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Lion Links: 7/18/20

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Orlando City trades for first-round draft pick, North Carolina Courage fall in Challenge Cup, Orlando City B’s schedule is out, and more.

Orlando City SC v Inter Miami CF - MLS Is Back Tournament Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope everyone is doing well this weekend as we are more than halfway through the month. Work has been busier for me now with the Disney theme parks open. I barely had time to watch some soccer, but I’ll be free to watch Orlando City’s next game Monday night. Now, let’s get to the links.

Orlando City Trades for First-Round Pick

Orlando City SC acquired a first-round pick in the 2021 MLS SuperDraft in a trade with the Philadelphia Union. In the other half of the trade, the Lions traded away the Homegrown Player rights for defender Nathan Harriel. The 19-year-old is a Florida native, but became a member of the Union’s academy and signed with the Bethlehem Steel last year. It’s a pretty good trade for the Lions, although the value of that draft pick will depend on how well the Union perform this season.

Oscar Pareja and the Lions Prepare for Monday

Speaking of the Union, the Lions need a win or a draw against them Monday to finish on top of Group A and position themselves nicely moving forward in the MLS is Back tournament. Head Coach Oscar Pareja is keeping the Lions focused in training with a shot at nine points in the group stage on the line.

“The group has been training normally...learning, progressing, and trying to be a better team every day,” said Pareja after Friday’s session. “The group has been concentrating on the things we have done well, but also the things we need to improve, knowing that the next match is very important as well. The objective [is to] keep adding [regular season] points but at the same time have the opportunity to take the next step for what is coming in the tournament.”

The Spotlight Won’t Blind Chris Mueller

Chris Mueller has been in good form since the MLS is Back Tournament started. With three goals in two games, the 23-year-old is just trying to stay focused on his game and not the attention he’s been getting from it.

“Honestly I’m just trying to continue to play my game and not focus too much on the hype,” Mueller said. “I know that nothing’s really happened yet, I just want to continue to play my football and take it game by game. It’s easy to get caught up in that stuff if you read it and look into it a lot and obviously it feels good to score goals and help my team win which is ultimately what I love to do. I think all those things will come in due time as long as I stay focused on the task at hand.”

There’s chatter about Mueller deserving a look to join the United States Men’s National team as well. I expected Mueller to score more this year than in the past. USMNT Head Coach Gregg Berhalter should call him up soon if he keeps this up. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below if Mueller deserves a shot in the Stars & Stripes.

NWSL Challenge Cup Quarterfinal Recap

There was a huge upset in the NWSL Challenge Cup quarterfinals as the top-seeded, two-time league champion North Carolina Courage lost 1-0 to the Portland Thorns. Rookie Morgan Weaver scored the only goal in the 68th minute to send the Thorns into the semifinals. This was the first win in the tournament for the Thorns and they ended the Courage’s four-game win streak and tournament run.

A full 90 minutes couldn’t separate Utah Royals FC and the Houston Dash, with the game coming down to penalty kicks. The Houston Dash came out on top thanks to three big saves by Jane Campbell.

Today’s games will include OL Reign taking on the Chicago Red Stars and the Washington Spirit playing against Sky Blue FC. You can watch these games with a CBS All Access subscription, or follow along on social media. NWSL fans are working hard to make sure the league not only gets the attention it deserves, but encourages growth in the sport moving forward.

Orlando City B Schedule Released

USL League One announced the full league schedule for the 2020 season which starts tonight. There was a change in format for the season and Orlando City B will now play 16 games instead of 20. The Young Lions will start their season on Aug. 1 on the road against South Georgia Tormenta FC. They will then continue the road trip on Aug. 7 against New England Revolution II and will play their first home game at Osceola Heritage Park Aug. 14 against Fort Lauderdale CF.

OCB will conclude its season with a two-game home stand against the Richmond Kickers Oct. 21 and the Greenville Triumph Oct. 24. Fort Lauderdale CF will host Greenville Triumph tonight at 7 p.m. on ESPN+, and Orlando fans may see a familiar face if they tune in as former Lion and Alex Morgan’s husband Servando Carrasco signed with Fort Lauderdale.

MLS is Back Tournament Results

The New England Revolution took the lead after a goal by Designated Player Adam Buksa, but Federico Higuain scored to salvage a point for D.C. United in a 1-1 draw. The Revolution are now tied at the top of Group B with four points and the two teams will fight for control of the group Tuesday morning.

Kellyn Acosta gave the Colorado Rapids an early lead over Sporting Kansas City with a goal in the sixth minute, but the game broke wide open when Rapids center back Danny Wilson was sent off in the 61st minute. Soon after the red card, Sporting KC scored twice to take the lead. Rapids forward Jonathan Lewis scored to level the score, but Graham Zusi scored late in stoppage time to give Sporting KC the 3-2 win.

Both Minnesota United and Real Salt Lake had a chance to clinch a spot in the knockout round, but they played to a 0-0 draw in an even contest. Although they couldn’t come away with a win, the Loons duo of former Lion Kevin Molino and former Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath are doing well in their old stomping ground. The pair were undefeated in the home games played at this venue back in 2014 and have continued that trend in their return with Minnesota.

Free Kicks

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your weekend, take care of yourselves, and I’ll see you next time.