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Lion Links: 8/3/20

Early semifinal preview, Concacaf Champions League on the line, João Moutinho’s the man, and more.

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Orlando City v Los Angeles FC: Quarterfinals - MLS Is Back Tournament Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Merry Moutinho morning, Mane Landers! It’s a new week and Orlando City is still in this thing. How cool, crazy, and awesome is that? Those of you that listen to The ManeLand PawedCast know that I predicted a 3-1 loss, and I have never been more happy to be wrong. I’m not saying that match makes up for the year that is 2020, but it certainly helps a little. Especially if you’ve watched the highlights and celebrations over and over again like I have. Let’s get to the links!

Semifinal Stories

Neither club was supposed to be here. Neither Orlando City nor Minnesota United FC were expected to be in the MLS is Back Tournament semifinals. Yet, here they are, set to face off on Thursday, Aug. 6. The hometown team with the new coach, and the old coach with his new team. The stories practically write themselves, with Adrian Heath and Kevin Molino returning to the very fields they dominated on in the USL days. Now, it’s the new coach defending the city, with Oscar Pareja bringing a new culture and sense of purpose.

I’ll be honest, I don’t like this match being referred to as the Adrian Heath Derby, because the former gaffer is not on both sides of this thing. Of course, Heath is all too aware of the challenge both teams will face this Thursday. I would take issue with the projections, but given how wrong FiveThirtyEight has been so far regarding the Lions, I’m fine with it. Oh, and there’s also a preview of the Philadelphia Union and Portland Timbers match.

The Stakes

I’ve been so focused on each match (or worried, nervous, and then elated) that I haven’t really thought much about what is at stake in the MLS is Back Tournament. The group stage points counted towards the regular season and the winner of the tournament earns a Concacaf Champions League bid. I will admit I forgot about the $1 million in bonuses and other awards. It’s just that it is important to remember that pride and showing the league how far Orlando City has come aren’t the only reasons for the Lions to try to win the whole darn thing. For the Lions, a spot in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League would be a huge step forward.

“That would mean history,” Orlando City midfielder Uri Rosell said. “I think that’s something that we really want to do and we want to feel the ownership for all the people that have worked really hard on the club, and also the fans, something to look up to and something that they deserve. Hopefully, we can give our best and try to be in this position where we can give it to them.”

João Moutinho’s Masterful Match

I gave João Moutinho Man of the Match honors for his performance against Los Angeles FC. It seems I wasn’t the only one to think it was warranted. Former Orlando City goalkeeper and current Orlando City broadcaster Miguel Gallardo breaks down why Moutinho was the best player for the Lions.

As Miguel notes, it wasn’t just the goal that was great about the young defender’s game. His play up and down the pitch was a big reason Orlando City stifled the potent LAFC offense.

USMNT News

As mentioned in yesterday’s Lion Links, Christian Pulisic scored a goal and also pulled a hamstring. Talk about highs and lows. Of course, Pulisic wasn’t the only Yank in action over the weekend. Mix Diskerud played 90 minutes for Helsingborg against Aron Johannsson’s Hammarby.

Additionally, former U.S. Youth Men’s National Team player Haji Wright signed with Danish Superliga club SønderjyskE Fodbold. The 22-year-old spent time in the German Bundesliga and Eredivisie in the Netherlands, but is looking to finally break out with SønderjyskE.

Free Kicks
  • There is potential good news on the Orlando City injury front. According to Julia Poe from the Orlando Sentinel, both Chris Mueller and Robin Jansson are recovering and are hoped to be available for the semifinal match against Minnesota United.
  • Are you still loving that Nani celebration? Do you want to have that same feeling day after day? This is just the shirt to let you do that. Stylish, celebratory, and comfy, it’s just the thing to wear to make everyone jealous as you support Orlando City.
  • Don’t let the photo in this story fool you, the Orlando Magic are supportive of Orlando City. Indeed, Magic Head Coach Steve Clifford was checking the score during Orlando’s win as he prepared for the Orlando Magic’s game against the Sacramento Kings.

That will do it to start the week. There are only three days until Orlando City takes the field again. I’m not saying it has anything to do with it, but I did get my new jersey the day of the first group stage match, and I’ve worn it for each match since. I don’t believe in superstitions, but just to be safe, I haven’t even washed it yet. Can’t be too cautious, right? Go City!