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Lion Links: 11/29/20

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MLS Cup odds, Orlando City set to face New England Revolution, Vanderbilt goalkeeper makes history in another sport, and more.

MLS: New York City FC at Orlando City SC Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Sunday and conference semifinal match day, everyone. The Lions and Revolution will meet this afternoon in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Please pregame accordingly, but do so responsibly.

It seems like this is at least the fourth in a series of “biggest game in club history” matches in 2020. While this has been an interminably long and difficult year, the Lions have been a bright spot thus far, and hopefully that can continue for at least another week. We’ll find out more about that this afternoon. For now, let’s get to the news of the day.

“Never Tell Me the Odds!”

The folks over at FiveThirtyEight give Orlando City only a 14% chance to win MLS Cup, with two Western Conference teams atop the predictions, at 23% apiece. One of those teams with the best odds, per FiveThirtyEight, is Sporting Kansas City — a team Orlando beat on its own home field on Sept. 23. That win took place without Antonio Carlos, and with Chris Mueller, Mauricio Pereyra, and Daryl Dike starting on the bench. The best odds given to an Eastern Conference team is 17% to the Columbus Crew — these odds came out before the Ohio club reported four six seven players positive with COVID-19. You might recall the Lions beat the Crew 2-1 just 25 days ago while a man down for the final 40 minutes, after Nani was sent off in the 52nd minute.

You might think, “Well, to have lower odds than two teams Orlando has already proven it can beat, despite overcoming some obstacles, FiveThirtyEight must really think highly of New England.” Actually, they gave the Revs just a 7% chance to win MLS Cup, so...I don’t know what to make of how they arrived at their conclusions. For my money, Seattle looks like the team to beat on either side of the bracket with its postseason experience and trio of stars all playing in top form at the right time.

Seltzer Predicts Orlando City Win — Is That Bad?

If you’re like me, you never trust the writers at MLSSoccer.com to say nice things about Orlando City. I mean, we’re not used to it after the last six years and I’ve come to mistrust it. So, it makes me extremely nervous that Greg Seltzer picked Orlando City in his conference semifinal MLS playoff predictions.

With the Revs playing their third game in 10 days, I reckon it will be Daryl Dike, Chris Mueller and Nani who spell the slim difference in this one. A 2-1 Orlando City triumph extends their magical season a little longer.

I don’t trust this. I don’t trust it at all. Is it a jinx? Is there such a thing as a jinx? I don’t know, honestly, but I’m not sure I’m ready for the folks who write for the MLS website to be jumping on the team purple bandwagon. It’s Orlando vs. everyone that feels more comfortable and, well, normal.

Pressing Questions Surrounding Orlando City vs. New England

In more normal coverage from the MLS website, Andrew Wiebe raises questions about today’s match. While the biggest one surrounds Orlando’s chances of moving on without Pedro Gallese and Ruan, Wiebe is curious to know whether Chris Mueller and Daryl Dike can rise to the occasion today. It’s a big moment for the two young players, and one that I contemplated on this week’s PawedCast. Neither Mueller nor Dike played like themselves last Saturday vs. New York City FC and it could be first-time MLS playoff jitters. With a match under their belts, will they shake off those jitters and perform against the Revs? On the other side of the ledger, Wiebe’s pressing question about New England is whether Adam Buksa and Gustavo Bou can benefit from the “Carles Gil effect.” We’re hoping, well, no.

Vanderbilt Goalkeeper Sarah Fuller Makes History

While Sarah Fuller is an outstanding soccer player, she made history in another sport on Saturday. Fuller became the first woman to appear in a Power 5 college football game as the placekicker for the Vanderbilt Commodores in a Southeastern Conference game against the Missouri Tigers. Vanderbilt’s special teams were decimated by COVID-19 positive tests, so coach Derek Mason reached out to the school’s soccer team for help. Fuller, who wore “Play Like A Girl” on the back of her helmet, entered the game officially at the start of the second half to handle the kickoff.

With what must have been an insane amount of nerves, and with her team trailing 21-0, she went out and did her job. Unfortunately, her team was so awful it couldn’t get into scoring position all day against a team that entered at 3-3 on the season, so she wasn’t able to attempt a scoring kick. Still, Fuller seemed upbeat after the game and had advice for young girls watching:

Free Kicks
  • Miggy sets the stage for today (and I’m always here for Anchorman clips.
  • U.S. midfielder Duane Holmes scored his first goal of the season for Derby County on Saturday. It turned out to be the winning goal in a 1-0 victory over Wycombe.
  • The Columbus Crew have confirmed seven total players have tested positive for COVID-19, and while they aren’t going to name those players, there are seven names on the “not medically cleared to play” list.
  • Apparently tired of taking beatings at the hands of the USWNT, England is planning its own version of the SheBelieves Cup.
  • Those born on this date include novelists Louisa May Alcott (1832), C.S. Lewis (1898), and Madeleine L’Engle (1918), sportscaster Vin Scully (1927), legendary blues musician John Mayall (1933), Montrose founder and guitarist Ronnie Montrose (1947), wrestling commentator Jerry “The King” Lawler (1949), Gary Shandling (1949), original Boston guitarist Barry Goudreau (1951), actor Jeff Fahey (1952), director Joel Coen of Coen Brothers fame (1954), Howie Mandel (1955), 1980 U.S. hockey gold medalist Neal Broten (1959), “Brat Pack” actor Andrew McCarthy (1962), Don Cheadle (1964), U.S. soccer legend Kasey Keller (1969), baseball’s Mariano Rivera (1969), Ryan Giggs (1973), recently deceased Chadwick Boseman (1976), Anna Faris (1976), and American football’s Russell Wilson (1988) and Stefon Diggs (1993).

That’s all for me this morning. I’ll be back throughout the day with full coverage of Orlando City vs. the New England Revolution. If you’re going to the match, please be safe and wear a mask.