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Lion Links: 7/22/20

Oscar Pareja drives home the value of coaches, food in the MLS bubble, NWSL announces expansion team, and more.

Swan and Dolphin Hotel, Orlando, Florida Photo by Carol M. Highsmith/Buyenlarge/Getty Images

Good morning, Mane Landers! I hope the day finds you well. Let’s go ahead and jump right into the links.

Pareja’s Work Shows the Value of Top Coaches

If you’ve been watching the MLS is Back Tournament it’s very clear to see that this year Orlando City feels like a completely different team. It’s evident that Oscar Pareja’s coaching is working for the Lions. Through five matches with the club, Pareja is helping shift the conversation from investing in expensive players to investing in the value of coaches. We’re here for it, and the players are responding. Papi lauded his players after Monday’s win.

“They decided from the first minute to be protagonists of the game and I think they did it,” said Pareja as he congratulated his team on the comeback draw that earned them first place in Group A. “We have another experience when we were down in the score, and we bounced back quickly. That just tells us that the team has personality and desire, and that made us feel very confident. We try to give them guidelines and give them a structure, but the heart of the game is managed by the players,” he noted later in Spanish. “In the end, they wanted more, and in the locker room there was dissatisfaction with the result. And that makes us feel that they want to have the initiative all the time.”

Feeding the Bubble

There’s no question that the Swan and Dolphin resort has been tasked with quite the mission in providing three to five meals a day for all the players and staff currently in the bubble for the MLS is Back Tournament. The hotel estimates it serves almost 5,000 meals a day.

“They’re burning thousands and thousands of calories, I’m sure, running miles on end in a game or practice,” Swan and Dolphin director of food and beverage Luciano Sperduto told ESPN. “We’ve been pretty amazed by the food intake.”

The teams will sometimes eat in one of the onsite restaurants instead of the “buffeteria” style dining to help mix it up. Grubhub, DoorDash, and Instacart are being used regularly by players. Sporting Kansas City ordered Chipotle for everyone to give them a taste of something familiar and to keep things varied.

NWSL Approves Expansion to Los Angeles in 2022

Los Angeles is getting a new team, and this one is for the women. The NWSL announced yesterday that a majority women-funded group with Natalie Portman, Kara Nortman, Julie Uhrman, and Alexis Ohanian at the helm will work to get the new club off the ground. The official name and venue will be revealed later in the year but they’re currently referring to the new club as “Angel City.”

“The growth trajectory of the NWSL is incredibly exciting, but we also need to be strategic and thoughtful about how fast we expand and the communities we partner with,” NWSL Commissioner Lisa Baird said. “We’ve long sought the right partner in LA considering the NWSL fanbase that already exists in the region and the massive interest in women’s soccer in general. Those factors, along with an incredible ownership group make this an ideal situation and we couldn’t be more thrilled to move forward.”

Post-Challenge Cup Discussions Taking Place

The National Women’s Soccer League had not previously mentioned that there would a regular season following the Challenge Cup, leaving soccer beyond the event an open question. However, the league’s owners will be meeting virtually to discuss plans for the rest of the season as teams want to keep playing.

“The strong opinion is, we’ll be playing matches end of August, September and whenever we can, whether it’s NWSL-sanctioned matches or league play or a tournament format,” Washington Spirit Coach Richie Burke said Monday. “I’m not quite sure. Everybody I spoke to out in Utah, all the coaches and most of the staff, were like, ‘Let’s play, let’s do more.’

So we might just get to see some Orlando Pride action after all!

Free Kicks
  • Who will OCSC face in the Round of 16? The answer is complicated.
  • The USL released a statement on COVID-19 testing among players and staff. In USL League One, 720 tests were administered to 385 players and club staff and there were eight positive tests among the 12 clubs. No word on whether OCB was one of those clubs. The Young Lions kick off their 2020 season in 10 days.
  • Who will OCSC face in the Round of 16? The answer is complicated.
  • In yesterday’s MLS is Back action, Atlanta United crashed out of the tournament without a point or even a goal, after a 1-0 loss to Columbus, D.C. United was eliminated after a 1-0 loss to Montreal, and Toronto FC and New England played to a 0-0 draw.
  • Who was your first love?

That’s going to do it for me this morning, everyone. Don’t forget, the NWSL Challenge Cup semifinals will be played today in Utah. Have a great day and stay safe!