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Lion Links: 2/24/19

Orlando City’s 2018 (aberration?), Nani is out and about in Orlando, Purple Pride 5K, and more.

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MLS: Orlando City Invitational-New England Revolution at Orlando City SC Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Sunday, Mane Landers! I hope you’re all having a wonderful weekend, because I certainly am. Last night, I was lucky enough to attend the 2019 Orlando City Foundation All-Star Soccerball Gala, an amazing event hosted by the Lions’ primary sponsor, Orlando Health. The event celebrates the Orlando City Foundation’s All-Star community, from the many volunteer coaches all the way to the groundsmen. It was hosted at the Renaissance Orlando at SeaWorld, and included a raffle, silent auction, and live auction — all featuring spectacular items and packages.

I even got a picture with the man himself, Luis Nani! It was certainly a night to remember, and fortunately, I remember it well as I was unable to partake in the complimentary cocktail hour since I have a league match to play, well, probably right now as you’re reading this.

Last week, our Sunday side took a thrashing, so hopefully that served as a wake up call and we can take a positive result home and put points, or a point, on the board. To be fair, the team has only trained together three times, and it was our first match as a team. There’s ample room for growth and improvement. I just wish we hadn’t already lost a striker to a torn hamstring and a winger to a torn knee ligament...talk about bad luck.

Meanwhile, the Lions played Minnesota United behind closed doors with no media access yesterday and the result hasn’t quite made it out to the public yet. Stay tuned for an update on that one (if any updates actually occur).

Regardless, you’re here for your Lion Links, not the Alek update, so let’s do this thing, right? Here’s your Sunday helping of Links. Enjoy!

Was Last Season a Fluke?

I’m just going to start this one with my own vehement answer: yes. It was. We could take a very deep dive into the rabbit hole of how it was, and where things truly went awry, but honestly, I’m too optimistic about this season to do so. Andrew Wiebe, Bobby Warshaw, and Matt Doyle of mlssoccer.com speak on just what needs to go right this season in order for the Lions to turn things around and, hopefully, find a spot in the 2019 MLS playoffs. What does the 2019 season have in store for Orlando? It’s too soon to say, but here’s a brief video preview from the league’s website.

New Lion Nani is Settling In Off the Pitch

While we all anticipate the impending debut of the club’s newest Designated Player, it seems that the man himself is enjoying the City Beautiful. After meeting with supporters following the Lions’ 6-2 thumping of New England to claim silverware via the Orlando City Invitational, Nani made it out to an Orlando Magic game, making sure to network and establish a friendship with fellow European in the States, Magic power forward and center Nikola Vucevic. It’s great to see the newest addition getting involved and showing his commitment to the Orlando community.

The Purple Pride 5K Primed Supporters for an Exciting Season

March 2 is the big day. Most importantly, it’s the date circled on the calendar that marks the beginning of the 2019 MLS regular season, with the Lions slated to clash with New York City FC at 2:30 p.m. in Orlando City Stadium (be there, be loud, be ready). But before you make it out to the stadium, perhaps you participated in yesterday’s Purple Pride 5K run to get the endorphins going (and to justify the impending calories we’re all bound to consume during match day). The fifth annual Purple Pride 5K went off without a hitch, with an excellent turnout and accommodating weather to ensure that Lions and Pride supporters had a blast. Maybe you missed this one. If so, be ready, because it’s coming back next year!

Celtic FC Loan Promising American Defender to Charlotte Independence

Andrew Gutman, a Hermann Trophy winner — an accolade awarded annually by the Missouri Athletic Club to the United States’ top male and female college soccer players — has been loaned to Charlotte by Scottish powerhouse side Celtic FC. The 22-year-old had been training with the club since Feb. 8. The move is unique, as Celtic’s other recent American signing, Manny Perez, is also spending time on loan, but in his case with with North Carolina FC.

“I’m excited to join the Independence,” Gutman said in a statement. “While I’m here I want to contribute as much as I can. I want to do everything I can to help the team win. Being a professional brings new goals and new challenges, so I’m putting the Hermann Trophy behind me and trying to achieve new goals.”

The move comes just weeks after Major League Soccer blocked Gutman’s loan to Nashville SC. Due to Gutman’s affiliation with the Chicago Fire academy, the club still held his MLS rights, therefore any league side wanting to bring him in would have been required to obtain his rights from the Fire. Gutman turned down the opportunity to sign as a Homegrown Player for the fire, and since Charlotte isn’t affiliated with MLS, the move could not be blocked by the league.

Ultimately, Gutman’s goal is to make it back to Celtic and earn a role at the fabled club.

“My goal is to get back to Celtic,” Gutman said. “Having Jim here, he knows the Celtic way very well. I’m excited to learn under him, so I’m looking forward to getting the season going.”

Free Kicks
  • Remember that 6-2 win against New England? Care to relive it one last time? So do I.
  • For anyone that was holding out hope that the Lions could land C.J. Sapong, well, I apologize for pouring cold water on those hopes. He’s off to the Chicago Fire.
  • Messi, are you an alien?
  • And to finish up...seriously, Messi, are you a damn alien?!

All right, I’m out folks. I hope you all enjoy your Sunday, your week, and this ever-building optimism that’s leading up to what could be an amazing 2019 MLS season. This is the year the Lions break into the playoff picture. Mark my words. Ciao!