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Lion Links: 8/31/18

Orlando thanks fans, Yoshimar’s travels, Champions League draw, and much more.

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

What’s up, Mane Landers? It’s hard to believe that August is coming to a close as this year continues to fly by. We have a soccer filled Labor Day weekend ahead of us with the United States Women’s National Team taking on Chile late tonight at 11 p.m. ET and Orlando City taking the field tomorrow against the surging Philadelphia Union at 7:30 p.m. ET. Now, let’s get to the links of everything you may have missed in the world of soccer yesterday.

Orlando City Aims to Thank Fans Through Results

Despite results on the pitch, Orlando City Head Coach James O’Connor remains confident that his team’s morale is high. With captain Jonathan Spector returning from injury and the recently acquired Carlos Ascues joining the team, there are some silver linings for an Orlando side that has only won once since O’Connor took over the team in July. But one of the driving forces for the Lions has been trying to repay fans for supporting them through thick and thin.

“We’ve consistently had tremendous support throughout my time here and even before then,” O’Connor said. “It definitely motivates you and makes you want to work even harder to bring some success to the supporters because you see how much they give and that’s something I’m absolutely determined to do, is to make sure we get the level of success that they deserve.”

Yoshimar Yotún’s Soccer Journey

Arguably Orlando’s best player, midfielder Yoshi Yotún has played all over the world in some of the most prestigious events that the game has to offer. From trying out at a youth academy in Peru as an 8-year-old to playing in the FIFA World Cup this past summer, Yotún has had a long journey spanning different continents before landing here in Orlando. With experience in the UEFA Champions League with Swedish side Malmo FF and securing qualification in the hyper competitive CONMEBOL, Yotún has done more at age 29 than some players do in their entire career.

Spector Vexed by Injuries and Lack of Consistency

Despite a performance in Orlando’s 2-1 loss to Atlanta United a week ago that earned him the lowest grade of all defenders in our player grades, Spector’s return to the field was a positive sign. In his first full game since June 30, Spector played all 90 minutes and was able to shake off some of the rust that accumulated from playing in only nine of the Lions’ 25 games. Besides dealing with concussions and a nagging hamstring injury, Spector has been frustrated on the sidelines from being unable to establish stability in a rotating back line that desperately needs a pillar.

“I think, as a player, the worst part of being a professional athlete is injuries and not being able to do what you love,” Spector said. “For me, that’s been really frustrating, not being able to help the time when I potentially could have in some difficult moments.”

USWNT Convenes for Chilean Friendlies

With the 2018 Concacaf Women’s Championship right around the corner in October, the USWNT has a month before it needs to qualify for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Between now and then, the team will be in California for two friendlies against a Chilean squad it has never faced before. Familiar faces return to the team at a crucial time, with the likes of Rose Lavelle, Tobin Heath, and Kelley O’Hara all together as the team works to become a cohesive unit. While Orlando fans will certainly be watching how Orlando Pride players Alex Morgan and Ashlyn Harris fit into Head Coach Jill Ellis’ plans, some attention in these upcoming friendlies will be on getting a glimpse of the promising future of the team.

UEFA Champions League Draw Revealed

This year’s UEFA Championship League draw is over, with the 32 best teams in Europe set to play in what promises to be a great group stage. Barcelona, Tottenham, PSG, and Liverpool all have their work cut out for them with tough groups, while teams like Manchester City and Bayern Munich will have little trouble reaching the knockout legs. As for you Christian Pulisic fans out there, he and Borussia Dortmund were drawn into a group with Atletico Madrid, Monaco, and Club Brugge of Belgium.

Free Kicks
  • Luka Modric has been named UEFA Men’s Player of the Year after a great performance in the FIFA World Cup that saw him bring home the Golden Ball from the tournament. Also, Pernille Harder won UEFA Women’s Player of the Year. In a collective 34 games in her domestic league with Wolfsburg, the UEFA Women’s Champions League, and 2019 FIFA World Cup qualifying, the Danish forward had an incredible 30 goals. Congratulations to Luka and Pernille!
  • The Lions have a tough opponent tomorrow as the Union come to town. Philadelphia has been soaring lately, in large part due to forward C.J. Sapong getting shifted out wide. Hopefully Orlando’s fullbacks can keep him in check.
  • Sporting Kansas City forward Diego Rubio will miss the game with Orlando City next week after being called up by the Chilean National Team. Fellow forwards Daniel Salloi and Johnny Russel were also called up to their international teams and miss the match. Those three are SKC’s leading goal scorers with 22 of the team’s 47 goals this season. The Lions will be without Yotún, Mohamed El-Munir, and Amro Tarek.
  • While in California for the friendlies, Alex Morgan and Kelly O’Hara visited the StubHub Center garden to pick carrots and chase some chickens.
  • As the USWNT gears up for its first of two friendlies with Chile tonight, here are a few things you may not have known about the South American squad.
  • Former Lion Cyle Larin was called up to the Canadian National Team for the upcoming Concacaf Nations League qualifiers. He will be returning to Florida ahead of Canada’s first match on Sept. 9 against the U.S. Virgin Islands in Bradenton.
  • As for the UEFA Nations League, here is a great guide to how the new competition will spice up European soccer.
  • USMNT defender Geoff Cameron nears a move to join Queens Park Rangers.
  • We end our links with this story involving the new sport of Quidditch at the University of Central Florida. I only mention it because apparently, the UCF team took on a few Orlando Pride players in a game. Unfortunately, there is no footage of them in action, but if you pause the video below around the two-minute mark you should see the Pride’s Dani Weatherholt, Kristen Edmonds, Haley Kopmeyer, and Christine Nairn with the team. Plus it’s a cool video about the sport that I thought was silly but is kind of interesting.

That’s all I’ve got for you today. Make sure to check back in with us for more Orlando City and Orlando Pride coverage. Have a great Friday!