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Lion Links: 5/30/19

OCSC academy has a new director, new training facilities for all of Orlando’s teams and the academy, Nani wants to focus on each game, and more.

MLS: New England Revolution at San Jose Earthquakes Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Thursday, everyone. It’s been a while since I last did Lion Links but here I am, writing them up to drop on the morning of my 16th wedding anniversary (happy anniversary, Jamie!). While we wait for the end of the week to see what fate awaits our teams (OCB on the road Friday at FC Tucson, Orlando City at Montreal on Saturday, and the Pride at home Saturday night against the Courage), here’s some reading material to help you start your day.

There’s a lot to get to, so let’s get started.

Marcelo Neveleff Hired to Lead Orlando City Academy, OCB

On what turned out to be an extremely busy Wednesday for news out of Orlando City SC, one of the biggest items was the hiring of Argentine coach Marcelo Neveleff. The former New England Revolution assistant coach is the new OCSC Academy Director. Neveleff will report directly to Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi and will also oversee OCB’s operations.

During his time in New England, Neveleff worked with U.S. Soccer as both a technical advisor for the Boys’ Development Academy and as an assistant for the U-20 Men’s National Team. In 2017, he was part of a staff that helped lead the U-20s to win the CONCACAF U-20 Championship.

Neveleff has a lot of developmental experience, having served as technical director for powerhouse South Florida youth club Weston FC from 2009 to 2015. On the surface, this looks like an excellent hire by Muzzi and the club.

If you are, like me, wondering what this means for OCB GM Mike Potempa, well, I should be talking with Muzzi in the next couple of days and I’ll be asking about that and lots of other stuff, so stay tuned.

Lions, OCB, and Development Academy All Moving to Osceola Heritage Park

At the end of the 2019 season, Orlando City SC will be moving its MLS side, USL League One team, and development academy all to the club’s new training facility. The two professional teams will move from their current locations at Sylvan Lake Park and Montverde Academy after conclusion of the 2019 season. The academy will relocate at the start of the 2019-2020 academic year. The new facility at Osceola Heritage Park will feature four soccer fields — three natural grass and one artificial turf. The MLS side will use two of the grass fields, with OCB and the academy sharing the other grass pitch and the turf field.

“We are very excited and appreciative that the club has decided to increase its already considerable investment in the new training complex, showing its commitment to the development of our youth players and the future of Orlando City. The move to Osceola is a huge step for this club,” Orlando City EVP of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi said. “I think it’s a huge step for the club, for the first team, for the youth, for OCB and for the whole development pyramid of the club. It gives us the ability to bring the youth together under the same roof - seeing the first team, interacting with the first team and why not training with the first team?”

This total integration of the club has Muzzi’s fingerprints all over it and it should make for a more competitive atmosphere and provide the players at all level with a feeling of connectivity.

Orlando Pride Will Also Get New Customized Training Facility

The facility news doesn’t stop with the academy, OCB, and the MLS side. The club’s NWSL side, the Orlando Pride, will get a new, customized training facility at Sylvan Lake Park after 2019. The club is calling it the “first training facility in the NWSL that is tailored to and used only by a women’s team.”

“I think this [move] is building the sustainability of the club and of the franchise and it shows that, you know what, we’re here to stay,” Orlando Pride General Manager Erik Ustruck said. “We’re showing a commitment to Seminole County, we’re showing a commitment to the Pride and that vision becomes global. This isn’t only for the immediate future and the current team, but it’s also to become a destination for the future of the club, for the future of the franchise and to be able to attract top-class players from around the world and within the NWSL.”

The Pride will have access to the same perks that the MLS team has — two grass fields, a gym, a meal room, a film room, a players’ lounge, and a locker room “designed to replicate the team’s locker room at Orlando City Stadium.”

This is a big upgrade over the team’s current home at Seminole Soccer Complex, a fantastic bit of news for Pride fans, and a great recruiting tool to land players in the City Beautiful.

Nani Would Rather Talk About the Next Game than the Playoffs

Orlando City captain and leading scorer Nani said he gets asked a lot about the playoffs but he wants the focus to be on winning the next match.

“I’ve been learning a lot since I arrived,” Nani, 32, told Omnisport. ”We are ambitious and we want to be more ambitious every season. We want to achieve better goals. ”We want to be among the best teams in the league. But every time I’ve been doing interviews, everyone asked if it’s possible to reach the play-offs. I don’t think it’s a good conversation at the moment because it hasn’t helped until now.

”We must start focusing on each game, play our best because we have a good team. We showed already we can do it. I think it’s better to take some pressure off our team and club and believe we can go far. Obviously, we will arrive there but if we take off this pressure, things will go much better during the season. It will be less stressful on the young players especially and this can help.”

Makes sense to me. If you keep winning the next game, then the next, the playoffs will eventually take care of themselves.

Free Kicks
  • Orlando Sentinel and ProSoccerUSA.com writer Jordan Culver covered his last training session before moving on to a new chapter in his career. I’ve personally enjoyed working alongside Jordan — and his expansive bow tie collection — since he arrived on the Orlando City beat and it was good to see the club honor him.
  • It’s always nice to see the club doing great work in the community, so it was quite heartwarming to hear that members of Orlando City and the Pride paid a surprise visit to a local youth goalkeeper battling cancer.
  • Sports Illustrated is honoring the USWNT with six collectible covers in their World Cup preview issue. Grab yours before they’re gone.
  • MLS and Liga MX have announced the “Leagues Cup,” a new competition consisting entirely of meaningless friendlies that will further congest the fixture schedule.
  • Former Lion Jose Villarreal has landed with Las Vegas Lights FC.
  • Those born on this date include Loony Tunes cartoon voice actor Mel Blanc (1908), restaurant founder Bob Evans (1918), Chicago Bears legend Gale Sayers (1943), actor and podcaster Stephen Tobolowsky (1951), Star Trek: The Next Generation and Deep Space Nine actor Colm Meaney (1953), basketball coach Billy Donovan (1965), Idina “Elsa from Frozen” Menzel (1971), baseball’s Manny Ramirez (1972), NASCAR’s Clint Bowyer (1979), and Steven Gerrard (1980).

That’s all my time for this morning. Enjoy your Thursday, everyone!