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Lion Links: 7/24/20

Orlando City prepares for the Montreal Impact, Luiz Muzzi’s vision realized, MLS is Back bracket set, and more.

Orlando City SC v Philadelphia Union

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope your work week is going well as we shift gears into the weekend and more Orlando City soccer. Actually, there is a lot of soccer across the board these next few days, with plenty to watch both in the U.S. and in Europe. Now, let’s get down to business with these links from around the soccer world.

Lions Facing New-Look Impact

Tomorrow, Orlando City will start the MLS is Back Tournament’s knockout round with a match against the Montreal Impact. It will be the first meeting between the two teams since over a year ago when the Lions won 3-0 in Canada. Plenty has changed for both teams since then, with Thierry Henry taking over as head coach for the Impact and injecting European talent across the roster. The biggest difference though may be the absence of striker Ignacio Piatti, who left the Impact after last season and was notorious for scoring against the Lions.

As for Orlando, the team should be near its full strength despite forward Dom Dwyer sitting out Monday with quad tightness and midfielder Junior Urso exiting early in Orlando’s last game. The Lions are keeping a close eye on their fitness levels, but aren’t afraid to take risks and press high tomorrow night.

Orlando enters the match with no losses in the group stage while Montreal only won once to secure third place. However, Montreal defender Rod Fanni likes the position his team is in with the pressure on the Lions.

Luiz Muzzi Pleased With Orlando’s Performance

Hired by OCSC near the end of 2018, Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi is watching his vision for the club become a reality during this tournament as fans start to see the fruits of his labor. After having Oscar Pareja take over as head coach and adding talented players such as midfielder Mauricio Pereyra and goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, Muzzi has built a system that allows its players to play with confidence.

Orlando forward Chris Mueller has shined under Muzzi and Pareja’s system so far. With clear vision in place and a driving motivation for the team to make the playoffs, Mueller noticed a change in mentality for the Lions this year.

“This year’s different because the team has confidence in the other players who are playing,” attacker Chris Mueller said Thursday during a conference call. ”I think that we have an identity as to how we’re going to play on the field. And also the coach is good and has good ideas for the entire team. And for this reason I think the team is different and we have a different way of thinking on the pitch.”

Round of 16 Field Finalized

Only 16 teams remain in the MLS is Back Tournament with the group stage finished and the knockout stage starts tomorrow. The Vancouver Whitecaps booked their spot after a 2-0 win over the Chicago Fire. The morning game featured a weather delay in the second half with both teams level and Vancouver Head Coach Marc dos Santos gave a pep talk to help his team score twice and advance.

Darwin Quintero gave the Houston Dynamo an early lead that they would hold onto all the way until stoppage time. The Dynamo gave up a late penalty that the LA Galaxy’s Cristian Pavon converted to end the game in a 1-1 draw. The result sunk both teams’ chances at claiming a third-place spot, with New York City FC advancing from Group A. Meanwhile, the Portland Timbers took on LAFC and drew 2-2 with a late header to win the group and secure a match with FC Cincinnati in the next round.

The entire bracket is now filled in, with each team learning its path forward. If Orlando beats Montreal then it will face the victor between the Seattle Sounders and LAFC. The other names on the Lions’ side of the bracket include the San Jose Earthquakes, Real Salt Lake, Columbus Crew, and Minnesota United.

National Women’s Soccer League Players Eye Europe

Sam Mewis reportedly signed with Manchester City in the Women’s Soccer League. The North Carolina Courage midfielder’s season is over after the club’s early exit in the NWSL Challenge Cup and Washington Spirit star Rose Lavelle could be headed to Manchester City as well.

The contract offer for both Americans is only for one year and I believe they won’t be the only ones making a move to Europe in the coming months. The NWSL Challenge Cup final between the Houston Dash and Chicago Red Stars is Sunday, but the rest of the season is uncertain. Pride defender Ali Riley was loaned to FC Rosengård earlier this summer and NWSL players could follow suit with their seasons possibly over.

Free Kicks
  • Relive the Lions’ successful journey in the bubble and through the group stage.
  • You may not be able to head into Exploria Stadium for a game right now, but the club has a gift bundle that is a pretty good deal considering it includes a $20 gift card to Publix.
  • The Orlando Pride are bringing back the Golden Swans, so be ready to vote.
  • United States Men’s National Team Head Coach Gregg Berhalter is eager to bring 17-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder Giovanni Reyna into the fold when able to do so.
  • A day after Charlotte FC’s reveal, the NFL’s Washington Football Team was announced as the temporary name for the team while the organization works on a more permanent brand. However, the team’s jersey reveal took a little more inspiration from soccer than just a generic name.
  • The one team that absolutely nailed its logo and name was the NHL’s expansion team from Seattle, which even made a cinematic intro video.

That’s going to be it for today, Mane Landers. Have a great Friday and an even greater weekend!