún will sit out his red card suspension (plus another game — more on that below) and Sacha Kljestan didn’t train all week after sustaining an ankle injury on a rough challenge from Brandon Bye last weekend. Orlando is still without Jonathan Spector and Lamine Sané but could see the return of Uri Rosell from a hamstring issue.

With a full slate of soccer ahead this weekend, including the return of the Premier League, let’s start linking.

Lions Reportedly Closing on Carlos Ascues

Orlando City had a quiet summer transfer window but we’ve been hearing rumblings for the last few days about some post-window movement and that appears to be happening. Peruvian international center back/defensive midfielder Carlos Ascues has left Alianza Lima and the 2017 champions wished Ascues well with new club Orlando City on Instagram yesterday. ProSoccerUSA’s Jordan Culver reported that his sources confirmed the two clubs had agreed to terms. The window may be closed but it’s possible a deal in principle was reported to the league prior to the deadline or else the player must essentially be a free agent signing. The big issue now is whether Lamine Sané goes on injured reserve to free up an international slot.

Yotún Suspended Additional Match

Look, at this point we know what’s coming. Orlando City will get the maximum penalty MLS can hand out for any infraction. Such was the case with Yoshimar Yotún’s red card against New England. The MLS Disciplinary Committee has extended Yoshi’s suspension to include the match Aug. 24 against Atlanta United and has fined both Orlando City and Head Coach James O’Connor for violating the league’s mass confrontation policy.

This, however, is a perfectly reasonable soccer play and need not be punished, according to the league.

There is absolutely no truth to the rumor that Don Garber will purchase an island solely funded by fines paid by Orlando City. I like all kinds of music, including disco, but DisCo sucks.

Orlando City’s Technology Investment Making a Difference

You never know where Orlando City news will turn up, including on tech outlets. InsideBigData.com ran this piece on how the club we follow is winning on the business side through the LionNation app. The three ways OCSC’s use of the app benefits the club are by providing exclusive content that drives adoption (read: subscribers), creating opportunities for potential sponsors to learn more about the club’s customers, and creating additional ways to get fans to the stadium. It’s an interesting read, and although the app sometimes can be challenging for users, it’s been a successful endeavor for the club.

Tony Rocha’s Versatility Helps Lions in Multiple Ways

Perhaps no one’s stock with Orlando City has risen as much this season as Tony Rocha’s. It’s difficult to even say what position he plays because he’s lined up almost everywhere. Rocha cut his teeth as a professional as a defensive midfielder but this season he’s played his collegiate position of center back as well as left back and at times he’s stood out as one of the team’s better players. James O’Connor has enjoyed Rocha’s flexibility and it’s something he’s cultivating among his players.

“It makes it very hard for the opposition because you never quite sure where that player’s going to end up on the field. We’re pretty intentional with trying to create players like that. They can do a lot, whether it’s in defense or attack and they can play multiple positions.

“I think that gives a little more flexibility, whether it’s a formation or whatever it is, an attacking play or a defensive play, it gives you the flexibility to be able to cause the opposition some problems.”

We’ve seen the same thing lately with the way O’Connor has used Mohamed El-Munir and Yoshimar Yotún as attacking midfielders. After watching a pregame crossbar challenge last weekend, I look forward to seeing backup striker Joe Bendik.

Chicago Fire Suspend Supporters, Coverage Boycotted by HTIOT

A long season in Chicago for the Fire took a turn for the worse this week. The club banned supporters group activities for tonight’s match against the New York Red Bulls and revoked the tickets of 21 season ticket holders after members of the Section 8 independent supporters group participated in a peaceful protest on July 21 by occupying Section 101. That section was formerly used by the Sector Latino supporters group but that entire section of the stadium was closed starting June 9 for persistent acts of violence. Even ticket holders in that section who weren’t at the game and aren’t even in Sector Latino had their tickets canceled. The club closed off the section using chains.

In response to the latest SG ban, SB Nation’s Chicago Fire blog, Hot Time in Old Town, has decided to boycott coverage of tonight’s match in solidarity with their fellow Fire fans. Chicago’s tactics seem a bit heavy handed to an outsider like me, particularly when you consider fans not present for an incident were lumped in with anyone who violated the fan code of conduct. Of course, our own Orlando City is no stranger to fan discipline after banning individuals for participating in throwing objects onto the field back on May 13. Suspending or banning fans is a serious action and it’s a tough balancing act for a club because those are your customers. In OCSC’s case, a strong reaction was necessary to avoid incidents like this but at least they tried to identify specific individuals involved rather than punish an entire section.

LAFC, Timbers Not BFFs Follwing Racial Slur Investigation

The investigation into Adama Diomande’s claim of a racial slur has been completed by the U.S. Open Cup Adjudication and Discipline Panel, and no evidence was found to warrant any punitive action. The alleged incident took place in LAFC’s quarterfinal match against the Portland Timbers and has resulted in the two teams going after each other a bit. Here’s what the panel found:

“there was insufficient evidence to conclude that a racial epithet was used but as a matter of principle, the Panel condemned all forms of racial abuse, stating the use of a racial epithet has no place on or off the soccer field.”

The matter likely came down to one player’s word against another’s, so it’s a tough charge to prove. Meanwhile the two teams got a little heated in the wake of the investigation, with each team issuing a pointed public statement. First, Portland’s statement reads like a “how dare he insinuate such poppycock!” on Diomande in the final paragraph.

Predictably, LAFC didn’t like the way Portland worded that final paragraph and responded with its own statement, including a shot back at the Timbers.

We are disappointed that the Portland Timbers issued a statement that was dismissive of our player and the investigation by concluding it “simply did not happen”. We stand by Adama Diomande and his courageous public statement.

No doubt things could get spicy the next time these teams meet and it’s doubtful they’ll be besties anytime soon.

Free Kicks

That’s all my time for this morning. I’ll be back later with coverage of the Pride against the Thorns after I pay an undisclosed fine to MLS. Enjoy your Saturday!