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Lion Links: 9/18/20

Orlando City prepares for the Chicago Fire, Marc Skinner discusses Alex Morgan’s move, FIFA rankings update, and more.

Orlando City SC v Inter Miami CF Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images

How’s it going, Mane Landers? The work week is nearly over and there’s plenty to look forward to this weekend. Tomorrow will feature Orlando City, the Orlando Pride, and Orlando City B, so go ahead and get any weekend chores out of the way tonight or save them for Sunday so you don’t miss out. But for now, let’s get into today’s links!

Orlando City Preparing for the Chicago Fire

After facing the same three opponents for six straight games, Orlando City hosts the Chicago Fire tomorrow night for the first time this year. The two clubs last faced off on Oct. 9, 2019, when the Fire beat the Lions 5-2 in Exploria Stadium. A lot has changed since then, with Orlando riding a five-game unbeaten streak into this match. A win tomorrow would also give the Lions their best 12-game start to a season since joining Major League Soccer.

Meanwhile, the Fire have only won twice this season and have conceded the most goals (18) in the Eastern Conference. That being said, the Fire are coming off a decent 2-2 draw at home against the Columbus Crew. Orlando is unbeaten at home this season and center back Robin Jansson should be ready to defend the fortress after missing the previous game.

Marc Skinner Details Alex Morgan’s Move

The Orlando Pride will play their first game of 2020 tomorrow on the road against the North Carolina Courage, but they will be without most of their regular starters. Thirteen players are on loan or on short-term contracts for the rest of 2020, including forward Alex Morgan who signed with Tottenham. While it would have been nice to see Morgan play for the Pride during the NWSL Fall Series, Orlando Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner and others involved in the decision agreed that her move to England was the right choice to prepare her for the Pride’s preseason in 2021. Skinner told our Michael Citro and David Rohe on this week’s Mane Land PawedCast that it made more sense to get Morgan multiple games in England than perhaps three exhibitions in the NWSL. He said as much in this week’s press conference as well.

“The decision for Alex was pretty simple,” Skinner said. “It was either a sustained period of growth over a number of games or exposure to four games over a short period of time. I think it will benefit Orlando and benefit Alex, as well as of course the national team, by Alex gaining that experience and playing more games.”

Although most of the starters are playing elsewhere, there are still a handful of Pride veterans who will play in the NWSL Fall Series. Marta, Sydney Leroux, Ali Krieger, and Ashlyn Harris are all expected to play, but Skinner noted defender Toni Pressley as an unsung hero on the team. Pressley battled back from breast cancer last year and brings both excellent crosses and leadership to a young squad that will lean on its veterans.

Orlando City B Gets Graded

The USL League One season is halfway over and Orlando City B sits near the bottom of the standings with only one win and six points from nine games. OCB’s only win this season was a 2-0 result over New England Revolution II and that was the only time the Young Lions scored more than one goal or had a clean sheet. On the other side of that coin, OCB has been shut out three times and conceded multiple goals on three occasions. It’s far from great, but the results have been by narrower margins than OCB’s record may suggest. The league gave the team a D grade for the season so far, but the team has a chance to turn that around starting tomorrow when it faces the Richmond Kickers on the road.

FIFA Releases New World Rankings

For the first time in six months, FIFA updated its men’s rankings. With the pandemic limiting the amount of international friendlies this year, there was little movement. The United States dropped one spot to 23rd, while Mexico maintained its spot in 11th. Portugal managed to infiltrate the top five, taking Uruguay’s spot. Russia was the biggest mover after a strong performance in the UEFA Nations League, moving up six spots to 32nd.

Free Kicks
  • The MLS Reserve chose Kaká as the greatest Orlando City player ever (timestamp 4:25). Do you agree with their choice or does another star deserve the title as Orlando’s greatest player? Let me know in the comments below.
  • The new FIFA ratings were released and there was definitely strong Orlando representation, with Nani, Mauricio Pereyra, and Pedro Gallese recognized. But there was an odd snub as Ruan didn’t make the list of the fastest players in the league. Rookie forward Daryl Dike is also curious if the folks at EA Sports have watched the Lions this year.

That’s going to do it for today’s links. I hope you all get plenty of rest today in preparation for the weekend, it’s sure to be a fun one.