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Lion Links: 11/15/21

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USMNT prepares for Jamaica, Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah impress, the NWSL championship is set, and more.

Mexico v United States: 2022 World Cup Qualifying Photo by Emilee Chinn/Getty Images

Merry Monday morning, Mane Landers! I was camping this weekend and didn’t get to watch the United States Men’s National Team’s match against Mexico live. I’ve seen it since, and I’ll happily go camping every time the USMNT plays El Tri if it ends like that. There’s not a ton of Orlando news today, but let’s all wish a happy 30th birthday to Orlando center back Robin Jansson! Now, let’s get to the links.

USMNT Prepares for Trip to Jamaica

I know we’re all still basking in the glory of another USMNT dos a cero victory over Mexico, but there is another World Cup qualifier tomorrow against Jamaica. The match will be played in Jamaica at National Stadium Independence Park at 5 p.m. The U.S. defeated Jamaica 2-0 in their last meeting back in October, but Jamaica has been undefeated in the three qualifiers since. The U.S. sits atop the Concacaf standings but needs to keep on winning to stay there. Thanks to Weston McKennie’s yellow card accumulation and Miles Robinson’s red card from the match against Mexico, both are suspended for the game against Jamaica and USMNT Head Coach Gregg Berhalter called up New York City FC’s James Sands for the next match.

Jamaica is not completely out of contention for a World Cup spot and will be hungry for points at home. The Reggae Boyz can be a tough opponent with the very good Andre Blake in goal and talented players on offense such as Aston Villa’s Leon Bailey and West Ham United’s Michail Antonio. This will be the USMNT’s last qualifier of 2021, although the team has a friendly against Bosnia and Herzegovina on Dec. 18.

A Tale of Two Wingers

The USMNT’s Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah were important players in the win over Mexico, but for different reasons. Pulisic got the headlines with his goal in the 74th minute and his cheeky celebration in response to comments made by Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa before the match. The Chelsea player missed the three qualifiers in October due to an ankle injury and came on as a substitute as he eases back into action. Pulisic returned as the team’s star player in a memorable win for the USMNT against its biggest rival.

Tim Weah played nearly every minute and did everything expected from a winger and more. He assisted on Pulisic’s goal and delivered the pass that led to Weston McKennie’s insurance goal. He harassed Mexico all night and played as well as he ever has for the U.S. Oh, and it turns out that he and DeAndre Yedlin were behind the message under Pulisic’s jersey as well. He didn’t get as much press, but Berhalter had high praise for the 21-year-old.

“With Tim it’s about mentality. When he has it in his mind and he’s set, he can execute all day. And it’s just about him focusing on how he’s going to perform,” USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter said after the match. “He got the coaches’ man of the match [award] today, just because he didn’t stop. He didn’t stop working, he was causing them fits on that side of the field.”

The NWSL Final is Set

It’s not often that both the top seeds in a tournament are bounced right before the final, but that was the case this weekend in the NWSL. The Washington Spirit upset OL Reign 2-1 at Cheney Stadium. Trinity Rodman and Ashley Sanchez scored for the Spirit to complete a comeback after Eugénie Le Sommer provided an early goal for the Reign.

The other Cascadian club also lost as the Chicago Red Stars defeated the Portland Thorns 2-0 in Providence Park. Katie Johnson gave the Red Stars a lead and Sarah Woldmoe’s second-half goal sealed it for the visitors. Following the match, Thorns goalkeeper Bella Bixby shared that her father committed suicide during the week before the semifinal. Our thoughts are with her and her family. The Red Stars and Spirit will face off this Saturday at noon in Louisville.

Other World Cup Qualifiers

Spain, Serbia, and Croatia all secured spots in the World Cup after coming up with crucial wins in their final group games. Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal are headed to the playoff round after falling 2-1 in an upset against Serbia. Sweden, Russia, and North Macedonia are also all headed to the playoff. Two more teams will book their tickets to the World Cup after today’s action as England just needs a result against San Marino, while Italy and Switzerland play different opponents to see which nation finishes at the top of the group.

South Africa won’t be making the World Cup following its 1-0 loss to Ghana in African qualifiers. Ghana joins the Democratic Republic of Congo, Egypt, Mali, Morocco, and Senegal as teams advancing in the tournament. The remaining four nations that will make the next round will be determined tomorrow, including a showdown between Cameroon and the Ivory Coast where the loser is eliminated.

Free Kicks

That will do it for today. There are USMNT and Orlando City matches coming up, so get your lucky jerseys ready.