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Lion Links: 1/22/21

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Orlando City’s 2021 draft class, Alex Morgan returns to training, Don Garber’s letter to fans irks the MLSPA, and more.

United States of America v Netherlands : Final - 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup France Photo by Jose Breton/NurPhoto via Getty Images

How’s it going, Mane Landers? Personally, this week felt like an eternity and I’m glad the weekend is right around the corner. I don’t really have any plans for it beyond work, but hopefully the next few days go smoothly. Now, let’s hop into today’s links from around the soccer world.

Orlando City Selects Four Players in MLS SuperDraft

Before the draft got started, Orlando forked over a total of $100,00 in General Allocation Money (GAM) to the Portland Timbers to move up to the eighth pick in the draft. With that pick, the Lions selected forward Derek Dodson, who scored 30 goals and had 11 assists across three seasons at Georgetown. With Dom Dwyer no longer with the team and Daryl Dike getting attention in Europe, Dodson helps give the offense some depth and won’t be thrown to the wolves from the start. Given Orlando’s track record with forwards whose first and last names both start with the letter D, I like the pick.

Later in the first round, Orlando strengthened its defensive depth by selecting Georgetown’s Rio Hope-Gund and Penn State’s Brandon Hackenberg with the 19th and 22nd picks, respectively. The pair of center backs helps replace the departures of both Alex De John and Kamal Miller and shore up part of the back line.

The Lions ended their draft day by selecting Wake Forest goalkeeper Andrew Pannenberg in the second round. Although there is still uncertainty regarding Brian Rowe’s future with Orlando, Pannenberg would likely be with Orlando City B if the team plays in 2021 or he could be loaned out.

Alex Morgan Back in Training as USWNT Prepares for Friendly

United States Women’s National Team Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski confirmed that Orlando Pride forward Alex Morgan is back in training after recovering from COVID-19. Morgan won’t be playing in the USWNT’s friendly against Colombia today at Exploria Stadium, but it’s nice knowing she’s back on the field. As for today’s match, the Pride’s Ali Krieger and Ashlyn Harris could both play as Andonovski spoke about “significant” rotation to the roster and neither played in the previous match between the two nations earlier this week.

Krieger has fought hard to earn her spot on the USWNT roster and use her position to speak out against social injustice. Andonovski is focused on improving the USWNT’s defense and Krieger is making the most of her training at the January camp.

“It’s been a breath of fresh air honestly,” Krieger said. “I’ve learned a lot, even at my age and with my experience. I try to get better every single day and improve to help this team be successful. I really cherish the time that I’ve been able to be in camp and learn new things.”

How the Rest of the SuperDraft Shook Out

Austin FC selected Virginia Tech midfielder Daniel Pereira with first overall pick, a move that even surprised Pereira. Clemson midfielder Philip Mayaka was largely expected to be chosen first but went to the Colorado Rapids with the third pick after FC Cincinnati selected Wake Forest forward Calvin Harris with the second. In back-to-back picks after a trade with Atlanta United, D.C. United chose Clemson forward Kimarni Smith and Wake Forest defender Michael DeShields to round out the top five picks of the draft.

Make sure to check out the rest of the draft results and MLSsoccer.com’s Travis Clark took a stab at grading each club’s draft, although he gave Orlando a C+ for taking Dodson “too high” while the Philadelphia Union received an A+ for trading all their picks away. What do you all think about Orlando’s 2021 draft class? I’m personally a fan of selecting the players you want and not worrying about reaching or when players “should” be drafted.

MLS Commissioner Don Garber Pens Letter to Fans

Prior to this year’s draft, Garber released a “letter to fans” regarding the past season and the year ahead. Garber congratulated the Columbus Crew and thanked fans for their support during a difficult season due to the pandemic. Looking forward, he talked about the effect the pandemic will have on the upcoming season as well as the negotiations between the league and the MLS Players Association.

A good portion of the letter is spent talking about the proposal the league gave the MLSPA and future meetings to reach an agreement. Garber noted the difficulties players faced with last year’s condensed schedule and being away from their families, but also spoke about the financial losses MLS ownership had and made sure to point out the league has been awaiting a response to a proposal made two weeks ago. The MLSPA had its own response to the letter and the not-so-subtle jab about the lack of response so far.

Conflicting Reports Arise About the Olympics

You’ll need to get past the paywall for all of the details, but the Tokyo Olympics may be canceled due to COVID-19 according to The Times. This news conflicts with a statement made by International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach, who had the following to say on Kyodo News in Japan about the reports of cancellation.

“We have at this moment, no reason whatsoever to believe that the Olympic Games in Tokyo will not open on the 23rd of July in the Olympic stadium in Tokyo,” Bach said. “This is why there is no plan B and this is why we are fully committed to make these games safe and successful.”

While it would be disappointing for the Olympics not to take place for the second-straight year, at least the Orlando Pride wouldn’t be as shorthanded during the summer. If the Olympics are indeed cancelled, it will be interesting to see if that will affect the summer scheduling for sports leagues across the country.

Free Kicks

That’s going to do it for me, Mane Landers. I hope you all have a wonderful Friday and rest of your weekend.