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Lion Links: 2/15/19

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O’Connor is pleased, Orlando’s most talented youngster, Hill set to impress, and more.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Vancouver Whitecaps Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, Mane Landers. I hope Valentine’s Day went smoothly and without incident for you all. February rolls on as we head into a weekend filled with the Orlando City Invitational and an Orlando SeaWolves game. But before we can sink our teeth into this weekend’s fun, let’s get to the links!

O’Connor Evaluates Preseason Progress

With three closed door preseason games under his belt with Orlando City, Head Coach James O’Connor is satisfied with the results so far. The club has had one win, one draw, and one loss so far as the Lions head into the inaugural Orlando City Invitational, but final scores are the least of O’Connor’s worries.

“The preseason, for us, is very, very tough,” he said. “For the players, it’s very demanding. You need to realize, we need to realize, as a coaching staff, there’s going to be concentration errors. There’s going to be mistakes that are made because they are fatigued. That’s what we need to try to train.”

Orlando City’s Best Young Talent

Andrew Wiebe of MLSsoccer.com decided to identify each Major League Soccer team’s top candidate to make the coveted 22 Under 22 list in 2019. Orlando isn’t short on players that fit the age requirement, with Josué Colmán in particular being an honorable mention last season, and Wiebe placed his bets on the versatile Danilo Acosta. The 21-year-old is here on loan and it will be interesting to see how he will compare to other young players, such as Colmán, Joao Moutinho, Santiago Patino, and others under 22. Regardless, the group of young players will be crucial for Orlando this season.

Hill a Player to Watch in W-League Grand Final

When the Perth Glory take on Sydney FC in the W-League final tonight after midnight (ET), most eyes will be on the duel between Sam Kerr and Caitlin Foord. However, attention deserves to be given to the key figures behind their prolific scoring this season, especially Orlando Pride forward Rachel Hill. In her second year with the Glory, Hill led the league in assists, with seven, and added six goals of her own.

But it is her relationship with Kerr that has paid off heavily for the Glory, with the pair delivering nine assists to one another this year. The two also had a combined 128 shots this season — the most by a pair this year. Hopefully Hill can bring some of this success back to the Pride in 2019, but for now let’s celebrate a special season for the 23-year-old.

Garber Earns an Extension

MLS Commissioner Don Garber’s contract has been extended through 2023 in a five-year agreement approved by the MLS Board of Governors. Since becoming commissioner in 1999, Garber has seen the number of clubs double and has focused heavily on popularizing the sport here in the United States. His efforts have not gone unnoticed and he was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame last year. Congrats on the new contract, Don!

Free Kicks
  • Don’t forget that the OCSC kit and Face of City reveal is tonight at 6 p.m. over at the Lion’s Den. It’ll be your first look at what the Lions will be wearing and the first 500 to get their hands on it will be well rewarded.
  • The folks over at The Equalizer had some great points in regard to the Pride’s objectives for 2019.
  • In a game that I frankly didn’t even know was happening, Orlando City B faced off with the Tampa Bay Rowdies earlier this week in what ended up being a 2-1 loss for the Young Lions in a preseason friendly.
  • Although OCB may be doing some things in secret, one thing that you should check out regarding the team is midfielder Jordan Bender’s skills behind the news desk with Montverde Academy.

That’s all from me, folks! I hope you all have a wonderful day and a great weekend.