Merry Monday morning, Mane Landers! I have to admit that my interest in the NWSL Challenge Cup lessened when the Pride made the decision not to attend. I was also skeptical of the Orlando Pride marketing team changing their Twitter account to a “stan” account.
For those that are not familiar with the term, a “stan” is a super fan. It’s a reference to the Eminem song by the same name, though that song is a bit darker in nature. As I said, I was skeptical, but then I saw the quality of the GIFs, and the push back from other clubs and their fans, as the Pride seemingly cursed every team they decided to back. Indeed the curse took down four out of four clubs over the weekend, including the tournament favorite North Carolina Courage. Frankly, it was some of the best stuff on Twitter and I urge you to go back and check out the drama. But for now, let’s get to the links!
Culture Shifts for Orlando City
The start of the Óscar Pareja era has been one of the most difficult a coach could imagine. Things seemed to be on the right path with the off-season training in Mexico, and even into the start of the regular season despite one draw and one loss. Then COVID-19 threw the world into chaos, and all of Pareja’s plans were out the window. To the credit of Pareja and his staff, they have adapted, improvised. and overcome the circumstances to have the players ready for the MLS is Back Tournament. This is the change in culture Pareja wants to instill in his players, and it seems to be working. The club talked about the confidence the coaches and players had going into the tournament, and it’s being backed up on the pitch. Now, Orlando City has the opportunity to win Group A with either a win or a draw.
Lions Make Team of the Week
A strong showing from Orlando City manifested in MLS Team of the Week honors for Chris Mueller and Pedro Gallese. Uri Rosell managed to make the MLS Team of the Week bench, and Óscar Pareja was also named Coach of the Week. Former Lion Richie Laryea, Mauricio Pineda, and Mensah were all named to the defense. Darlington Nagbe, Alejandro Pozuelo, and Brenden Aaronson joined Mueller in the midfield. Diego Rossi, Jeremy Ebobisse, and Ayo Akinola rounded out the selections. It is nice to see some Lions make the squad.
Mueller Fueled by His Passion for Soccer
Speaking of Mueller, Orlando City supporters are very familiar with his attitude, drive, and tenacity. His performance so far in the MLS is Back Tournament has brought the attention of the rest of the league. Orlando City has played with a different mentality so far, and it is producing results on the pitch. As mentioned above, Pareja has a philosophy for how he wants this club to play and Mueller is the poster boy for that philosophy. Of course, Mueller is also doing it for his own reasons. Last season, he only started one of the last 12 matches, and saw limited time as a sub. His time on the bench motivated him to work even harder to get back in the starting lineup. That effort is paying off with goals, the respect of his teammates, and attention from the media.
MLS is Back Tournament Results
In the first match Sunday night, the Chicago Fire fell to the San Jose Earthquakes 2-0. Cristian Espinoza scored the first goal of the match in the 56th minute to give San Jose the lead. In the 82nd minute, the 37-year-old Chris Wondolowski entered the match and waited all of one minute before extending San Jose’s lead on a perfect header. With the victory, San Jose wins Group B, and moves on to the knockout rounds.
The late match featured the Seattle Sounders against the Vancouver Whitecaps, with the Sounders cruising to a 3-0 win. Nicolas Lodeiro, Jordan Morris, and Raul Ruidiaz all found the back of the net as the Sounders secured a spot in the knockout round as well.
- Chelsea, Leicester City, and Manchester United are all vying for the last two remaining Champions League spots from the English Premier League. EPL Champions Liverpool and second place Manchester City are already locked in, but this week will have plenty of action to keep an eye on.
- Goalkeepers have been the highlight of the NWSL Challenge Cup. In fact, the Budweiser woman of the match was awarded to each of the winning keepers in the quarterfinals.
- La Liga finished its season on Sunday with Real Madrid as champions and Lionel Messi setting another record, this time for assists. While Messi will certainly be a prime candidate for the Ballon d’Or, it will be of little solace as Barcelona finished five points behind the champs.
- FIFA announced the schedule for the 2022 Men’s World Cup.
That will do it for today. Check back for how to watch tonight’s Orlando City match against the Philadelphia Union. Go City!