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Lion Links: 12/8/20

Pozuelo wins MVP, Kansas City back in NWSL, Sounders reach final again, and more.

New England Revolution v Orlando City SC: Eastern Conference Semifinals - MLS Cup Playoffs Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

Good morning and happy Tuesday, everyone. Orlando City’s season might be over but you still might be able to catch some young Lions in action when the United States plays El Salvador tomorrow. With any luck, Chris Mueller, Daryl Dike, and Andres Perea will all get some playing time and manage to impress. There’s plenty to go over today, so let’s hop on in.

Pozuelo Wins MVP

Alejandro Pozuelo has won the 2020 Landon Donovan MLS Most Valuable Player Award. He finished the season tied for the most assists in Major League Soccer, with 10, and tied for the eighth-most goals, with nine. He was important in helping Toronto to the second-best record in both the Eastern Conference and the league. He also led the league in chances created, with 70, and game-winning goals, with five. In addition, he was the only player to start every match this season, and played the ninth-most minutes in the league.

Sounders Reach MLS Cup Final After Wild Comeback

Keep former Orlando City coach Adrian Heath and former Lion Kevin Molino in your thoughts today after they suffered the biggest gut punch loss imaginable. Minnesota United led 2-0 at Seattle entering the 75th minute last night and lost, 3-2. The Sounders are back in the MLS Cup final like guests who just won’t leave. It was an incredible match, with former Orlando defender Shane O’Neill lucky he wasn’t sent off for a straight-leg, studs-up challenge on Ethan Finlay that led to Emanuel Reynoso’s gorgeous free kick goal to open the scoring. Bakaye Dibassy made it 2-0 in the 67th minute from a Reynoso set piece delivery, and the Loons looked to be on their way to Columbus.

But Will Bruin struck after a fortunate bounce fell at his feet in the 75th, turning up the heat. Raul Ruidiaz leveled the game in the 89th minute and the game appeared headed to extra time when Gustav Svensson scored off a corner in the 93rd to break Minnesota hearts. Talk about a tough way to end your season.

Kansas City Returns to NWSL

Kansas City will be returning to the National Women’s Soccer League. After Utah Royals FC closed down its operations, it was announced that all player rights, draft picks, and some other assets of the club will be transferred to an expansion team that will play in Kansas City. The team will begin play in 2021 under an ownership group led by Angie and Chris Long. The arrangement will also allow the Utah Royals FC name and franchise to potentially be re-established in 2023. A statement released by Utah stated that the club intends to bring the franchise back as soon as possible, so that will be something to watch for.

Previewing USMNT-El Salvador

The United States Men’s National Team will face El Salvador tomorrow, and the folks over at Stars and Stripes FC have you covered with a preview of the opposition. The Yanks are 17-1-5 all-time against El Salvador, which has only lost once since Carlos de los Cobos took over in 2018. While it’ll be missing a few key players, the squad will be close to full strength. Expect to see the visitors come out in either a 4-2-3-1 or 4-1-4-1, with the strongest part of the team being the back line. Darwin Ceren will be a familiar face in midfield, with Andres Flores another MLS player, although he was recently released by the Houston Dynamo. Even though the USMNT will field a young side that’s largely inexperienced at the international level, it should still be a win for the good guys.

Taylor Smith Returns to Courage in Trade

The North Carolina Courage have acquired Taylor Smith and the rights to Jodie Taylor from OL Reign in a trade for Ally Watt. Smith is a defender who spent time with the Courage in the past, playing for the club in the 2017 season and was also with the Western New York Flash in 2016, when she helped the team win the NWSL championship. Taylor is a 34-year-old English international currently playing for Olympique Lyonnais on loan from OL Reign. She has also spent time with the Portland Thorns and Washington Spirit. Meanwhile the Courage sent Watt, the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NWSL Draft, to the Reign.

Free Kicks
  • Mario Balotelli has a new club.

That’ll be all for me. Y’all stay safe out there.