How’s it going, Mane Landers? The international break may be over but there is still plenty of soccer to look forward to as clubs around the world return to action. Today also makes it eight years since Orlando City was announced as Major League Soccer’s 21st franchise, so there is plenty to celebrate today. Let’s get this Friday started with some links from around the soccer world!
Orlando Faces a Familiar Foe in Nashville
Tuesday’s playoff match between Orlando and Nashville SC will be the fourth time the two sides have met this year. The past three matches all ended as draws, although the most recent match on Halloween would’ve ended in an Orlando victory if not for a controversial decision (to say the least) by referee Allen Chapman. Nashville may be the only MLS team to finish the season unbeaten at home, but it hasn’t won a game at Nissan Stadium since Sept. 3.
One of the many match-ups to keep an eye on during the game will be between Orlando forward Daryl Dike and Nashville center back Walker Zimmerman. While Zimmerman may be one of the only center backs in the league capable of dealing with Dike’s size and power, Dike has scored five goals in the five games he’s played against Nashville.
Considering Nashville’s tendency to draw, Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese will be critical to the Lions’ success should the game go to penalties. Gallese’s first taste of the MLS playoffs last year resulted in his sending off during the penalty shootout with New York City FC. El Pulpo is returning to Orlando after a good run of form with Peru during the international break. He was named to CONMEBOL’s Best XI for the most recent round of matches after a strong performance against Venezuela that included saving a penalty kick.
Dike Would Fill West Brom’s Need at Forward
It’s not much of a secret that West Bromwich Albion is interested in Dike. Former striker-turned-Sky Sports pundit Don Goodman made a strong case for West Brom to do whatever it takes to sign Dike in the upcoming transfer window. West Brom is managed by Valerein Ismael, who coached Dike when the American went on loan to Barnsley FC earlier this year. A reunion between the two could help solve the team’s need at center forward as West Brom hasn’t received much production from Jordan Hugill or Callum Robinson. As shown when he was with Barnsley, Dike can be a difference-maker for an English Football Championship club with promotion aspirations.
Dike can continue raising his stock in the MLS playoffs and with a possible call-up for the United States Men’s National Team’s friendly with Bosnia and Herzegovina on Dec. 18. While he seems like a perfect fit for Ismael and West Brom, only time will tell if the English club is willing to spend enough to sign him this January.
Ricardo Pepi Wins MLS Young Player of the Year
FC Dallas forward Ricardo Pepi was named MLS Young Player of the Year after an impressive season. The 18-year-old had 13 goals and three assists in 31 games for Dallas this season and emerged as a starting option for the USMNT during World Cup qualifying as well. While New England Revolution winger Tajon Buchanon edged out Pepi in the voting done by players and clubs, Pepi won a majority of the media voting to finish on top. Dike, who has 10 goals and three assists in just 18 games this year, finished fourth in the voting, with LA Galaxy right back Julian Araujo placing third and Atlanta United’s Ezequiel Barco in fifth.
Bob Bradley and LAFC Part Ways
After four seasons as LAFC’s head coach, Bob Bradley is departing the club as the two sides have mutually agreed to part ways. Bradley’s contract was up at the end of this season and the team failed to make the playoffs for the first time since joining the league in 2018. During his time at LAFC, Bradley set a record for the most points by an expansion team in 2018, won the Supporters’ Shield while breaking the MLS points record at the time in 2019, and reached the Concacaf Champions League final in 2020. There are many coaching vacancies in MLS, including Michael Bradley’s Toronto FC, so it will be interesting to see where the 63-year-old coach winds up. As for LAFC, it will begin the search for its second coach in club history as the Bradley era comes to a close.
- Orlando Pride goalkeeper Erin McLeod was called up for Canada’s pair of friendlies against Mexico on Nov. 27 and Nov. 30.
- Orlando midfielder David Loera returned to the club following his loan with Phoenix Rising FC where he started in four games and played 420 minutes.
- Charlotte FC’s inaugural home game in 2022 will be played against the Galaxy on March 5, 2022.
- NBC Sports will continue to exclusively broadcast English Premier League games through the 2027-28 season.
- Xavi’s first match as FC Barcelona’s manager will be tomorrow at 3 p.m. as his club takes on Espanyol. Dani Alves won’t be eligible to play until January, but he will still make an impact for the team and spoke about helping USMNT right back Sergino Dest develop.
- Tomorrow will also include Aston Villa’s first game with Steven Gerrard at the helm. Gerrard reiterated his focus on Villa during a press conference. Meanwhile, Rangers FC announced that Giovanni van Bronckhorst will be the club’s next manager to replace Gerrard.
That’s going to be it for today, folks. I hope you all have a wonderful Friday and rest of your weekend.