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Lion Links: 11/12/21

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Orlando City’s academy teams win, USMNT takes on Mexico tonight, World Cup qualifying returns, and more.

USA Training Session Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images

How’s it going, Mane Landers? Although Orlando City isn’t in action until the playoffs, there is plenty of soccer to enjoy as World Cup qualifying takes center stage. The NWSL playoffs are also this Sunday so it’s setting up to be an exciting weekend. For now, let’s dive into today’s links from around the soccer world.

Young Lions Win Against IMG Academy

Orlando City’s U-17 and U-15 squads came up with big wins this week against IMG Academy. The U-17 team did well on both sides of the ball in a dominant 4-0 victory as Favian Loyola scored a brace. In the U-15 squad’s 3-1 win, Jackson Platt had a brace and Zinedine Rodriguez also scored. Loyola, Platt, and Rodriguez all scored in the previous matches against Nashville SC, so it’s nice to see them finding the net consistently. The Young Lions are back in action tomorrow against Tampa Bay United as their fall campaigns continue.

USMNT Takes on Mexico Tonight

The United States Men’s National Team will play Mexico in Cincinnati tonight at 9 p.m. If the USMNT wins, it will claim the top spot in the Concacaf World Cup qualifying standings due to tiebreakers. Mexico is undefeated so far in qualifying and could have revenge on its mind tonight after the U.S. won the Nations League and Gold Cup this summer. The USMNT will need to capitalize on its scoring chances while keeping a resurgent Raul Jimenez and the rest of Mexico’s offense quiet. Zack Steffen will get the start in goal for the U.S. while Christian Pulisic will be on the bench as he continues to work his way back from injury.

Many eyes will be on 18-year-old forward Ricardo Pepi, who chose the USMNT over Mexico and has done well spearheading the U.S. attack. The USMNT and Mexico have an intense rivalry with one another both on the field and off of it to recruit players. For the families of Mexican-American players who must choose a side to play for, there can be some conflicting allegiances at times when the two dueling nations square off. Regardless, these matches are the biggest events that Concacaf can offer and a great time for these families to come together and enjoy the game.

World Cup Qualifying Action Continues

Brazil became the first CONMEBOL nation to qualify for the World Cup after winning 1-0 against Colombia. Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese made three saves in Peru’s 3-0 win against Bolivia to help his team move up the table. Orlando midfielder Sebas Mendez was an unused substitute in Ecuador’s important 1-0 win over Venezuela. The victory moves Ecuador into third place in CONMEBOL World Cup qualifying with five matches left.

In European qualifying, Germany, Russia, and Croatia all won by massive margins against smaller countries. While Germany has already qualified, Russia and Croatia will play each other this Sunday to determine which side will qualify directly instead of entering the playoff stage. Spain eliminated Greece after a 1-0 win and can qualify with a result Sunday against Sweden, which was upset 2-0 by Georgia. Today, Italy and Switzerland square off in the biggest match-up of the day while England can qualify if it beats Albania and Poland drops points against Andorra.

Elsewhere, Iran scored twice in stoppage time to win 2-1 against Lebanon while South Korea and Japan also won as Asian qualifying reached its midpoint. Mali claimed its spot in the next round of African qualifying after a 3-0 win against Rwanda. Ghana drew 1-1 with Ethiopia and will have to win against South Africa this Sunday to advance. Egypt, Nigeria, Tunisia, Algeria, and the Ivory Coast can all advance to the next round with the right results in today and tomorrow’s action.

Steven Gerrard Returns to the the English Premier League

Former Liverpool and England captain Steven Gerrard was officially named as manager for Aston Villa on a three-and-a-half year deal. Gerrard departs Rangers FC after winning a Scottish Premiership title with an unbeaten record last season and will now take over a Villa side that has lost its past six games in the English Premier League. Villa is 16th in the league and near the relegation zone, so it will be interesting to see how the 41-year-old tries to turn things around. Gerrard will make his return to Anfield on Dec. 11 when Liverpool hosts Villa.

Free Kicks

That’s going to be it for today. I hope you all have a wonderful Friday and rest of your weekend.