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Lion Links: 2/28/20

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Orlando City names coaches, Lions close to an opening day sellout, Kamal Miller improving, and more.

SOCCER: JUL 27 MLS - Orlando City SC at New England Revolution Photo by Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

How’s it going, Mane Landers? It’s the last day before Orlando City returns and MLS’ 25th season begins. The preseason officially ends today, so if you have any rituals left to perform or voodoo to cast to ensure that the Lions have a good season, now is the time. Hopefully this season goes well for the Lions with plenty of new players and a new head coach. But for now, let’s get to the links.

OCSC Announces 2020 Coaching Staff

Orlando City announced its technical staff for the upcoming season and the group features familiar faces from Head Coach Oscar Pareja’s time with FC Dallas and Club Tijuana. Fabian and Jose Maria “Josema” Bazan were both named to the staff and the brothers are joined by Cesar Baena.

Josema Bazan will once again fill the role as Pareja’s assistant coach, while Fabian Bazan brings 30 years of experience to his strength and conditioning position. As for Baena, he has worked with OCSC since 2017 and will serve as the club’s goalkeeping coach this season. While the official announcement is recent, this trio has been with the club for training and the preseason and should help Pareja get the Lions ready for the long season.

Season Opener Approaching Sellout Crowd

Less than 1,000 tickets remain for Orlando City’s season opener at Exploria Stadium against Real Salt Lake tomorrow at 6 p.m. The stadium has a capacity of 25,500 fans and should be loud for the Lions’ first game of the 2020 season. Orlando has yet to lose a season opener and this is the second time it will host Real Salt Lake to kick off a season. There is plenty to watch for in this one for both sides, with the biggest news leading up to the match being Real Salt Lake officially signing veteran striker Giuseppe Rossi. The match should be a great one and a chance for thousands of Orlando fans to see the team in action.

Kamal Miller Ready for Sophomore Season

Orlando City defender Kamal Miller had a strong rookie season, competing for a starting spot on the left side of defense. The Canadian showed both resilience and versatility and earned a call-up to play for his country throughout 2019 as well. Now, Miller is ready to improve further in Pareja’s system and his head coach likes what he’s seen from the 22-year-old thus far.

“Kamal is growing,” Pareja said. “He’s growing like many others that are still very young. I have a player that is very receptive to information, and despite his youth, I think he has many games under his belt. And what he’s proven so far is he’s competing very hard for the position.”

Pride Players Abroad

In case you missed it, the Orlando Pride’s Carson Pickett scored twice for the Brisbane Roar in Australia’s W-League. Pickett’s performance helped the Roar win 5-0 over Canberra United and also landed her a spot on the Round 13 Team of the Week. Alongside her on Team of the Week was Pride teammate Emily van Egmond, who continues wreaking havoc in the midfield and giving defenders headaches.

In this weekend’s action, Alanna Kennedy and Sydney FC face off against the Melbourne Victory. Pickett and the Roar have a tough match against van Egmond, Claire Emslie, and the rest of Melbourne City.

Free Kicks
  • If you somehow aren’t hyped for this season to start, then enjoy the second part of the Bleed Purple series.
  • Here’s how to check out tomorrow’s game, although it looks like there isn’t a local streaming option. Outside the Orlando market, you can watch on ESPN+.
  • Orlando City midfielder Chris Mueller echoed a lot of supporters when he spoke to the media, talking about how everyone can’t wait to get the ball rolling in 2020.
  • Andrew Wiebe of MLSsoccer.com took some shots in the dark on who will win MLS awards at the end of the season. No Lions are frontrunners, but Daryl Dike was noted in the Rookie of the Year race. Pareja was also given an honorable mention for the Sigi Schmid Coach of the Year title.
  • ESPN tackled the biggest questions facing each MLS club, stating that Orlando’s was whether or not it would make the playoffs. In my opinion, if the club doesn’t make the playoffs then that doesn’t necessarily mean 2020 was a failure. Let me know what you think about the importance of making the playoffs this year in the comments below.
  • In Concacaf Champions League action, the Seattle Sounders fell in penalty kicks to Olimpia and were eliminated. Meanwhile, LAFC pulled off a needed 3-0 win to sink Leon and advance to the quarterfinals.
  • We end our links with some great news regarding the National Women’s Soccer League. After three years of vacancy, the NWSL hired the accomplished Lisa Baird as its new commissioner.

That’s going to do it for the last links of the preseason. I hope you all get plenty of rest today and prepare for a wild tomorrow.