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Lion Links: 9/10/19

Four games and four finals, Lions in Team of the Week, Cuban players reportedly defect, and more.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Montreal Impact Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

It was yet another frustrating weekend for Orlando soccer fans, as Orlando City’s draw with LAFC was the only result any of the three teams were able to manage. More frustrating for the Lions, specifically, was the nature of the draw, with a second-half lead slipping away and two points with it. No time to dwell on the past though, so let’s get to those links.

Every Game is a Final

Orlando City has four games left in the 2019 regular season and trails the New England Revolution by four points, with the Revs occupying the last playoff spot. That means that Saturday’s match is just about the definition of a must-win game for the Lions, with the other three games on the schedule falling under the same category. The remaining four games are against teams that Orlando has at least gotten a draw with this season, with the exception of the Houston Dynamo, who Orlando hasn’t played yet. A draw is no longer what Orlando needs though, and running the table over the last four games will almost certainly result in a first ever playoff berth. That means that Cristian Higuita and several other Lions are attacking the next month with the mentality that each of the team’s four remaining games are finals. Hopefully it’s a mentality that pays dividends.

Lions in MLS Team of the Week

Following Saturday’s hard-fought draw with LAFC on Saturday, a pair of Lions found themselves in the latest edition of the MLS Team of the Week. After providing an assist for Benji Michel’s goal and returning to the starting XI with an all-around glittering performance, Ruan was named to the Team of the Week starters in the back line. Lamine Sané, meanwhile, was named to the bench for a performance that saw him make several key tackles and do an excellent job of marshaling the back line. Higuita can perhaps feel hard done by not to be included after turning in a top-notch performance, but two honorees isn’t bad at all. Congratulations and keep up the good work.

Cuban Players Reportedly Defect

The Cuban national team played a Concacaf Nations League game against Canada last Friday in Toronto. While Cuba lost the game, 6-0, there was another (semi) unexpected consequence of the team’s trip to the great white north. Three Cuban players who featured in the game were missing from the rest of the team after the game, and have reportedly departed the squad to defect. If true, this is not an altogether unexpected occurrence, as Cuban players have frequently defected following games on foreign soil, typically during tournaments in the United States. Yasmani Lopez defected following Cuba’s 2019 Gold Cup opener, and Minnesota United’s Osvaldo Alonso did so during the 2007 Gold Cup. If the three players did defect, they’ll only be the latest of a large number of Cuban players to do so.

Dan Flynn to Step Down From USSF

Dan Flynn will step down from his role as the CEO and secretary general of U.S. Soccer on Sept. 16, and the USSF has announced that the search for his replacement is ongoing. Chief Stakeholders Officer Brian Remedi has been named chief administrative officer in order to help the transition go smoothly and will handle some of Flynn’s old duties until his replacement is named. The USSF is hoping to replace Flynn by the end of 2019, although the hiring process could run on into January of 2020. At present there is no list of final candidates.

Free Kicks
  • MLS and Adidas have announced the launch of the MLS Youth Affiliate Network, which will allow MLS to “strengthen our ecosystem by casting a wider net at the youth level.”
  • Nani is giving away a signed Orlando City jersey.
  • The Orange County Library System has a pretty good incentive for kids to check out books this month.
  • Eintracht Frankfurt has announced a game against Hertha Berlin over in Tampa that will be played in the buildup to the 2020 Florida Cup.
  • A few Orlando City passes made the highlight reel of the weekend’s best passing action.

That’ll be all for me today. Don’t forget that the Orlando Pride have a home match against the Chicago Red Stars tomorrow and Orlando City faces the Revolution on Saturday at Exploria Stadium. Get your butts in seats for those games, and y’all stay safe out there.