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Lion Links: 12/17/19

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Exploria Stadium makeover continues, Charlotte to MLS, Dest honored by U.S. Soccer, and more.

Soccer: CONCACAF Nations League Soccer-Canada at USA Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Tuesday, everyone! We’re now just eight days away from Christmas and I should probably start shopping now. But don’t judge me, I got my Christmas cards out early this year. They went out this morning. I really mean to stop my holiday procrastinating but every year I put it off. Oh well.

You probably came here to find out some stuff about soccer, so here goes:

Exploria Stadium’s Football Makover Continues

Last week we showed you picture of Exploria Stadium set up for (American) football with yard lines and goal posts. Well, this is what it looks like now after the end zones were hit with a heavy dose of pink paint for the upcoming Cure Bowl. Personally, I’m glad the club is finding ways to make use of the stadium but I’d rather not have the field torn up in quite this manner. I want more concerts, but only from artists that I like. Hey, I’m just particular that way. Anyway, the club is making the most of the occasion with special swag that you can buy (or even win).

MLS to Announce Charlotte Today

Don Garber will be in Charlotte for what the league is calling a “special announcement” today at 10 a.m. Everyone else is calling it the announcement that Charlotte will become the 30th franchise in MLS. With Miami and Nashville already entering in 2020 and Charlotte on the way, someone really needs to get moving on a regional trophy that includes games between those three newbies against Orlando City and Atlanta United.

Tis the Season for Year-End Awards

The U.S. Soccer awards for 2019 keep rolling in and one of the team’s newest players earned a biggie. Fullback Sergino Dest won Young Male Player of the Year, just weeks after choosing the USMNT over the Netherlands. Also scooping up hardware were Brianna Pinto (Young Female Player of the Year), and Nick Mayhugh (Player of the Year with a Disability). Dest earned his first three USMNT caps in 2019 and would have gotten into a couple more if he hadn’t still been deciding which country to choose to represent. Pinto helped lead the University of North Carolina to the NCAA Women’s College Cup final and also played a pivotal role with the U-20 USWNT this year. Mayhugh led the U.S. Para 7-a-Side National Team to its highest ever world ranking. Well done by all three.

Toia Re-Signs with RSL

Real Salt Lake was seemingly done with former Orlando City fullback Donny Toia after 2019 but the Utah-based club is bringing him back for 2020. Toia scored a goal and added an assist for RSL last season, which is a rare offensive outburst from him. That’s not me being snarky, that’s just a fact. In 133 career MLS games, Toia has scored two goals and notched seven assists. Four of his seven career assists came during his 34 games with the Lions.

Free Kicks
  • Former Orlando City USL affiliate Louisville City has changed its branding entering 2020 and I am not the biggest fan. The club apparently now will be known as “Lou City” and I’m pretty sure that’s a used tire store in Trenton run by a guy named — you guessed it — Lou.
  • Diego Valeri signed a multi-year extension with the Portland Timbers. That’s a shame. He’d look great in purple.
  • The Vancouver Whitecaps introduced newly signed Lucas Cavallini yesterday on a deal that Vancouver Sporting Director Axel Schuster said was in the “eight digits.” I’m assuming all of those digits are left of the decimal point. Good grief.
  • The Red Bulls are taking a page out of Orlando’s playbook as the New Jersey-based side will introduce a safe standing section to Red Bull Arena.
  • Those born on this date include The Partridge Family actor Dave Madden (1931 — d. 2014), Eddie Kendricks of The Temptations (1939 — d. 1992), Ghostbusters actor Ernie Hudson (1945), Eugene Levy (1946), Bad Company singer Paul Rodgers (1949), Bill Pullman (1953), R.E.M.’s Mike Mills (1958), St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube (1965), mixed martial artist Chuck Liddell (1969), The Last Jedi and Knives Out director Rian Johnson (1973), boxer Manny Pacquiao (1978), baseball’s Chase Utley (1978), and 2014 Indianapolis 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay (1980).

That’s all my time for this morning, folks. Enjoy the rest of your day and your week. Get your shopping done if you haven’t done so. And, if you like to talk about soccer, you might also like to write about it. Here’s how you can join the staff here at The Mane Land.

Before I go, I just want to add that the holidays are a time of joy for many, but a time of suffering for others. Reach out to friends you haven’t heard from in a while, especially if they’re the kind of people you’ve been avoiding because you’re tired of their shenanigans or fed up with their behavior. If you’re feeling lost or alone, reach out to others. I remind you of this because 18 years ago yesterday, in 2001, we lost one of my favorite musicians, Stuart Adamson, a once-reformed heavy drinker who fell off the wagon and was found hanging in the closet of his hotel room. Adamson was a talented singer/guitarist/songwriter and it just goes to show you that it can happen to anyone.