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Lion Links: 11/24/21

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Orlando City loses playoff match, MLS conference semifinals set, UEFA Champions League returns, and more.

Syndication: The Tennessean Andrew Nelles / Tennessean.com / USA TODAY NETWORK

Hello, Mane Landers. Last night’s loss makes it a bit harder to tackle this Wednesday as Orlando City’s playoff campaign ended. I don’t have many plans for the holiday weekend besides work, but I’m looking forward to catching all of the soccer action over the next few days. Today marks seven years since The Mane Land joined SBNation back in 2014. While a win last night would have been a nice anniversary present for us, there’s plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Orlando Falls to Nashville SC in the Playoffs

The Lions went on the road and lost 3-1 to Nashville in the first round of the MLS playoffs. Daryl Dike gave Orlando an early lead with his first postseason goal, but Hany Mukhtar scored a brace as Nashville did well on the counter to capitalize on Orlando’s mistakes. Jhonder Cadiz scored for Nashville deep in stoppage time as the Lions hunted for a way back into the match and now an important off-season looms over Orlando.

Michael Citro has your match recap. Make sure to check back later today for Adrian Barragan’s five takeaways from the match and Marcus Mitchell’s player grades and Man of the Match.

MLS Conference Semifinals are Decided

The conference semifinals are set now that the first round of the playoffs are over. Nashville will travel to take on the Philadelphia Union this Sunday. The final team to clinch a spot in the conference semifinals was Real Salt Lake after it advanced past the Seattle Sounders in a penalty shootout. Real Salt Lake didn’t have a single shot in the game and was without captain Albert Rusnak after he tested positive for COVID-19. In Sunday’s other match, RSL will aim for another upset when it visits Sporting Kansas City.

The conference semifinals will also feature the top seeds who earned byes. The playoffs continue tomorrow on Thanksgiving Day as the Colorado Rapids host the Portland Timbers. The New England Revolution don’t join the fray until Tuesday when they host New York City FC.

MLS Announces Goal and Save of the Year

MLS awarded the Goal of the Year to Real Salt Lake’s Rubio Rubin for his stunning bicycle kick against the San Jose Earthquakes. Rubin’s strike beat out many other fantastic goals from the year, including Sebas Mendez’s curling shot in Orlando’s 2-0 win against CF Montreal. Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese was in the running for Save of the Year, but the honor went to the Sounders’ Stefan Frei. The 35-year-old made a kick save in front of goal to deny RSL’s Rusnak from scoring. Former Orlando goalkeeper Joe Bendik remains the only Lion to claim either Goal of the Year or Save of the Year.

UEFA Champions League Group Stage Nears Its End

In its first match since Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s departure, Manchester United won 2-0 against Villareal thanks to late goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Jadon Sancho. With the win, United clinched its spot in the round of 16. Bayern Munich held on to defeat Dynamo Kiev to ensure it finishes atop its group, while FC Barcelona may need a result against Bayern to advance after a scoreless draw with Benfica. The other games featured Americans playing against one another. Chelsea shut out Juventus 4-0 as Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie squared off while Tim Weah’s Lille managed to win 1-0 against Brenden Aaronson’s RB Salzburg. Jordan Pefok scored for Young Boys, although his club was eliminated by the 3-3 draw with Atalanta.

Today’s notable match-ups will see Manchester City host Paris Saint-Germain, Atletico Madrid face off with AC Milan, and Liverpool take on FC Porto.

Free Kicks

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Wednesday and I’ll see you next time.