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Lion Links: 8/10/20

Orlando City and the Portland Timbers compared, Oscar Pareja’s coaching battle, Nani’s experience, and more.

Orlando City SC v Minnesota United FC

Merry Monday morning, Mane Landers! We are only one day away from the MLS is Back Tournament final. I don’t know about you, but I’m having to temper my expectations the closer we get to the match. It’s not quite my birthday yet, but it is this month, and seeing Orlando City lift a trophy would be a great gift. Speaking of birthdays, let’s wish a happy one to Orlando Pride draft pick Cheyenne Shorts! Now, let’s head into today’s links.

Sizing Up Orlando’s Competition

As Orlando City prepares for the Portland Timbers, it’s worth taking a look at how the Lions stack up against the competition. Orlando City seriously upgraded at goalkeeper, defense, and the wings. It’s no surprise that the Lions need help at forward, so Portland holds the advantage there. There might be some debate as to who holds the advantage in the midfield, but the Lions have also made adjustments there. Both teams have a great chance, but the intangibles might decide this match and Orlando City is technically at home.

Coaching Battle Goes Beyond Final

There’s been so much focus on the players heading into the final versus the Portland Timbers that the battle between Oscar Pareja and Giovanni Savarese has been overlooked. The coaches come from Colombia and Venezuela, respectively, and both are looking to build a legacy with their new clubs. Obviously, Orlando City supporters are aware of Pareja’s time with FC Dallas, but “Papi” has seemingly turned his new club around in a very short time. The chance for a trophy, not to mention the prize money and a spot in the Concacaf Champions League, is well worth some of the hype.

Nani’s History on Big Stages

Nani has been an integral part of Orlando City’s run in the MLS is Back Tournament, but this is not the first final he’s appeared in. Between League Cups, Champions League finals, and more, Orlando City’s Portuguese star has been there and done that. It is his experience that is a potential difference maker for the Lions in this final. He has scored the goals, provided the assists, and while he wasn’t always at his sharpest, he has stepped up when the Lions needed him. There’s no substitute for experience.

The Players are Prepared

Orlando City shocked the soccer community with its run to the final of the MLS is Back Tournament. Well, it has shocked everyone but the coaches and players. To a man, each player believes in the club’s ability to win the match. The culture change that Pareja is instituting has permeated the players at a fundamental level. In fact, Junior Urso detailed the effort the club is taking to perform well.

“We started in January, but when the pandemic started, we kept training, we kept working hard, every day we had a video call with the coaches to keep our conditioning to come here and do our best. So we are prepared for everything, we are strong. We want this trophy.”

Free Kicks
  • The referee crew for the final tomorrow night is set, and it includes the first woman official in an MLS final. Ismail Elfath will be the center referee in the match between Orlando City and the Portland Timbers.
  • I’m not a betting man, and we at The Mane Land don’t endorse gambling, but if you are an adult and in a place where it is legal to do so, you might be interested in how those in the know are looking at the upcoming final.
  • Honduran forward Junior Lacayo is evidently being targeted by a mystery MLS side. Lacayo hasn’t seen many minutes with Olimpia and is looking for a loan to the U.S.
  • Finally, here is a sum of all the storylines heading into Orlando City’s first final in the MLS era. What are you most looking forward to seeing in tomorrow’s match? Let me know in the comments below.

That’s going to do it for today. Check back for more coverage of all things Orlando City, Orlando Pride, and OCB. Go City!