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Lion Links: 10/23/20

Daryl Dike named to MLS 22 under 22 list, Orlando City players near debuts, Crystal Dunn traded to the Portland Thorns, and more.

SOCCER: AUG 26 MLS Nashville SC at Orlando City SC

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope you all are hanging in there as October drones on. I’m still trying to get all my ducks in a row before a busy November and the holiday season. Thankfully, we have both Orlando City and Orlando City B action tomorrow afternoon to look forward to. Before we get started on today’s links, let’s wish a happy 23rd birthday to forward Benji Michel!

Daryl Dike Named to MLS 22 Under 22 List

While Michel turns 23 today, fellow Orlando forward Daryl Dike is 20 years old and has done well enough in his rookie season to land on the MLS 22 under 22 list. Ranking at number 10 on the list, Dike’s physicality and finishing ability has made him a strong contender for MLS Rookie of the Year and he’s done well for Orlando with four goals and three assists this year.

One of the top prospects heading into the 2020 MLS SuperDraft, Dike fell to Orlando with the fifth pick and has become a good fit in the center forward position. A season-ending injury to Dom Dwyer earlier this year and a knock to Tesho Akindele opened the door for Dike after he impressed both Oscar Pareja and Luiz Muzzi in training. With five games left this regular season and the playoffs on the horizon, there’s plenty of opportunity for Dike to continue his growth as a Lion.

Lions Near Debuts and Returns

Orlando supporters may get their first look at Matheus Aias tomorrow. After a long wait, the Brazilian forward is finally available for the Lions according to Pareja. Ecuadorian winger Alexander Alvarado is also up for selection, although he likely won’t play tomorrow as he’ll need some time to train under Pareja’s system.

They won’t be the only reinforcements for Orlando. The quarantines for both goalkeeper Pedro Gallese and midfielder Sebas Mendez are in their final day today, giving Pareja some needed help as the team jockeys for playoff position.

Battle for Florida Heats Up

Orlando City will take on Inter Miami tomorrow in the fourth match between the two sides this season and there is plenty to watch for. The Lions beat Miami 2-1 in Exploria Stadium on Sept. 12, but fell to the Herons on the road back on Aug. 22 in their only loss since the MLS is Back Tournament. Orlando will travel to Miami again this weekend, except Miami supporters will be allowed in the stands this time around.

The match is important for both sides as the playoffs near. With injuries and players gone for international duty, Orlando’s center back pairing of Robin Jansson and Antonia Carlos has held it down in defense as one of the more underrated units in MLS. As for Miami’s defense, center back Andres Reyes is ready to return after undergoing surgery for a facial injury earlier this season. I must admit, Reyes looks pretty darn cool with the mask he’ll be wearing in the match if he plays.

Crystal Dunn Traded to the Portland Thorns

With the National Women’s Soccer League season over, Crystal Dunn is heading west to join the Portland Thorns after a three-team trade. Formerly with the North Carolina Courage, Dunn was initially traded to OL Reign for goalkeeper Casey Murphy and $140,000 in allocation money. Then the Thorns acquired Dunn in exchange for a 2022 first-round pick, $200,000 in allocation money, and an international roster spot. The move was sparked by Dunn’s desire to be with her husband, the head athletic trainer for the Thorns. Dunn will also reunite with Thorns Head Coach Mark Parsons, who coached Dunn during her MVP season with the Washington Spirit in 2015.

The NWSL Broke Records in 2020

Despite all of the challenges that come from playing during a pandemic, the NWSL had a remarkable season. It was the first U.S. professional team sport to return this summer and the first to successfully play in a ‘bubble’ situation. In addition, the 2020 Challenge Cup did well during an uncertain time for sports. The league also signed a great broadcast and streaming contract with CBS and Twitch for the Fall Series. All seven of the games broadcast on CBS were the seven most-watched games in NWSL history. On top of that, NWSL mentions on social media skyrocketed by 152% and the league received more media coverage as well. Add in the growing excitement for Racing Louisville FC and Angel City FC, and it all shapes up to be an exciting future for the league.

Free Kicks

That’s going to do it for today, folks. I hope you all have a great Friday and a fantastic weekend!