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Lion Links: 11/14/20

Daryl Dike’s rookie season, Nani among top jersey sales, Austin Aviza up for USL League One Save of the Year, and more.

Orlando City SC v Inter Miami CF Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Happy Saturday, everyone. There’s no Orlando City game today, but there’s plenty of international soccer to whet your appetite until next weekend rolls around. Before we jump into today’s links, let’s wish a happy 20th birthday to Orlando midfielder Andres Perea!

Recapping Dike’s Rookie Year

Daryl Dike is having a great rookie season, but it didn’t necessarily always seem like that would be the case. He had a slightly inauspicious start to MLS play, and didn’t do a ton during the limited minutes he received during the MLS is Back Tournament. Things really got going during the restarted regular season, when Dike scored his first goal against Inter Miami in the first game after the restart. Since then, he’s continued to rack up goals and assists and is now second in goal contributions for OCSC, with eight goals and four assists. He’s one of the final three nominees for the MLS Young Player of the Year award, and there’s been some buzz around the youngster getting some time with the United States Men’s National Team. Hopefully that high level of play will only continue during the playoffs.

Nani Among Top Jersey Sellers

MLS released the top 25 jerseys sold on the MLS online store during the 2020 season. The list contained some predictable faces, with Carlos Vela, Javier Hernandez, and Josef Martinez coming in at first, second, and third, respectively. Nani made the top 10, coming in seventh behind Gonzalo Higuain. Fellow Miami newcomer Blaise Matuidi finished ninth, and Brenden Aaronson rounded out the top 10. Lucas Zelarayan came in at no. 24, with Ezequiel Barco rounding out the top 25.

Important Signings for Postseason Teams

With the start of the Major League Soccer playoffs right around the corner, Tom Bogert of MLSsoccer.com took the time to identify the most important 2020 signing for each team who reached the postseason. For Orlando City, Pedro Gallese was chosen. His ability to make the sort of elite saves that keep his team in a game is certainly invaluable, but Antonio Carlos and Dike probably also have cases to make. Regardless, El Pulpo isn’t a bad choice, and it’s not something I disagree with too much.

Pair of MLS Awards Handed Out

Bradley Wright-Phillips was named this year’s MLS Comeback Player of the Year. After a 2019 that saw the striker deal with some injury issues in his last season with the New York Red Bulls, there were some questions about his ability to be productive for new club LAFC. While he might not have blown the doors off statistically, eight goals and six assists in 18 matches is a respectable return. He helped LAFC retain its firepower during Carlos Vela’s absence for much of the year. Former Lion Kevin Molino finished second with 21.89% of the vote, trailing behind Wright-Phillips’ 39.99%.

Elsewhere, the Columbus Crew’s Lucas Zelarayan was named MLS Newcomer of the Year. The Argentinean had an impressive first season in the U.S., with six goals and four appearances in 16 games. Outside of the stats though, he was a main creative force for a Columbus Crew team that had a very successful season and was in the running for the Supporters’ Shield for much of the season. Zelarayan narrowly beat out Robert Beric for the honors, with Alan Pulido coming in third in the voting.

Austin Aviza in the Running for Save of the Year

Three of former Orlando City B goalkeeper Austin Aviza’s saves are nominated for the USL League One Fan’s Choice Save of the Year. Unlike MLS, the format to decide which save was the best of the season is a knockout tournament. Aviza’s three saves are all on the same side of the bracket, meaning there is a decent chance he can make it far in the voting process. He may no longer be with OCB, but it will still be nice to see him walk away victorious.

Mo Salah Contracts COVID-19

Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah has tested positive for COVID-19 while on international duty with Egypt. The winger was likely going to play for Egypt in a pair of Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Togo during the international window, but obviously that will no longer be the case. There has been no word on whether or not he will be able to return to England to begin his period of self-isolation, but it’s a blow for Liverpool either way. The team recently lost Joe Gomez to knee surgery, and while Salah will probably only miss a couple games, the team has been bitten hard by the injury bug.

Free Kicks
  • Hopefully this is exactly how the playoffs shake out.
  • Gallese is with Peru for a pair of World Cup qualifying matches and started in a tough loss to Chile. Arturo Vidal had a brace in the 2-0 result and his first goal was spectacular to beat Gallese and give his team the lead.

That’ll do it for me today. Y’all stay safe out there.