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Lion Links: 7/6/20

Orlando City ready to build a rivalry, MLS is Back Tournament updates, NWSL Challenge Cup results, and more.

SOCCER: FEB 18 MLS Preseason - KR Reykjavik v Orlando City SC Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Merry Monday morning, Mane Landers! I hope you had a safe and enjoyable Independence Day. My family was very fortunate, as we could see some fireworks from our backyard. Add in some traditional hot dogs, hamburgers, corn on the cob, and a fine time was had by all. But, now we’re really getting into the thick of things with Orlando City’s match just days away. Let’s get to the links!

Rivalries Must Start Somewhere

For five years, Major League Soccer has tried to manufacture one rival after another for Orlando City, with mixed results. The first was New York City FC, as the two expansion clubs joined MLS at the same time, but NYCFC and the New York Red Bulls had a more natural rivalry. MLS tried again when Atlanta United entered the league, but given the Lions’ lack of success against Atlanta, it hasn’t really been much of a rivalry. Perhaps the third time will be the charm, as Orlando City has in-state competition from Inter Miami CF. There are some ties between the two clubs, with former Orlando City players and staff now at Miami. Still, Lions’ Head Coach Óscar Pareja put it all in perspective.

“This will come naturally,” Pareja said. “We can’t manufacture it. It comes with tradition — it comes with time, it comes with confronting each other — that comes from histories between the two teams and players and clubs. It’s going to build with the time, and we are all excited to be the first to do that building.”

Will this finally be a rivalry that makes sense for Orlando City and supporters? The first chance to find out comes in two short days, as the Lions face Inter Miami to start the MLS is Back Tournament on July 8.

MLS is Back Tournament Updates

Almost all of the clubs have arrived, though Toronto FC and the Colorado Rapids have both delayed their departures. The Vancouver Whitecaps are scheduled to arrive today.

Positive tests have increased as the competition gets closer though.

The entire FC Dallas club is quarantined following six positive tests for the coronavirus after arriving in Orlando. Because of that, Dallas’ opening match against Vancouver on July 9 has been postponed. Each club will start the tournament against their second opponents, with the first match date still to be determined.

All of this comes as cases are rising in Florida and Disney is moving forward with its plans to reopen the park. That is not to say that MLS, Disney, or the clubs are not taking the pandemic seriously. It’s just that the virus might not care.

NWSL Challenge Cup Results

The NWSL Challenge Cup continued without the Orlando Pride with matches on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, Utah Royals FC earned its first win of 2020 defeating Sky Blue FC 1-0. In the other match, the Houston Dash defeated OL Reign 2-0 to move into second place in the competition.

On Sunday, the North Carolina Courage logged another win, defeating the Chicago Red Stars 1-0. The victory puts the Courage five points clear of the Dash and firmly at the top of the table. The final match of the weekend saw the Portland Thorns take on the Washington Spirit late last night, with both teams scoring in the second half for a 1-1 draw.

Americans Abroad

Plenty of Americans played across Europe this weekend. In Chelsea’s 3-0 win over Watford this weekend, United States Men’s National Team midfielder Christian Pulisic drew a penalty and gave defenders headaches. Pulisic has drawn comparisons to former Chelsea midfielder Eden Hazard, but has really come into his own with the team since the season restarted.

In other American news, there’s a big match today for American forward Josh Sargent as he and Werder Bremen face off against Heidenheim with relegation on the line. The two teams had a scoreless draw in the first leg so it all comes down to this.

Free Kicks

I know we’re all excited about Orlando City returning, but please stay safe. Cases are on the rise throughout our state. Wear a mask and practice social distancing. Be kind, be considerate, and go Lions!