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Lions Links: 3/31/19

OCB gets to work , the Pride win big in preseason action, Rachel Hill is ready for the season with the Pride, and more.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Chicago Fire Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Sunday, Mane Landers — but more importantly, happy match day! We’re set for an exciting one tonight with the Lions’ Nani and D.C.’s Wayne Rooney set to be on the same pitch again after spending several years as teammates within the famed halls of Old Trafford.

The match should be sold out (I assume it is), the press box will be be packed (I know this for sure), and the match will be televised nationally. If you’re headed down to Orlando City Stadium tonight, be sure to bring the noise and show your full support for the Lions as they fight what’s sure to be an uphill battle against one of the best teams in MLS. Also, be safe. I probably don’t need to add that last bit, because you folks are some of the finest in the league, but I still feel obliged to say it. I blame you, mom (love you!).

Let’s also wish Tesho Akindele a happy birthday, as he turns 28 today!

All right, enough with the small talk. Let’s hop right into your Sunday serving of Lion Links. Enjoy!

Orlando City B Starts the USL League One Season with a Loss

It’s a new era in Orlando, one where the respected OCB program is back and playing in the USL, kicking off the inaugural League One season last night at Montverde Academy. Unfortunately, the season didn’t quite get off to the start that everyone had hoped for, as the team lost its opening match to FC Tucson, 3-1. After going down a man to a red card in the first half, Koby Osei-Wusu was the man who notched the first goal of the season for OCB, as he neatly put one away in the 56th minute. OCB sees action next on Friday at 7:30 p.m. at the MVA Athletic Complex vs Toronto FC II. The Young Lions will hope to improve upon their opening result. #TheFutureIsPurple

OCB Signs Nathan Simeon

Prior to last night’s match, OCB announced the club had signed defender Nathan Simeon and he was in the team’s starting XI. The young defender, born in Montreal, Canada, has been signed to an academy contract. The OCSC Developmental Academy brought the young Canadian down to Orlando last season, and the club saw enough in him to warrant another year’s worth of training and opportunity. Last season, Simeon started for the academy team nine times, with a total of 14 match appearances. Welcome back, Nathan! We’re looking forward to seeing more of you around here.

The Pride Crush USF in Preseason Action

With April 14 quickly approaching, the Orlando Pride have been tuning up with some preseason action. Yesterday offered the Pride the opportunity to face off against a strong University of South Florida women’s team, with the Pride running away with the win after netting an impressive six times in a 6-0 win.

The scoring began early...like, first minute early. Chioma Ubogagu netted a solo goal, and then an own goal suffered by the Bulls in the fourth minute put the Pride in control quickly. It only got better from there, as the Pride’s Rachel Hill netted a six-minute hat trick just after the break, and then Marta added another before the hour mark to put the Pride over the top.

It may only be preseason, and it may only be against a college program, but the convincing win is promising after a shaky start to the preseason matches. The team looked strong, and the result probably could have been worse had the Pride not taken their foot off the gas. Let’s just hope that these types of results translate to the upcoming season, because if they do, watch out NWSL stalwarts.

Rachel Hill Ready for Third NWSL Campaign

It took some time for Pride forward Rachel Hill to really settle in, but it appears that she’s finally found the confidence and reached the high level of play that she desires. With two NWSL seasons under her belt, Hill is now ready to plunge into her third, with the potential of increased playing time becoming more and more evident with some of the club’s marquee names set to be away on international duty.

“We’re obviously going to be missing a lot of players, so there are big shoes to fill and I think we’ll be able to do that as a team,”

Head Coach Marc Skinner had a one-on-one with Hill, and she believes it went quite well.

“It was really good,” she said. “He just shows that he really believes in you and wants the best for you, and he’ll do whatever it takes to reach your full potential, which is amazing. It’s like a breath of fresh air and it’s really nice to hear that.”

Personally, I can’t wait to see more of Hill this season. I have a good feeling that she’s set for a breakout year. She’s certainly one to keep an eye on come April 14.

Pride’s Alanna Kennedy Opens Up

My personal favorite Pride star, Alanna Kennedy, has provided insight into what it’s like to experience heartbreak at the international stage with Australia. After crashing out of the 2016 Rio Olympics and 2018 Asian Cup, the Matildas icon looks back at the gut-wrenching losses as learning experiences, noting that she believes that it’s only made her stronger.

“For me I think it was just a learning experience,” Kennedy told foxsports.com.au at Nike’s launch of the new Matildas national team collection. “I think it’s obviously a tough time to go through and at the time, (in) my world, it was the worst thing. But I look back on it now and I think it’s only made me stronger and those kinds of things happen. And obviously losing in the Asian Cup as well, in the final, they’re just moments that you don’t want to go through again so it drives you to be better and hopefully win the next time around.”

With her past behind her, she’s now set her sights on the upcoming Women’s World Cup, even going as far to say that her country can take the cup home. She might be right, but only time will tell. Another aspect of her career that she opened up about was the prospect of playing in Europe one day.

“Definitely I’ve had thoughts of playing in Europe and … I think the opportunity could arise,” Kennedy said. “And I think it’s something that a few of us are going to have to think about in the future, in the coming couple of years and it’s only going to make us better as footballers. But at the moment I love playing in the W-League and I think it’s a discussion for later but it’s definitely something that I’ve thought (about).”

For now though, she seems happy to bounce back and forth between the NWSL and Australian W-League. To be honest, I just want to see her in the purple kit.

Free Kicks

All right folks, that’s about it for the day. Enjoy what’s destined to be an exciting affair between the Lions and D.C. United. Let’s hope that the Lions contain Rooney while setting Nani loose. The former Manchester United teammates will be the focal points of the broadcasting, and rightfully so. It should be a good one. Enjoy it, Mane Landers, and have an excellent week!