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Lion Links: 2/26/20

Orlando City’s versatile offense, Nani talks rivalries, Pride schedule announced, and more.

SOCCER: OCT 06 MLS - Chicago Fire at Orlando City SC Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Good morning, Mane Land! I hope this Wednesday finds you all well. Let’s jump right into today’s links.

Orlando City’s Offense Without Star Players

Nani will miss the first two matches due to a suspension he picked up at the end of last season, while Dom Dwyer is unlikely to play Saturday due to injury. Óscar Pareja’s offense against Real Salt Lake will likely rely on Tesho Akindele and Benji Michel as the attacking positions up top.

“I don’t really feel too much pressure, because I think that we have a lot of good players on our team,” Akindele said. “Last year, we created a lot of chances, and maybe we didn’t finish well, which is the easier part of the game. I would be more concerned if we were not creating any chances.”

Orlando City’s Growing Rivalries

Nani shared that he is excited for the rivalry-like atmosphere bound to fuel the passion from fans and teams alike when Orlando takes on Atlanta United and Inter Miami this season.

“It will improve the passion of this league,” Nani recently told CNN about Orlando facing Inter Miami. “It’s very important to have these kinds of games. They give more motivation to the players because there’s more quality to do the maximum. I’m so excited that I cannot wait for this first derby. But for sure it will be a great game for the fans, for us the players, because we need to provoke good energy and a good environment for the game and give the fans the passion they like.” Nani added, “I think the focus is to build a strong team who can compete with the best teams in MLS, and from there see where our ambitions can be, but without a strong team, you cannot dream or put your targets where we want.”

Speaking of El Capitan, recently ranked Nani 31st on its list of the top 50 MLS players to kick off the 2020 season.

Orlando Pride 2020 Full Schedule Announced

The complete NWSL schedule was released yesterday. The schedule is no picnic for the Pride, with seven of their first 10 games on the road. It’s also predicted that the international players will likely miss up to five home matches when pre-Olympic camps and summer Olympics come around. The Pride are going to have to work extra hard to win on the road and make the most of the nine-game stretch from June 26 to Aug. 30 when they will see seven matches at home in Exploria Stadium.

Shelina Zadorsky Called Up

Canada Soccer announced its roster for the Tournoi de France taking place early this March. The Orlando Pride’s Shelina Zadorksy was called up for the challenge. The tournament will feature four nations, with Canada taking the Netherlands, Brazil, and France. It should be good preparation for Zadorsky and Canada with the Olympics right around the corner.

Leroux Weighs in on WNBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement

The fight for equal pay is far from over, but the Women’s National Basketball Association’s new collective bargaining agreement could put the ball in motion for all of women’s sports with its player-first mentality that raises wages, enhances travel standards, includes child care and support, and provides maternity and family benefits. Pride forward Sydney Leroux had plenty to say when comparing the WNBA’s new agreement to playing in the National Women’s Soccer League.

“If you’re not on the national team, you’re sitting in the back seat. I think we need to make it important that it touches everybody. What we’re doing is only affecting certain people and I think that that’s not good enough because we’re losing out on really good athletes because you can’t survive on an NWSL salary. People have different jobs, people’s parents are helping them and that’s not OK. This isn’t a hobby, this is our livelihood.”

Free Kicks

That’ll do it for me today, Mane Landers. I’ll be testing students all day, but I do hope you all have a fabulous day and stay safe!