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Lion Links: 5/24/20

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Jordan Bender wants to prove himself, Cyle Larin is still scoring goals, Chris Mueller’s book club, and more.

MLS: 2020 MLS Portraits USA TODAY Sports

Happy Sunday, everyone. I hope you’re enjoying your holiday weekend and that you’re not about to stop being vigilant and cautious about your health just because some things are starting to open up.

Although I’m mostly back in the office during the week, I’m continuing to stay home as much as I can — something made a bit easier now that our contractor has finished building our spacious screen room on the back of our house. Soon we’ll have furniture out there and I’ll be able to relax out back with a cold beer in hand. But for now I’m watching the Bundesliga and NASCAR (yay, live sports!) and enjoying my full Marvel Cinematic Universe rewatch. I’m also finding other fun stuff to watch, like the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt: Kimmy vs. the Reverend interactive episode on Netflix.

How are you spending your time these days? Let me know below in the comments section after you breeze through today’s helping of Lion Links.

Bender Eager to Prove Himself

When midfielder Jordan Bender surprisingly featured in some preseason matches before the 2019 MLS season, many fans were impressed by the Orlando City Development Academy prospect and assumed he’d have an excellent season with OCB in USL League One. But an injury to start the season limited Bender and eventually he spent more time with the U-19 team as current OCB gaffer and then-academy director Marcelo Neveleff wanted Bender to avoid complacency.

“I wanted him to be hungry again,” Neveleff said. “To see him grow like that, right away, I knew that this was a player who could play at the highest level if we pushed him in the right way.

The 18-year-old was brought up on South African soccer — with both his father and grandfather both having played there. If his development continues, we could start seeing more of him in purple for years to come.

Cyle Larin: Still Good at Soccer

Some Orlando City fans will never forgive Canadian striker Cyle Larin for the way he left the club. Although I think it was a regrettable departure, the fact is that Larin was grossly underpaid for his production and he was always going to leave for Europe. I’d have loved to have gotten a full 2018 season with Larin up top alongside Dom Dwyer — something I wrote about recently — but, alas, it never came to be. With rumors swirling of a return to MLS, Larin has continued scoring goals in Europe and appears to have picked up a few new tricks. And he looks to have perhaps gotten faster. Check out this highlight video and see whether you think he’d be a good fit for what Oscar Pareja is building here.

Join Chris Mueller’s Book Club

In case you haven’t heard, Orlando City forward Chris Mueller has started a book club for people who are “goal-oriented” and want to “maximize their potential.” Self-described as a “huge reader,” Mueller said he likes to read about topics that will allow him to improve in various areas of life. If interested, you can sign up for the BTB Book Club here.

Free Kicks
  • If you missed this week’s Orlando City Classic — a 4-1 win over the Portland Timbers — you can still see it on demand (region locked to the greater Orlando area only).
  • World Cup winner Mario Gotze will become available this summer according to Borussia Dortmund’s sporting director. What do you think? Would the 27-year-old, five-time Bundesliga champion look good in purple?
  • The MLS website’s jersey vote is winding down but of course it’s completely invalid because the 2017 Orlando City home jersey with the sweet, sweet collar is obviously the best ever.
  • Those born on this date include Harry Houdini (1874), Three’s Company actor Norman Fell (1924), Steve McQueen (1930), Full Metal Jacket star R. Lee Ermey (1944), singer-songwriter Nick Lowe (1949), designer Tommy Hilfiger (1951), comedian/actor Louis Anderson (1953), Weird Science star Kelly Le Brock (1960), German pop star (“99 Luftballons”) Nena (1960), pro wrestling’s The Undertaker (1965), Big Bang Theory star Jim Parsons (1973), Alyson Hannigan (1974), Peyton Manning (1976), and Brazil midfielder Ramires (1987).

That’s my time for today. Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend.