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Lion Links: 10/27/19

Vlatko Andonovski makes history, Christian Pulisic shines in London, your USL Championship update, and much more.

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Burnley FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League Photo by Jan Kruger/Getty Images

Howdy Mane Landers, and happy Sunday! With the USL and MLS playoffs in full swing, it sure does hurt to be an Orlando soccer fan, huh? The “what ifs” have really set in for me, but I suggest you don’t fall down that rabbit hole because it sucks having to climb back out of it. Trust me. Regardless, there’s still some quality soccer being played around the States that warrants coverage, alongside some noteworthy news, so let’s dive right in.

You know the deal. Here’s your Sunday serving. Bon appétit.

Vlatko Andonovski Wins NWSL Coach of the Year

The Macedonian-born Andonovski is the first coach to take home the National Women’s Soccer League accolade with two different clubs — first bringing home the honor during his time steering FC Kansas City in 2013, and now this year with Reign FC. Andonovski won with about 53% of the vote, while the North Carolina Courage’s Paul Riley snagged around 27%, and the Washington Spirit’s Richie Burke received about 20% of the vote.

“It was an emotional and challenging year for our team,” said Andonovski. “But also a very satisfying year in that we dealt with a lot of adversity and many of our players performed at their best and gave their best efforts, which is all we can ask as coaches. Success is a team effort and individual awards are of course a reflection of the players and theentire organization, so I thank them, as well as our assistant coaches, our ownership and all the staff.”

An additional interesting tidbit to this award is that Andonovski is set to become Jill Ellis’s successor at the helm of one of the greatest national teams, men or women, of all time: the U.S. Women’s National Team. It appears that the program will be in good hands. I can’t wait to see what he brings to the table for our defending World Cup champions.

Also be sure to catch the NWSL final today between the North Carolina Courage and the Chicago Red Stars at 3:30 p.m. ET. Will Chicago’s Sam Kerr capture her first NWSL crown? I think not. My money’s on the Courage (as per usual).

Christian Pulisic Shines in London

Things started shaky, and I fully anticipate there to be ups, downs, and bumps in the road, but it appears that American phenom and Chelsea starlet Christian Pulisic has finally begun to settle in to his new home in London. Facing off against a stout Burnley side that’s just outside of the top 10 in the Premier League, Chelsea ran rampant thanks to Pulisic’s perfect hat trick (left foot, right foot, header). He’s the second American to ever notch three goals in a single Premier League match. Clint Dempsey holds the honors as the first. The feat had him so excited that he almost forgot to bring the match ball home with him. Something tells me he’ll remember next time.

The USL Championship Playoff Update

In case you’ve been living under a rock for the last few weeks (or you just don’t care, which is fair I suppose), the 2019 USL Championship season has ended and we’re now in the midst of the playoffs. Yesterday was chock full of USL action, with a total of eight matches being played to narrow the field down to four teams. Here’s what the slate looked like, and how those matches turned out.

The Eastern Conference

  • Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC vs. Birmingham Legion FC: (7-0 Riverhounds)
  • Louisville City FC vs. Tampa Bay Rowdies: (2-1 Louisville)
  • Indy Eleven vs. New York Red Bulls II: (1-0 Indy)
  • Nashville SC vs. Charleston Battery: (3-1 Nashville)

The Western Conference

  • Real Monarchs SLC vs. Orange County SC: (6-2 Real)
  • Reno 1868 FC vs. Sacramento Republic FC: (3-1 Sacramento)
  • Phoenix Rising FC vs. Austin Bold FC: (0 (8)-0 (7) Phoenix on penalties)
  • Fresno FC vs. El Paso Locomotive FC: (3-2 El Paso)

Next up, the USL conference finals and then the big dance. Who do you see taking home silverware?

What’s Happened to Miguel Almiron?

Okay, so I stole Kristen Henage’s headline, but I mean, is there a more accurate headline? What’s happened to Almiron since his move from that team in Georgia to Newcastle United, and how has it gone so wrong? MLS received approximately $27 million from Newcastle to secure the midfielder’s services, which is quite the pretty penny for anyone, let alone a young and inexperienced midfielder coming from MLS. The once-highly touted Almiron has seen his share of successes and setbacks so far in England. Notably, injuries hampered his debut season and then the man who brought him over to Newcastle, former manager Rafa Benitiz, left the club following an impasse with the controversial owner. These two factors are the most likely culprits in Almiron’s decline in form, exposure, and overall public perception.

The man who replaced Benitez hasn’t done Almiron any favors, either, deploying him as a striker or a winger, instead of his preferred position in the middle of the park. I’ll be honest. I’ve always liked Almiron, even when he wore red and black. When you compare his behavior and professionalism with that of players like Ezequiel Barco (See: courting your teammate’s girlfriend), he’s pure class. Couple that with his deft touch and skill on the ball - the dude’s likable. I hope he finds a home that suits him well, or finds a way to succeed with Newcastle.

Free Kicks
  • Here’s your official MLS guide to the potential MLS Cup finals. Spoiler: The Lions aren’t tipped to make it very far. You couldn’t hear it, but I groaned out loud as I typed that.
  • Will Zlatan stay in Los Angeles? I don’t know, you probably don’t know, and I bet these guys don’t either.
  • Stay up to date on the 2019 FIFA Under-17 World Cup and the current standings! The young Americans will be seeing Japan, Senegal, and the Netherlands in the group stage — quite a difficult group to emerge from. Also, here’s the schedule (because that’s also important).
  • It appears the Galaxy’s Uriel Antuna is generating interest overseas, with Benfica reportedly tracking the 22-year-old’s progress. Keep an eye on the Galaxy this off-season. There’s bound to be a lot of change.
  • Check out this absolute gem of a golden goal, scored by Providence University’s Paulo Lima in the 98th minute of extra time.

All right folks, I’m out. Have a great week!