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Lion Links: 9/23/18

City hosts Houston, Courage crowned NWSL champs, the highs and lows of Chris Mueller’s rookie season, and much more.

MLS: Houston Dynamo at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Hey there, Mane Landers! Happy Sunday. I hope that you’re all enjoying this beautiful weekend. It’s supposed to be the weekend that ushers in the fall season, but hey, we’re in Florida, so does that really even matter? Doesn’t feel like it.

With the Pride at home watching the NWSL championship match between the Portland Thorns and North Carolina Courage and the Lions hosting the Houston Dynamo in a testy affair, the silver lining in my personal life has been the return of NFL football (more specifically, fantasy football). I’d include college football in there, but as an alumni of Florida State University, I’d rather not. It’s going to be a long season, Seminole fans...so brace yourselves (have fun poking fun, Gators and Hurricanes: we deserve it). That said, I digress, as that’s not what you’ve come here for today.

You’ve come for your Sunday serving of Lion Links, so that’s what I have prepared on the docket for you. However, first I want to say that it’s our anniversary today! We started as a WordPress site on this date back in 2014. We moved over to SB Nation shortly after that and we continue to enjoy covering the Lions for you.

Now, on to today’s news. Bon appétit, folks.

Lions Draw the Dynamo, 0-0

In what’s been a woeful season for the Lions, the lads in purple at least find a way to earn a point every now and then, and they did so last night at Orlando City Stadium. Houston has a U.S. Open Cup final in a few days but still fielded a first-choice lineup. Lamine Sané’s return to the back line and Adam Grinwis’ debut in goal helped Orlando keep a clean sheet, but the offense was in the ‘off’ position as both teams combined for only seven shots on goal and 22 total attempts in the scoreless draw.

Stay tuned for our very own Bearded Guy’s five takeaways, too.

Courage Crowned NWSL Champions with 3-0 Win Over Portland

Thanks to the support of the Lifetime Network, the NWSL championship match was readily available for all of us, and it sure didn’t disappoint...well, for one side at least. The Courage dominated this one from the start, much like they did all season, and notched a demoralizing goal in just the 13th minute courtesy of Brazilian star Debinha. Jessica McDonald added a brace with goals in the 40th and 64th minutes.

Despite playing at home and controlling the majority of the possession in the match, the Thorns just couldn’t find their way through a rock-solid Courage defense, and could only muster a meager three shots on target. They will certainly have some soul-searching to do after beating the Courage in the same final last season, 1-0. Congratulations are in order, I guess, for the stacked Courage.

#ScarvesUp for Kicking Childhood Cancer

Mason Stajduhar, as we all know, is an incredible individual, goalkeeper, and cancer survivor. He’s a true soldier. With the #KickChildhoodCancer movement in full swing, Mason has become an amazing advocate for the cause, speaking directly to the Orlando fan base in order to encourage them to get out, get their supporting gear and donations in, and help this league grow what’s already an amazing initiative for such a profound cause. The initiative aims at generating donations to assist in the eradication of cancer in today’s youth. Remember to stop by Orlando City Soccer Stadium’s The Den store or the Orlando City e-store to get in on some of the gear, and remember to post a photo of yourself with your scarf on Twitter with the hashtag #ScarvesUp to ensure a $5 donation goes to the cause. Together, we can truly make an impact - so get out there and get involved!

Rookie Chris Mueller Remains Positive as Always

Coming into a new club, especially as an early MLS SuperDraft pick, is no easy feat. Rookie striker/winger Chris Mueller can certainly attest to this, as he’s experienced both the peak of glory and the valley of despair, all within his first season as a professional footballer. He started off hot, even scoring the fastest goal in club history back in April; a time in which the club was riding high and on a record winning streak. He’s also felt the lows, admitting that adjusting to the grind of his first full season as a pro has been challenging. But he remains positive.

“Obviously, a little bit of it is encouraging, here and there,” Mueller said about fan support. “It’s tough, when you’re in the midst of a tough season, to try and point some of that stuff out. You’ve got to just try and come in and just focus on yourself at this point. In your personal care, you’ve got to try to stay positive.”

“You learn more about each other when things aren’t going well,” Mueller said. “It’s easy to be super happy and doing all the right things when things are going right. It’s a true test of your character and who you are as a player and a person, how you can respond to this sort of adversity.”

Keep up the hard work, Cash. It’s going to take you to places you’ve never imagined...and I can’t wait to watch it all go down. Cheers to such a positive influence and young talent in the Lions’ dressing room. We love you, Chris. Just keep on keepin’ on.

Free Kicks
  • A Young Lions update:
  • Goal brought us an interesting list of the top 50 American prospects for future USMNT consideration, with the 2022 World Cup in mind. Spoiler alert: There are no Lions on this list.
  • Retired American midfielder, captain, and fan favorite Clint Dempsey was honored at Fulham’s Craven Cottage during the halftime proceedings of Fulham’s 1-1 draw against Watford. It’s always nice to see a club acknowledge a former player and key cog, and nobody will ever forget his epic chip against Juventus that sealed a comeback win to advance to the quarterfinals of the Europa League back in 2010. Have a gander...absolutely stunning.
  • American footy icon Christian Pulisic is off to an amazing start to his 20s...first notching a game-winner against Club Brugge in the 85th minute a few days back, then nabbing an equalizer in the 83rd minute against Hoffenheim for his 10-man Dortmand side yesterday.

To add to that, he’s etching his name in stone with some true American Bundesliga greats.

  • Sir Alex Ferguson, arguably the greatest manager of all time, made a return to the hallowed grounds of Old Trafford, sitting in his well-earned director’s box seat. It’s been quite an emotional event for the living legend, and everyone on hand was elated to see the former Red Devils leader take in a match. Unfortunately for the Red Devils, a 1-1 draw was the result; surely not what anyone, including Sir Alex himself, wanted to witness.
  • American and Schalke starlet Weston McKennie had to be carried off of the pitch following a seemingly inadvertent challenge from Bayern Munich’s James Rodriguez during their 2-0 loss tot he Bavarian giants. We can only hope it’s not a serious injury, as McKennie is growing into a phenomenal player that will surely contribute to both the USMNT and Schalke’s future successes.
  • Even the legends struggle sometimes...and even Zlatan Ibrahimovic isn’t impervious to the challenges of adapting to MLS play. If that’s not surprising, I’m not sure what is. Of course, it’s more of a “different” challenge for the all-world talent, at least that’s how he prefers to word it. No matter what though, he’s still one of my favorite human beings on this planet.
  • For you FIFA Ultimate Team addicts, much like myself, here’s a nice look at some possible MLS builds in FIFA 19 — the most recent iteration of (I’m biased here) the greatest video game to ever exist (probably still a massive exaggeration, as there are a lot of games I could easily list before FIFA). Regardless, it’s fun to think about having all of these MLS studs on the pitch together on the same side.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for you today folks. I’ll be off surfing somewhere...which is to say that I’ll be off biting waves and hoping the board doesn’t leave me with a broken nose; make sure you enjoy your day, whether that be with family, friends, pets, nature, or hell, just by yourself. Do something that makes you happy today — you deserve it.

Also, I leave you with what may be the greatest tweet, and subsequently story headline, of all time. I mean, seriously, this is just pure gold. I hope they find the owner...sooner rather than later.