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Lion Links: 11/21/20

Orlando City hosts New York City FC, Nashville SC and the New England Revolution advance, Americans abroad, and more.

MLS: Nashville SC at Orlando City SC Jonathan Dyer-USA TODAY Sports

Hello, Mane Landers. It’s playoff time as we have an Orlando City game day. The Lions will make their first appearance in the MLS playoffs today. If you’re going to the game, please stay safe. Like many of you right now, I’m pumped and noon can’t get here soon enough. Let’s get to the links.

Orlando City Ready for First Playoff Appearance

Today, the Lions will make their MLS postseason debut against New York City FC at noon in the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs. All available tickets for the match have sold out, but you’ll be able to watch the game locally on Fox 35 Plus or UniMás/TUDN for the Spanish broadcast. Ironically, the Lions make their playoff debut against the same team they entered MLS expansion with back in 2015. Oscar Pareja has the team ready for the next challenge in this historic season for the Lions.

“We’re very proud to play our first [playoff] game in team history. The boys have done a terrific effort on taking the team to this stage and we want more. I think we’re capable, I think we have a team who has proved themselves, that we have the players and the idea of the game to compete with anyone in the league,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said. “Now it’s a new story, it’s a new tournament, it’s everybody playing for that one game and we will try to do as much as we can at our training ground just to prepare ourselves to do that.”

This match will be the third meeting between these two clubs this season. NYCFC enters the game on a four-game winning streak. Valentín Castellanos finished the year as the leading scorer for NYCFC with six goals while Chris Mueller leads the Lions with 10 goals, followed by rookie Daryl Dike with eight. The winner of this game will move on to the semifinals, which start on Nov. 29.

Dike Discusses Past and Future

On the ExtraTime podcast, Dike shared about his time with Orlando City and his international future. The rookie weighed in on the impact soccer and the Nigerian national team have had on him and his family. Dike also spoke about the strikers he’s looked up to over the years, including Didier Drogba and Romelu Lukaku. He’s had a stellar year with the Lions and the interview is well worth checking out.

MLS Play-In Round Recap

The postseason got off to a great start as the New England Revolution defeated the Montreal Impact 2-1 at Gillette Stadium. Carles Gil scored the first goal in the 38th minute to give the Revs a 1-0 lead. In the second half, Romell Quioto equalized on a header but Gustavo Bou scored a laser strike from distance late in stoppage time to send the Revs through in dramatic fashion. The Revolution will play the Philadelphia Union on Nov. 24.

In the later game, Nashville SC won 3-0 over a shorthanded Inter Miami squad that was without Gonzalo Higuain, Federico Higuain, and Leandro Gonzalez Pirez after they tested positive for COVID-19. Randall Leal, Hany Mukhtar, and Dax McCarty all found the back of the net at home and Nashville will now take on Toronto FC on Nov. 24.

MLS Best XI Revealed

No Lions made the cut for the 2020 MLS Best XI. Big names like Diego Rossi, Jonathan Mensah, and Andre Blake highlight the list, with seven clubs represented for this shortened season. The other forwards include Jordan Morris and Raul Ruidiaz, while Brenden Aaronson, Alejandro Pozuelo, Diego Chara, and Nicolas Lodeiro make up the midfield. Joining Mensah on defense is Walker Zimmerman and Mark McKenzie after strong years from both.

U.S. to Play El Salvador in Fort Lauderdale

The United States Men’s National Team will play a friendly Dec. 9 against El Salvador at Inter Miami Stadium in Fort Lauderdale. This will be a closed door friendly and the first international match held at the 18,000-seat stadium. The USMNT just finished a pair of international friendlies, getting a 0-0 draw against Wales and a 6-2 win against Panama. For El Salvador, this will be its first match in nearly 10 months since the coronavirus pandemic began. Presumably, Gregg Berhalter will use the match to evaluate MLS players since the last two friendlies featured European-based American players.

Americans Abroad

Speaking of Americans abroad, European soccer returns this weekend after the international break. Christian Pulisic is expected to be out for Chelsea when it faces Newcastle United this morning at 7:30 a.m. Over on ESPN+ in the Bundesliga, Josh Sargent’s Werder Bremen will travel to face FC Bayern Munich, John Brooks’ Wolfsburg side looks to stay unbeaten when it plays FC Schalke 04, and Tyler Adams’ RB Leipzig travels to face Eintracht Frankfurt. Meanwhile, Giovanni Reyna’s Borussia Dortmund squad looks to bounce back from defeat as it travels to the capital to play Hertha Berlin.

In Serie A, Weston McKennie’s Juventus hosts Cagliari at 2:45 p.m. as it tries to get its season back on track. Tomorrow, Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson could play as Fulham takes on an Everton team that has lost three straight matches.

Free Kicks
  • Former Lion Miguel Gallardo named his rookie of the year. Can you guess who it is?
  • Former Orlando City captain Kaká wished the Lions good luck for their first playoff match.
  • Iron Man athlete Chris Nikic also pumped up the Lions ahead of today’s game.

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy the game today, take care of yourselves, and go Lions!