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Lion Links: 2/29/20

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Oscar Pareja ready to roll, OCB takes on UCF, Americans abroad, and more.

Tijuana v Monterrey - Torneo Clausura 2019 Liga MX Photo by Gonzalo Gonzalez/Jam Media/Getty Images

Happy Saturday, Mane Landers. I hope you’re making the most of the extra 24 hours on this leap day, but the moment we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived. Orlando City will kick off its sixth MLS season today, so hopefully you all are pumped right now. I’m very excited and hopeful that this team will do well and make a push towards the MLS playoffs. Now that the preseason is over, the real season begins for the Lions. Let’s get to the links.

Oscar Pareja Ready for 2020 Season Opener

Orlando City is set for its home opener today against Real Salt Lake at Exploria Stadium at 6 p.m. With an expected sellout crowd, new players, and a new coach, you can feel the excitement building for this team as fans remain optimistic about the 2020 season. In his first season with Orlando, Head Coach Oscar Pareja is ready to change the culture of the club and help Orlando write its own story in the league.

“For me, it’s important that the team feels that they are that protagonist, that they have that intention to be the important ones,” Pareja said. “There’s an energy when you have that confidence. It matters. I’m asking my players just to feel important in the games, that we’re not the team that is there waiting to be hit, but [we] are the ones that are having the initiative to go stronger.”

Orlando City B Continues Its Preseason

That won’t be the only match in Orlando tomorrow. Orlando City B will play the University of Central Florida’s soccer team this morning at the UCF Soccer Complex. Things have been fairly quiet on the OCB front, but this should be a great chance for the Young Lions to get some playing time against a local side before the USL League One season begins.

Orlando Pride Confirm Joanna Fennema Retirement

As we mentioned in the Lion Links this Thursday, Joanna Fennema (formerly Boyles) announced her retirement from the game on Instagram. The Orlando Pride officially announced this news as well, confirming her retirement due to a chronic back injury.

“Although my heart and my head wish to continue, my body is saying to stop. After a sudden back injury, it is in my best interest for my future health to retire from soccer,” Fennema said. “I’d to thank the entire Orlando Pride organization, my coaches who helped me fulfill a dream, and my teammates who became great friends throughout my time in Orlando. To the fans, thank you for embracing me over the last year. Orlando will always hold a special place in my heart.”

The 25-year-old appeared in 19 matches for the Pride in her first year with the team and was a bright spot during a rough season. While Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner will certainly miss what she brought to the midfield, he believes she made the correct choice by prioritizing her health.

“We are devastated for Jo but thankful that she was able to catch this injury now and we 100% support her decision to put her health first,” Orlando Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner said. “Jo embodied the passion and dedication of the Pride crest and we are thankful we were able to work with her, even if it was for just a season. We wish Jo the best of luck and she will always be a part of our Pride family.”

Americans Abroad

Giovanni Reyna is still awaiting his first Bundesliga start but has done well lately off the bench for Borussia Dortmund and will want to continue that against a struggling Freiburg side. Other Americans expected to play today include Fabian Johnson for Borussia Monchengladbach as it takes on FC Augsburg. Weston Mckennie and Schalke 04 look to bounce back this weekend when they take on Koln.

Tomorrow’s games in the Bundesliga will feature John Brooks and Wolfsburg hosting Union Berlin. Another match-up has two Americans facing each other as Josh Sargent’s Werder Bremen looks to snap its five-game losing streak against Timothy Chandler’s Eintracht Frankfurt.

Free Kicks
  • MLS released its power rankings yesterday before the season openers. Orlando City is ranked 23rd out of the 26 MLS clubs, for now. Speaking of rankings, Nani placed 30th on this list of the top 100 players in the league.
  • Orlando City was chosen as the team under the most pressure in 2020. Personally, I don’t see it and instead believe that this off-season is laying the foundation for 2021 and beyond.
  • Andrew Wiebe of picked out what to watch for in each MLS game this weekend. For Orlando, he believes midfielder Mauricio Pereyra needs to step up to the plate with Nani suspended.
  • Former Orlando SeaWolves player Gordie Gurson, who now plays for the Florida Tropics, clinched a playoff spot in the MASL Eastern Conference.
  • Red Bull Arena will host the Concacaf Champions League quarterfinal home match for NYCFC against Tigres on March 11.
  • The U-20 United States Women’s National Team looks to remain unbeaten at the Concacaf U-20 Championship with its match today against St. Lucia as the team tries to qualify for the FIFA U-20 World Cup.

That will do it for for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Saturday and go Lions!