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Lion Links: 9/29/19

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Orlando City’s slim shot at the playoffs, the Pride look to finish strong in their last away match, Josh Sargent is stepping up his game, and much more.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Houston Dynamo Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Sunday, Mane Landers, and most importantly, happy double match day! The Lions visit MLS newcomers FC Cincinnati, while the Pride travel to New Jersey for a date with Sky Blue FC. The playoff hopeful in me hasn’t quite thrown in the towel as, technically speaking, the Lions are still in the hunt. Unfortunately, as we’re all well aware, it would be nothing short of a miracle for several results to fall in the Lions’ favor, allowing them to sneak into the MLS playoffs. Hope is one hell of a drug.

Regardless of the dire straits that the Lions (and Pride for that matter) find themselves in, we’re still here with a bevy of content to get through. Hopefully it holds you over until the matches kick off today. Let’s do it. Without further ado, here’s your Sunday helping of Lion Links. Bon appétit.

Livin’ on a Prayer: The Cardiac Cats

Please don’t sue me, Bon Jovi, but Orlando City SC and its fervent supporters are literally praying for not only back-to-back wins from the Lions, but for losses by the New England Revolution, the Montreal Impact, and the Chicago Fire in their final matches. For now, Head Coach James O’Connor is focused solely on the task at hand; FC Cincinnati.

“They have a lot of pace,” O’Connor said. “Again it’s managing the transition moments because they have a lot of pace on their team. When we’re attacking we need to make sure that we’re very careful of how quickly they can transition into attack.”

Defender Kamal Miller put it best.

“We approached [this week] harder than ever,” defender Kamal Miller said. “We know that these last two games are so important. We know that if we can get these three points, we can put pressure on other teams.”

I’m not religious, but if you are, I propose that you keep your preferred book close to you today. We’re really going to need it.

Pride Look to Finish Strong in Final Away Match

Whew. This season has really flown by, but in the worst way possible. The Pride will be facing New Jersey’s Sky Blue FC today at 11 a.m. in their final away match of the 2019 campaign. The Pride have had the better of Sky Blue this season, going 2-0 against the New Jersey side prior to today’s clash. Hopefully, the women in purple can rebound from the 6-1 thrashing the Courage put on them during their previous league appearance. Luckily, the Pride will be bolstered by the returns of Marta, Sydney Leroux, and Toni Pressley (we’ll see if/how they’re deployed, though). Head Coach Marc Skinner seems to have a good understanding of how he wants to approach this one from a tactical perspective.

“They play a diamond shape and they’re very aggressive. We have to exploit that and make sure that the more we’re in possession, the less they can counter-attack and we need to stop that counter-attack, shore it up and make sure that we are effective with the ball,” Head Coach Marc Skinner said. “Then we’ll have the best chance, regardless of the individuals that they put in. They have a very organized backline, a very good, young goalkeeper so it’ll be tough but we’re looking forward for our players to show exactly who they are and take on the opportunity.”

Carli Lloyd has been on a bit of a streak for Sky Blue, scoring the club’s last four goals. Lloyd leads Sky Blue with six goals this season despite missing almost three months for the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup. Stopping Carli will be of utmost importance if the Pride want to take home three points and finish with a win in their final road appearance of the season.

Josh Sargent Makes His Mark

The young American striker has been handed extended minutes this season — unfortunately thanks to injuries to those ahead of him in the pecking order — but that hasn’t held Sargent back from making the most of his opportunity. In a recent clash with Bundesliga giants Dortmund, Sargent was the difference between an away loss and an important and well-deserved point in one of the most difficult venues to play in; Signal Iduna Park.

“It was a good point for us,” Sargent said after the game. “It was a set-piece, and I kinda acted like I was going to go front post, but then I went back post and Marco was there to score.”

Sargent was pivotal in the final touches before his club, Werder Bremen, notched an equalizing goal against the title contending Dortmund side, and his coach had (almost) nothing but praise for his young attacker.

“It was no mistake that Sargent was there to make this play happen,” Werder Bremen head coach Florian Kohfeldt said after the game. “His movement ahead of the second goal was fantastic. Overall, he was very good. Perhaps in the first half he was trying to do too much—you had the feeling he was almost surprised by how much ground he covered. But that is normal for a young player.”

Keep it up, Josh. We’re all rooting for you (even though I’m a Bayern Munich supporter).

Kick it Forward Miami

Ethan Wenger (no relation to Arsène that I could find), of Miami Palmetto Senior High School, is one hell of a young man, and he’s still only at the tender age of 17. I’ll just open with a quote from him and let him speak for himself:

“After a few years of playing soccer and seeing how quickly I grew out of my soccer uniforms and cleats, my family and I realized that we could gather and donate this still relatively new equipment to children who could not afford to buy their own,”

Now, that’s a profound realization for a youngster - one that I can happily and proudly share with young Ethan, as I also donated my gear when it no longer fit me. The difference between young Ethan and I is stark, though. This young man created a program that enables others to do what we see as logical and simply the right thing to do.

“Initially, my sister helped with the project as she is three years older and together we began an organization called ‘Kick it Forward Miami.’ The idea of the organization was to reach out to other families who similarly had equipment that they no longer needed and donate this to local organizations,” he said. “Over the years, we have donated cleats, sneakers, entire uniforms, jerseys, socks, etc., to various agencies, including schools, a group that taught children with autism to play soccer, and to the Chapman Partnership,”

Fortunately, Orlando has the Orlando City Foundation, but not every metropolitan area has such a valuable resource. Keep up the great work, Ethan. We all applaud your efforts!

Free Kicks
  • I hate to see this, and I hate even more to share it, but it appears American sensation Christian Pulisic is frustrated with his lack of playing time with his new club Chelsea.
  • Remember that time the U.S. Women’s National Team scored 13 on Thailand in a World Cup match and caught flak? Well, what do you think about a scoreline of 56-0? That’s exactly what Flamengo’s women’s side did to Greminho. Yikes.
  • Olivier Renard has been appointed as the Montreal Impact’s newest sporting director. He comes with experience, too, as Renard was sporting director of Standard Liege and KV Mechelen in his native Belgium. Recently, Renard was a sporting consultant at fellow Belgian club Royal Antwerp FC.
  • Fellow Liverpool supporters; let’s hope this doesn’t screw the club’s run at this season's Carabao Cup, but apparently Pedro Chirivella required a new clearance after returning from a loan spell in order to be fielded by the Reds (which they did not obtain). Chirivellas was brought on in during the 63rd minute of the Reds’ recent 2-0 third-round victory.

Well, that’s all I’ve got for you today folks. Do your best to keep the positivity flowing for the Lions. They sure do need it. Enjoy the matches on the day and have a great week, Mane Landers.

Oh...and, well, here.