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Lion Links: 10/11/21

Orlando City finds success from set pieces, Orlando Pride players push for change, USMNT falls to Panama, and more.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Merry Monday morning, Mane Landers. You’ll notice there was no exclamation point at the end of that greeting, which is due to losses by the Orlando Pride and the United States Men’s National Team this weekend. We should definitely all try to be goldfish as we head into this week.

The Mind Behind Orlando City’s Set Piece Success

Orlando City assistant coach Josema Bazan handles the Lions’ offensive strategy, including on set pieces. While Bazan is responsible for the short corners that Orlando City has taken this season (#BanShortCorners), he’s also helped the team score in recent matches from the corner flag. Both goals in Orlando’s 2-1 win over D.C. United were from corners and Bazan dove into how the team prepares to make the most of set pieces in matches.

Bazan scouts opposing teams by studying how they defend against set pieces to uncover the areas Orlando can exploit in matches and then spending an hour each week in training to prepare the Lions. I find it interesting that, like Ted Lasso, Bazan names the different set piece plays, and can be tight-lipped about which ones are which. While there is plenty of random chance involved in set pieces, Bazan works hard to limit that uncertainty for Orlando in dead ball situations.

“You have to be lucky,” he said. “You’re going to receive 200 crosses, you’re going to touch only five. Maybe one or two are going to be goals. You must believe that this is one of those one or two. ... They are random moments. It’s our job to make that [randomness] smaller and smaller.”

Pride Players Continue to Push for Change in the NWSL

Orlando Pride players Alex Morgan and Ali Krieger are allocated players through the U.S. Soccer Federation, meaning their salaries come from U.S. Soccer rather than the club. Regardless, the two are in complete lockstep with their fellow players in advocating for systemic change in the NWSL to better protect players. Krieger praised how the Pride provides her and her teammates with needed support. There are, of course, the resources and facilities, but the Pride’s front office actively engages with players to address any concerns.

“I hope that a lot of teams look at how we as a club here in Orlando handle our players and our staff,” Krieger said. “I feel very proud to be a part of a club that gives us this support and gives us all these resources. Day by day we’re getting better and we’re fighting for more, and they’re listening. They’re willing to do whatever it takes to make us happy. ... I really hope that other clubs will use a similar model because I’m proud to be in a club that treats us the way they do.”

USMNT Loses to Panama

The U.S. stumbled in Panama City, losing 1-0 in a World Cup qualifier against Panama with a heavily rotated roster compared to the one that won 2-0 over Jamaica. The Yanks seemed reluctant to build up through the midfield, and instead sent balls over the top. Unfortunately, nothing came of that strategy as the USMNT only had five shots, with none on target. Ricardo Pepi, who scored a brace against Jamaica, came on as a substitute in the 67th minute but wasn’t able to get the U.S. on the scoreboard.

The USMNT now sits second in the Octagon with eight points, placing above third-place Panama due to goal differential. Mexico is at the top of the table after a 3-0 win against Panama while Canada is in fourth and drew 0-0 with Jamaica. The USMNT will try to get back on track when it faces Costa Rica this Wednesday in Columbus.

Keeping Up With Qualifying Around the World

In CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying, Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese and Peru fell 1-0 to Bolivia while Sebas Mendez didn’t play in Ecuador’s 2-1 loss to Venezuela. Brazil’s nine-game win streak in qualifying came to an end after a scoreless draw with Colombia and Lionel Messi scored Argentina’s first goal in a 3-0 win over Uruguay. The next matches will take place this Thursday.

Elsewhere, Nigeria, Mali, and Tanzania all came up with big wins in African qualifiers. The matches continue today and tomorrow with the Ivory Coast, Cameroon, Egypt, Ghana, Senegal, and more nations in action. Belgium, Denmark, and Germany can officially qualify for the World Cup depending on today and tomorrow’s results. In AFC qualifying, Japan has a critical game against Australia tomorrow to salvage its campaign after losing two of its first three matches.

Free Kicks

That will be it for today’s links. Check back for our coverage throughout the week as Orlando City and the Orlando Pride make playoff pushes.