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Lion Links: 1/26/20

Júnior Urso’s ink has meaning, Berhalter names his 22-man squad for Costa Rica, the young Lions shine, and more.

United States v Cuba - CONCACAF Nations League Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Happy Sunday, Mane Landers. For the first time in my life, after my club team’s preseason scrimmage (Vamos Orlando United!), I’ll be at the NFL Pro Bowl today in Camping World Stadium. Shout out to Luka, Dani, and Steph for making it happen! I know it’s only the Pro Bowl, but the prospect of watching some of my favorite athletes ply their trade in the casual atmosphere of beautiful, sunny Florida? I mean, c’mon, it’s going to be a blast. Maybe not as exciting (or depressing) as catching a City match, but it will certainly be a good time.

I’m interested in experiencing the difference between this and an MLS All-Star Game. I anticipate the intensity will be much lower, as football — American football that is — is much more prone to injuries on any given play. We’ll see, but if you’re going, drop a comment at the end and let’s meet up! I got some major love for our Mane Land family.

All right, I’m rambling, right? Let’s do this thing. Here’s your Sunday serving of Links. Bon appétit.

Júnior Urso: Inked with Purpose

Newly acquired midfielder Júnior Urso is covered in tattoos. For a professional athlete, this is actually quite common. What’s unique to Urso’s ink, however, is that it all has meaning. The midfielder is right-footed and reserves his right leg for only the most influential and important figures in his life. His mother, father, Nelson Mandela, and Martin Luther King Jr. are just a few that garnish the new Lion’s leg. Why? Urso has been the victim of blatant racism in the world of soccer throughout his entire career. In the Bear’s own words:

“Things like that motivate me,” Urso said. “Together we can accomplish something that has never happened before.”

You see, Urso has been through the ringer when it comes to his profession and experiencing the dark realm of racism. It’s nothing new to him, but his desire to power through and not let these horrid events affect him is powerful, and is instrumental to his identity. We’re lucky to have you, Urso, and we can’t wait to see you take the pitch donning the famous purple kit.

(Mostly Young) Lions Start 2020 the Right Way

The Lions faced Stetson University yesterday, putting in a strong performance and walking away with not only a win, but a clean sheet to boot. A team stacked with young Lions took down Stetson, 3-0, and new Lion Daryl Dike got his name on the score sheet. Check out his goal in the video below, as well as some excellent technical skills shown by others. The result and general feel around the match is entirely positive. I can only hope that this means they put on a show and avoided any serious injuries. As I’ve always said, the future is purple.

Nani Enjoying Himself but 100% Focused

What can I say? I just love me some Nani. The man himself tweeted out yesterday that he’s having fun at work, but more importantly that he’s 100% focused on the new MLS season. I wrongly predicted the Lions breaking into the MLS playoff picture last year, so I won’t do that again, but damn, with a new No. 1 in between the sticks, a new midfielder with loads of experience, and the growth of players like Ruan, Chris Mueller, and Benji Michel? I’d be hard pressed not to beaming with optimism headed into the 2020 season. That said, I don’t want to curse the lads. Perhaps I should predict that they won’t win a single match. Sure, let’s try that and see what happens.

Berhalter Names his 22-Man Roster for Costa Rica

The list is out. Following a few weeks of training here in Florida, Gregg Berhalter is confident in his squad and expects a strong result to get 2020 off to a good start.

“It’s been a good few weeks in Florida. The guys have worked hard and have made progress in all aspects of our game model,” Berhalter said. “We’d like to thank Seattle Sounders and San Jose Earthquakes for their collaboration in releasing their players and wish them success at the start of their campaigns. We now turn our focus to preparing for Costa Rica and encouraging the players to take advantage of the opportunity and finish off the month with a positive result.”

The squad, unsurprisingly, does not include a single player from Orlando City, but it does contain exciting players like Ulysses Llanez of Germany’s Wolfsburg and Paul Arriola of D.C. United. While the squad doesn’t include the most notable players such as Christian Pulisic and DeAndre Yedlin, it certainly looks good on paper. Time will tell, but I have faith in this group, and even more so in Berhalter himself. 2020 will be a great year for the U.S. Men’s National Team. The Yanks face regional rival Costa Rica in the team’s opening match of 2020 on Saturday, Feb. 1 at Dignity Health Sports Park in Carson, CA.

Free Kicks
  • This is bigger news than I think people will give credit to, but the Montreal Impact completed a signing yesterday, permanently acquiring Canadian international Zachary Brault-Guillard from Lyon, following a successful loan spell in 2019. The defender should continue to provide defensive support for the Impact, who will look to rebound following a lackluster 2019 campaign.
  • You’re not reading this, but I have a few (censored) words for the trash who were hurling racist chants at Bilbao’s Inaki Williams during a match. This needs to end. I have no words left. I’m sorry, Inaki. Not everyone on this beautiful planet are awful human beings.
  • Chelsea survived a scare against Hull City yesterday to keep their FA Cup run alive. They’ll want to keep that going, too, with the way the Reds have been looking. C’mon you Reds, you’ll never walk alone!
  • Meanwhile, Arsenal is reportedly close to securing the services of Spanish defender Pablo Mari from Brazilian side Flamengo. I’m not sure this is the signing that’ll turn the fortunes in London for Mikel Arteta, but adding a strong defender who is in his prime can’t hurt, right?
  • To end: Hala Madrid! Barcelona are in some trouble and they don’t have much time to turn things around under new manager Seiten. The Catalonian powerhouse side lost to Valencia yesterday, 2-0. Ah, how the mighty have, well, how the mighty can occasionally fall.
  • And we leave you today with some more good news from the academy side.

All right folks, that’s it from me for today. Like I mentioned previously, I’ll be at the Pro Bowl today. I mean it, drop me a comment, add me on your social media of choice, and let me buy you a drink. You deserve it.