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Lion Links: 3/10/20

Pride announce preseason roster, Nani looks to lead and elevate, Ertz is key for the USWNT and more.

SOCCER: OCT 12 NWSL - Reign FC at Orlando Pride Photo by Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Happy Tuesday, everyone. It was an unfortunate result for Orlando City over the weekend, but the other team that plays in purple has begun its preparations for the new season, so it isn’t all bad. In fact, there’s plenty to discuss this morning so let’s have at it. But first, we want to wish a happy birthday to both Junior Urso and Santiago Patino.

Pride Start Preseason

The Orlando Pride began preseason yesterday, and with the first day of preparations for the 2020 NWSL season getting underway, the team also released its preseason roster. The Pride opened preseason with 38 players listed on its roster, although only 26 were at the first day of camp due to either being away on international duty or wrapping up foreign campaigns in Australia’s Westfield W-League. Specifically, there are nine players away on international duty, and Emily van Egmond, Claire Emslie, and Alanna Kennedy are finishing out their W-League seasons. Alex Morgan meanwhile, is not yet at camp due to her pregnancy. Further making up that final number of 38 are the Pride’s seven selections in the 2020 NWSL College Draft — three of whom have been signed to contracts.

Nani Looks to Lead After Suspension

This Saturday will be Nani’s first game back from a suspension that saw him miss the first two games of this season. Upon his return, he’s looking to lead on the field in the same way that he’s already been doing off it.

“It means you don’t just focus on your performance and what you have to do,” Nani said. “You have to pay attention to a lot of things for the team, for your teammates. I try to be an example on the field for the ones who are following, the ones who see me as a role model”

On a team with plenty of new faces, his leadership this year will be important, and he certainly seems to recognize that. It should also be interesting to see what sort of season he’s able to put together after having had a full off-season and preseason with the club. He himself said that he felt like he caught a second wind towards the end of the year after a dip in form during the summer. Either way, it’ll certainly be good to have him back.

Lions Again See Low Expected Goals Against Number in Week 2

For the second week in a row I’m going to draw your attention to the expected goals of Orlando’s opponents over the weekend. Colorado finished the game with 0.63, which was the fourth-lowest total of the weekend. Obviously, the Lions conceded two goals and eventually lost the game, and xG is by no means a perfect metric by which to measure how good a team is. Those low numbers may point to increased defensive stability over last year and they may not — only time will tell. I do think it’ll be very interesting to track those xG numbers over the course of the season though, especially if the Lions can start getting results.

Ertz Important for USWNT

Julie Ertz scored the winning goal in the USWNT’s rather narrow 1-0 victory over Spain on Sunday. Putting her well-taken goal aside, the game also showed why she’s so important for the USWNT’s success. Spain did a pretty good job of beating the U.S. press and getting into the midfield. Ertz took it upon herself to step up and put in all sorts of hard defensive work in midfield. She did an excellent job of making both interceptions and tackles, and she seemed not to tire even in the face of the considerable amount of running she did on the night. On a typically high octane U.S. the plaudits more often than not go to frequent goal scorers like Megan Rapinoe or Alex Morgan. Keep an eye on Ertz next time you watch a game though, and you’ll probably see her doing a lot of what makes the team successful.

Free Kicks

That’ll be all for me today. Don’t forget that Orlando City is back at home against the Chicago Fire this Saturday at 7:30 p.m. Y’all stay safe out there.