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Lion Links: 7/26/20

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Orlando City advances, Lions building off-field chemistry, NWSL Challenge Cup final set, and more.

MLS: Orlando City SC vs Montreal Impact Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Happy Sunday, everyone. It’s a happier Sunday than usual because we’re celebrating (another) Orlando City victory in the MLS is Back Tournament. We’ll get to that in a bit, but it’s nice to know we can spend our Sunday relaxing and basking in the glow.

The Lions are off until Friday night, but there is soccer for you to watch today. The NWSL Challenge Cup comes to a conclusion with today’s final, and the EPL will determine its Champions League spots and relegated teams with today’s matches.

While we wait for those to start, let’s get to the news of the day.

Orlando City Knocks Out Impact

You might not know it if you only saw the 1-0 final score, but the Lions dominated the Montreal Impact. A little more sharpness in the final third and a goal incorrectly waved off for offside kept the final margin from embarrassing Thierry Henry’s Canadian side. Tesho Akindele, who was cheated out of an assist by the assistant referee, settled for scoring the game’s only goal in the 60th minute to lead the Lions to victory. Montreal managed only one shot on goal and only fashioned one truly threatening attacking moment all night. Nani’s heavy touches were a bit worrisome, but the team looked good. Orlando must improve if it is going to get past the winner of LAFC and Seattle. Here’s your match recap, complete with highlights and quotes from Oscar Pareja and Akindele.

Stay tuned for Dave Rohe’s five takeaways and Sean Rollins’ player grades and Man of the Match.

Lions Getting to Know One Another in the Bubble

One of the underrated benefits of Orlando City making a deep run in the MLS is Back Tournament is that it’s given the players time to bond and build chemistry. Guys are playing chess together in their down time, they’re eating together, training together, and gaming together. The team got a taste of that during the preseason trip to Cancun, Mexico, but that seems like it was years ago, rather than months.

“We’re just getting to know each other,” forward Chris Mueller said. “That chemistry off the pitch is kind of showing itself now on the field. In my opinion, I think that we’re a much stronger group. We’re very together in the sense that this has been a tough time and we stood by each other, we’ve had each other’s backs. I think that when you look at it from that standpoint it’s been great in here.”

NWSL Challenge Cup Final Set for Today

The Houston Dash and the Chicago Red Stars will decide who gets what could be the NWSL’s only trophy of 2020 when the teams meet today in Utah at 12:30 p.m. ET on CBS. The Red Stars have been among the league’s best teams for several years so their inclusion is not a surprise, but the Dash have done very little since joining the NWSL and this could be their opportunity to finally grab some hardware.

Meanwhile, Orlando Pride and USWNT star Alex Morgan narrated the championship hype video.

Zlatan Not Ready to Retire

I jokingly tweeted that Zlatan Ibrahimovic would look good in purple after he posted a message on social media that indicates he’s not ready for retirement. A couple of people responded that they’d pass on signing Zlatan — a guy who has proven he can give a team 25-30 goals a season in MLS. The mind boggles at what this team could do with a world-class finisher receiving nifty through balls from Nani and Mauricio Pereyra.

Some contend that he’s too much drama and there have been some unflattering reports out of LA, but at the same time, former Manchester United teammate Luke Shaw spoke glowingly about the Swede, saying he was good for the locker room and simply demanded his teammates work as hard as him. But hey, you tell me what you think in the poll below.

Poll

If Orlando City could get Zlatan, would you want the Lions to sign him?

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    Yes!
    (41 votes)
  • 33%
    No!
    (21 votes)
62 votes total Vote Now
Free Kicks

That’s all my time for today. Enjoy today’s soccer action and don’t forget to get your pizza discount thanks to the Lions’ win over Montreal.