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Lion Links: 1/15/21

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Orlando City players in U.S. camp, Dike may be targeted by European clubs, Montreal’s new look, and more.

SOCCER: OCT 28 MLS - Atlanta United FC at Orlando City SC Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope this Friday finds you well as we start to shift gears into the weekend. I’m looking forward to unwinding a bit after a hectic week at work. It won’t be completely stress free since I’m trying to get back in the swing of job hunting and working out. New year, same struggles. But enough about that, let’s get to the links!

Lions Progressing Towards Olympic Qualifying

Four Orlando City players are in Bradenton for the United States Men’s National Team’s January camp. Chris Mueller is with the first team while Daryl Dike, Andres Perea, and Benji Michel are training with the U-23 team. Former Orlando City head coach Jason Kreis weighed in on each Lion’s current progress in camp.

Dike missed out on debuting for the first team in December after a slight muscle injury, but should be ready to roll as he continues to improve. Perea recently changed association to the United States and is taking on a holding midfielder role with the team under Kreis. Michel is flying a bit under the radar compared to Mueller and Dike, but Kreis is excited to see what he can do after watching him play for Orlando this past season.

“His changing now to be a wide player, I think is really good for him,” Kreis said. “If we look at Benji’s qualities, one of the things that jumps out at you right away is his electric pace. You saw in the games in Orlando in this last year when he would come into those games, oftentimes he was able to make a real imprint on the match. I think a little bit of the question mark for us will be, can he make that same sort of imprint from a starting role?”

Dike May Be Next Target for Europe

Year after year, young MLS talent transfers to Europe to further their careers after success in the U.S. There are a fair amount of exciting players who could make similar moves after 2021, including Orlando’s Dike. The 20-year-old had a strong rookie campaign, using his physicality and finishing ability to score eight goals and log four assists across 17 regular-season appearances. If he performs even better in the upcoming season, Dike could join the likes of Gianluca Busio, Ezequiel Barco, and Diego Rossi as top transfer targets for European clubs. Jose Mourinho, head coach for Tottenham Hotspur, confirmed that European sides are keeping a close eye on both the USMNT and MLS.

MLS and MLSPA Still Aren’t in Agreement

Loss of revenue due to the pandemic and the invoking of the force majeure clause has led to difficult negotiations between Major League Soccer and the MLS Players Association regarding the collective bargaining agreement. No report date has been announced for players, although a season start in the middle of March is still expected. The MLSPA has not yet sent a formal response to MLS’ formal proposal requesting a two-year extension of the collective bargaining agreement through 2027 while player salaries wouldn’t be impacted in 2021.

More Details Emerge for Men’s Olympic Qualifying

Men’s Olympic qualifiers will begin on March 18 in Guadalajara and the U.S. U-23 team is in a group with Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic. The top two finishers in each of the two groups will advance to the semifinals and each semifinal winner will book their ticket to Tokyo. The aforementioned trio of eligible Lions could all feature in the qualifying tournament, but Americans playing abroad could travel to Mexico for the tournament given the international window during that time. It will be interesting to see what Kreis does with the roster, especially if Orlando players make strong impressions in camp.

Montreal Makes a Change

The worst soccer-related decision of 2021 goes to the Montreal Impact. Or at least it would, but the club changed its name to Club de Foot Montréal and adjusted its image to a logo that should probably be blurred for broadcasts.

I do like the capital “M” featured in the logo’s design, but all of the arrows pointing to the center is a bit much to say the least. It’s sad seeing another unique name in MLS fall, but Chicago Fire owner Joe Mansueto may return his club’s image to glory.

Free Kicks
  • Each of the Orlando Pride’s draft picks introduced themselves to Pride fans.

That’s going to do it for today, Mane Landers. I hope you all enjoy your day and have a fantastic weekend.