How’s it going, Mane Landers? The postseason is officially here and Orlando City takes the field tomorrow at noon against New York City FC in its first MLS playoff game. I’ve been a bundle of anxiety and excitement all week and I’m glad there’s only day left to wait. So for now, let’s just enjoy these links from around the soccer world.
Pedro Gallese Expected to Play for Orlando
The Orlando City goalkeeper took a charter flight to Orlando after his World Cup qualifying match with Peru and is expected to be available for tomorrow’s playoff game. Gallese started for Peru this past Tuesday in a 2-0 loss against Argentina, but Major League Soccer pushed for South American players to be chartered to the U.S. so that they can play in the MLS postseason this weekend.
However, Orlando midfielder Sebas Mendez won’t be available for the Lions tomorrow. Unable to take a charter flight due to an Ecuadorian teammate’s positive test for the coronavirus, Mendez took a commercial flight and will have to undergo a nine-day quarantine.
Robin Jansson and Antonio Carlos Lead the Defense
It’s hard to believe this is Carlos’ first year with Orlando considering just how well he paired up with Jansson this season. The center back pairing has anchored an Orlando defense that only allowed 25 goals in 22 games. Although they don’t share a language, their connection has secured results for Orlando. Head Coach Oscar Pareja not only praised them, but the defense as a whole ahead of a tough battle against the surging NYCFC offense.
“Antonio [Carlos] has been a great company for Robin [Jansson]. All of our defenders have upgraded their game and the most important is that they have been working together. They are gelling together, they’re getting more connections and understanding more their responsibility as a group,” Pareja said of the connections at the back. “Understanding is a big part of our games that they have that solidness and they have that balance. It’s about us just growing in those relationships and they’re doing a great job indeed.
Mauricio Pereyra is Rested and Ready for the Playoffs
Orlando’s success in the playoffs may hinge on Pereyra’s performance considering he brings out the best of the team while pulling strings in the midfield. The Uruguayan wasn’t able to play in Orlando’s final regular season game after yellow card accumulation, but will be more than ready for tomorrow’s match.
With his family currently in Uruguay, Pereyra has been focused entirely on soccer and keeps up with watching the past teams he’s played for. After spending seven seasons with FC Krosnodar in Russia, he has taken full advantage of the patience he’s able to have with the ball in MLS and continues to build a strong rapport with Nani.
Chris Mueller’s Impact for the Lions
With 10 goals and seven assists in a shortened season, Mueller is having a breakout season in his third year in Orlando. Selected in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft with the sixth overall pick, Mueller’s taken his game to the next level in Pareja’s system and is the sixth Lion in the MLS era to finish a season with double-digit goals, joining Cyle Larin (three times), Kevin Molino, Dom Dwyer, Nani, and Tesho Akindele. Mueller did well in the MLS is Back Tournament, including scoring a brace against NYCFC in the group stage.
MLS Postseason Begins Tonight
While we have to wait for Orlando’s game, the Eastern Conference play-in games start tonight. At 6:30 p.m., the New England Revolution host the Montreal Impact in a match highlighted by its coaches. Bruce Arena had high praise for Thierry Henry, who led the Impact to the playoffs for the first time since 2016 in his first year at the helm. This is the fifth meeting between the two sides this year and the shorthanded Impact will need to be at their best if they want to advance.
Later tonight, at 9 p.m., Nashville SC takes on Inter Miami in a battle between 2020’s expansion clubs. Nashville General Manager Mike Jacobs is fine with having his side underestimated against a star-studded Miami team and the match is certainly heating up. Nashville has been a defensive force to be reckoned with this season, with only 22 conceded goals and MLS Defensive Player of the Year Walker Zimmerman on the back line. That defense will have its hands full against Gonzalo Higuain and Rodalfo Pizarro, who is available for the match after catching a charter flight.
- Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and Orlando Magic center Nikola Vucevic are ready to roll for the Lions’ first postseason appearance.
- Pride players Alex Morgan and Shelina Zadorsky are on loan with Tottenham Hotspur and will have a new head coach at the helm with Rehanne Skinner taking over. Despite the shared last name and nationality, there’s no relation between their new coach and Pride coach Marc Skinner.
- MLS laid off 20% of its staff as the pandemic continues to take a toll on the sports industry.
- Ismail Elfath was named MLS Referee of the Year for the first time in his career. Also, Kathryn Nesbitt was named MLS Assistant Referee of the Year, becoming the first woman to do so. You may recall them both from the MLS is Back Tournament final featuring Orlando.
- As Christian Pulisic continues to struggle with injuries, Chelsea manager Frank Lampard is seeking a solution to his fitness woes.
- Pep Guardiola signed a new two-year contract with Manchester City and will be with the club through the summer of 2023.
- After criticism from Antoine Greizmann’s agent, Barcelona icon Lionel Messi is fed up with being blamed for the club’s issues.
That’s all I have for you today, Mane Landers. I hope you have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend. Go Lions!