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Lion Links: 9/16/18

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What to watch when the Lions visit the Fire, NWSL playoffs off to a hot start, the top 30 MLS players’ FIFA ratings, and more.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Orlando City SC Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Sunday, Mane Landers. It’s been quite a whirlwind of a weekend, with news breaking on Friday that the Pride and Tom Sermanni have mutually agreed to part ways. The news came as a bit of a surprise to me, but with a bit of reflection and painful season highlights watched, it isn’t as shocking as it was initially. The news came on the same weekend, ironically, as the start of the NWSL playoffs (more on that later), and one can only imagine how different things could have, and honestly should have, been with the Pride failing to make the push into the postseason.

Meanwhile, two MLS clubs that came into the 2018 season with lofty expectations will clash in a bottom-of-the-table match today at 5 p.m. ET, with the Lions set to take on the Chicago Fire in Toyota Park in what is unfortunately a meaningless match. Hopefully, James O’Connor deploys a young lineup and we get to see a few promising glimpses of the things to come next year. Boy...it’s been a rough year.

Regardless, I’m still on hand to feed you your Sunday helping of Lion Links while you wait, or not wait, to catch the aforementioned Lions match. So, without further ado, here’s your Sunday serving. Bon appétit.

What to Watch When Orlando City Visits Toyota Park

As meaningless of a match as this is in terms of the MLS playoff picture, there’s still plenty of intrigue surrounding the upcoming clash between the Lions and the Fire today. For example, Toyota Park is one of three away venues that the Lions have an all-time winning record in. Another interesting facet to this match to keep a close eye on will be Orlando’s eight-match winless streak and Chicago’s nine-match winless streak in MLS play. Someone’s gotta take a W at some point...but I wouldn’t be in the least surprised to see the two teams walk away with a point in hand each. That’d be poetic irony if I’ve ever seen it.

I really enjoy the way Orlando City’s press team does their milestone tracking. Despite having such a horrid season on the pitch, there are quite a few individuals who are close to setting some club records. Check out the link above to see what’s coming up.

The Future is Always Purple

As we always preach here at The Mane Land, the future is purple. The U.S. Soccer Development Academy is constantly tracking the young Lions, and boy, were they in for some fun ones on Saturday.

The U-12s were set for a doubleheader against Florida Rush SC, and they didn’t disappoint. The youngsters took the first bout by a score of 6-2, and were eager to get back onto the field to finish off their day, as inclement weather caused cancellations for the U-15 team’s match. In the second of their two matches, one U-12 youngster by the name of Aiden Suguene is certainly brightening up the day for his coaches, parents, and teammates, netting seven (!) goals in an 8-1 route over Florida Rush SC. He’s currently a member of the U-12 team, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see his name continue to pop up in the near and distant future. Kudos, Aiden!

Meanwhile, the U-13s were a bit shortchanged, as a 1-1 draw was ruled as the final result due to lightning delays. Still, a great showing from the young Lions, and I can’t wait to see how things progress throughout their season!

The U-15s took all three points with a 1-0 win over South Florida Football Academy. The U-17s also also continued to impress, with a 4-0 win over South Florida’s side under the belts. The future is lookin’ good, folks.

And lastly and unfortunately, due to a last-gasp goal, the U-18/19s fell to South Florida’s side, 1-0. An unlucky break, but hey, that’s football.

A great twitter follow is the Orlando City SC DA account, make sure you keep in check with the young talent coming down the Lions’ pipeline!

Portland Tops Seattle in NWSL Playoff Opener

The NWSL playoffs got off to an exciting start as the Portland Thorns hosted the Seattle Reign and picked up the 2-1 win to advance to the final. Ex-Pride original Jasmyne Spencer put the Reign up early on, finishing off Megan Rapinoe’s crossbar rattling free kick in the 27th minute. It’s always nice to see former Pride players doing well, especially in such a momentous occasion like the NWSL playoffs.

Unfortunately for Spencer and the Reign, the Thorns were having none of it, and found their way back into the match through goals from Tobin Heath (43’) and Linsay Horan (77’) and held on tight from there in a contest that was close.

Keep an eye on the other side of the equation, where the North Carolina Courage face off against the Chicago Red Stars at Providence Park on Tuesday night in a rematch of last season’s playoff clash — a game that saw the Courage fend off the Red Stars, 1-0, and advance to the final. It’s set to be a good one.

Top 30 MLS Players FIFA Ratings Revealed

Not surprisingly, Zlatan Ibrahimovic leads the cast with an 85 overall rating, and David Villa, also unsurprisingly, is just after him with an 82 overall ranking in the most recent iteration of the popular FIFA video game franchise. After that, cases can be made for players to be higher or lower on the scale, but no Lions made the cut for this edition of the top 30.

Free Kicks
  • I just want to express a bit of love for Sermanni, because well, I think it’s deserved, and so does Pride goalkeepers coach Lloyd Yaxley.
  • I’ve always been a Taylor Twellman fan (I was born in Salem, MA, and he played for the Revolution — the first MLS club I ever watched play), and I have to wholeheartedly agree with his critical assessment of the USMNT’s search for a new head coach. You decide how you feel about it on your own and let me know what you think.
  • Speaking the USMNT, striker Julian Green has been on fire as of late, coming on to notch a goal in Greuther Furth’s 4-1 win over Holstein Kiel. Add to that the fact that he performed admirable against Mexico in this last week’s friendly, and things seem to be trending upwards nicely for the young forward. Keep it up, Julian!
  • Here’s Zlatan doing, well, typical Zlatan things. He never ceases to amaze me. For the record, this was his 500th career goal. That’s a boatload of goals, and this one is just the icing on top. I expect several more cherries to be added to that cake before he finally calls it quits and hangs up the boots.

Well, that’s about all I’ve got on the docket for you today, folks. Do your best to enjoy the Lions’ clash with the Fire. Try to be optimistic and look at the silver linings; there’s always next year. Aside from that, enjoy the remainder of your Sunday and have an excellent week.