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Lion Links: 7/25/20

Orlando City prepares for Impact, Frank de Boer out at Atlanta, NWSL Challenge Cup final preview, and more.

Orlando City SC v Philadelphia Union

Hello, Mane Landers, I hope you all are doing well this weekend as we get ready for more Orlando City today. I’m very excited and looking forward to what the Lions can do in the knockout round. Also, let’s wish a happy 22nd birthday to Josué Colmán, who is still on loan with Cerro Porteño in Paraguay. Now, let’s get to the links!

Orlando City Takes On the Montreal Impact Tonight

The Lions will play the Montreal Impact tonight in the first game of the MLS is Back Tournament’s knockout round at 8 p.m. and you can watch the game on ESPN2. An area that has impressed me so far from the Lions is their defense and how well they’ve dominated possession. However, Montreal defender Luis Binks praised the Lions’ offense in the team’s strong group stage performances.

The Lions look to carry their confidence into tonight’s big match. Center back Antonio Carlos is motivated ahead of the game and shared his thoughts on what his team must do tonight.

“We know that we came here to make history,” defender Antonio Carlos said. “When I signed with Orlando City, that’s exactly what I wanted to do. Right now, during the knockout round we need to be concentrated, more focused on what Oscar wants us to do. Any mistakes now could be very expensive.”

The team didn’t suffer many injuries in the group stage, but Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja is still proceeding with caution to ensure his players stay healthy beyond tonight’s game.

Frank de Boer Out at Atlanta United

Atlanta United and head coach Frank de Boer have mutually agreed to part ways. The Dutch manager was brought in to replace Tata Martino near the end of 2018 and led the club to two trophies and deep playoff runs. Atlanta was off to a decent start when the MLS regular season began, but fell apart in the MLS is Back Tournament with three losses and no goals. No interim coach has been announced yet for the rest of the season after the tournament and the club will be looking for a long-term replacement.

NWSL Challenge Cup Final Tomorrow

Who would have thought the NWSL Challenge Cup Final would be between the Houston Dash and the Chicago Red Stars? With so much uncertainty about what may happen after the tournament, this may be the last women’s professional soccer game in the U.S. for some time as both clubs go for their first league trophy.

The Dash make their first final appearance in league history after previously never qualifying for the playoffs. Rachel Daly has three goals in the tournament and is tied with Lynn Williams of the North Carolina Courage with a chance to win the golden boot if she scores.

The Chicago Red Stars made the NWSL Championship last season and reached the final of the Challenge Cup after facing the Washington Spirit, Portland Thorns, and the Courage in a tough start to the tournament. The Red Stars will need to rely on their young players like Savannah McCaskill and Katie Johnson to carry them to their first league trophy.

Americans in Action This Weekend

In the other MLS game tonight, the Philadelphia Union will likely start Americans Brenden Aaronson, Alejandro Bedoya, and Mark McKenzie in the match against Bruce Arena and the New England Revolution.

On Sunday, Christian Pulisic will play his last game of the season for Chelsea against Wolverhampton with a Champions League qualification spot on the line. Back here in the U.S., both Alyssa Naeher and Julie Ertz will likely feature in the NWSL final for the Red Stars. Graham Zusi, Omar Gonzalez, and James Sands are more Americans to keep an eye out for in MLS action tomorrow night.

Free Kicks

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your weekend, stay safe, and I’ll see you next time.