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Lion Links: 2/24/20

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Tesho Akindele and Oscar Pareja reunite, a new era of MLS managers, MLS’ top players, and more.

MLS: Chicago Fire at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Monday, Mane Landers. I’m going to start with a personal shout out to my Sunday league team, Orlando United FC, which held a clean sheet yesterday while scoring three times. It was an impressive showing from the boys, so congratulations are in order.
I managed to put a spot kick right down the center and the keeper saved it, but I did score a header off of a corner kick. Embarrassing is an understatement and I’m my biggest critic, so it’ll be on my mind until I bury the next one. But hey, even the greats miss on occassion (I’m looking at you, Lionel Messi, Sergio Ramos, and David Beckham).

Okay, enough about me. These links are for you! Welcome to a special serving of Monday links since I usually serve you on Sundays. Bon appétit.

A Beautiful Reunion: Tesho and Óscar

Some may already know, but Óscar Pareja drafted Tesho Akindele in 2014 in a surprise move with the sixth overall draft pick. For Akindele, this was a massive surprise as he expected to be drafted in the second round by the LA Galaxy. Akindele, who plied his trade in college’s D2 scene, was elated to be under Pareja and Pareja was happy to work with him for the first five years of his professional playing career. Flash forward to now and a beautiful reunion is upon us as the two both represent the purple Orlando City crest. Akindele’s learned a lot from Pareja and relishes the opportunity to work under his former gaffer for a second spell.

“It’s one of those lead-by-example things because you have no excuse not to be working hard if the boss is working hard,” Akindele said. “He can demand that his players work hard because he’s like, ‘I am putting in these hours; I have the receipts to show you I’m here all the time. I’m working as hard as anyone.’ So it just is it kind of a top-down mentality from there.”

2020: Year of the Foreign Coaches?

MLS has its nuances. It’s a tough league, historically, on foreign mangers that come from outside of the United States and Canada. This has changed in recent years though. Foreign head coaches are finding increased support and success in MLS, with coaches such as Tata Martino, who brought success to Atlanta United, ushering in a new era of management. Of the seven new coaches hired this off-season, six come from outside of the U.S. and Canada, including Orlando’s Pareja. Of those seven, four have no prior MLS experience.

A few years ago, the perception of these moves would be much different than they are now, as some seasoned coaches with ample experience in various leagues around the world failed to live up to club expectations. Now, the expectations remain high, but Tata and a few others have proven that foreigners can truly find success in MLS.

MLS’ Top Players

Are you kidding me, Greg Seltzer? How is Nani not a top winger in your list of the top five MLS players at each position? Given the captain’s 2019 season, I’m surprised but I’m sure he will use it as motivation this year. Orlando City, according to Seltzer, doesn’t have a single player noted on the list. I can’t argue too much, but Pedro Gallese certainly could be a top goalkeeper in the league once he gets going this seaso.

Ruan is also a borderline top right back in my eyes. Other than that, it’s tough to argue that the Lions have any top players. But Nani not being a top winger in the league disqualifies this list as rubbish in my opinion. Meanwhile, rookie Daryl Dike didn’t make it into the top 10 young players to watch in 2020. I’ve had enough, let’s move on to the next link.

MLS Clubs Sharing Fields

This isn’t an entirely new concept, as many MLS clubs share their home grounds with franchises in other sports, but this year is a bit different. The normal suspects remain the same with Atlanta’s soccer and football teams sharing the same turf and the same goes in Chicago, Cincinnati, Houston, New England, Toronto, Nashville, Vancouver, and Seattle. New York’s soccer team and the better baseball team also share a home field.

This year, we can add a few more clubs to that list with Los Angeles and D.C. now sharing their fields with newly-formed XFL teams. Seattle also has an XFL team joining the fray. So if the pitches look a bit strange this season, you’ll now know why. Thankfully, we have a beautiful stadium and pitch here in Orlando that is free from the XFL. Exploria Stadium is amazing and this makes me that much more grateful that we get to attend matches in it.

Free Kicks
  • I’m sure most of us are already well-versed, but in case you’re not, here’s an update on the rule changes coming to MLS for the 2020 season.
  • Four stars? Check. A champion’s badge? Check. That is all.
  • Meanwhile in Rio de Janeiro, Marta is rightfully being worshipped.
  • The San Jose Earthquakes requested permission to rename one of the streets near the stadium to “Wondo Way” as a nod to Chris Wondolowski and his legendary MLS career. Personally, I love this gesture and hope the request is granted.
  • Eden Hazard suffered an injury in Real Madrid’s shocking 1-0 loss at Levante yesterday. This comes just weeks after the 29-year-old Belgian icon returned from a different injury. Get well soon, Hazard!
  • In Paris, Edison Cavani continues to score. I can see Kylian Mbappe beating this record, but I think it’s far more likely that he leaves the club before doing so.
  • And to end our links, the notorious coronavirus has impacted even Barcelona ahead of tomorrow’s Champion’s League round of 16 tie against Napoli. The virus recently broken out in Italy and caused Serie A matches to be canceled. This prompted the Catalan club to go through tests today to ensure that they aren’t infected.

Mane Landers, that’s it for today. Enjoy your Monday and kick some butt this week. I believe in you just as much as Lebron James believes in Jayson Tatum. Go Celtics.