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Lion Links: 12/24/21

Orlando City signs Ruan to a new deal, Orlando Pride given an off-season grade, final FIFA rankings of 2021, and more.

MLS: D.C. United at Orlando City SC Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Merry Christmas Eve, Mane Landers! I’ve enjoyed spending time with my family, even if most of my day yesterday was spent putting together Ikea furniture for my brother. If you’re out and about trying to find that last-minute gift then I wish you the best of luck. Now, let’s get this festive Friday started with some links from around the soccer world.

Orlando City Signs Ruan to a New Deal

After exercising the option on Ruan’s initial two-year contract, Orlando City signed the right back to a new two-year contract with an option for a third year. Ruan has been a consistent part of Head Coach Oscar Pareja’s plans, starting in 72 games across all competitions for the Lions since joining before the 2019 season. Known mostly for his speed, the 26-year-old had two goals and four assists this past season. This decision by the club shows a commitment to Ruan and the rest of the back line as center backs Antonio Carlos and Robin Jansson are under contract while left back Joao Moutinho’s option was picked up as well.

Orlando Pride Earn High Marks for Off-Season

With the NWSL Expansion Draft and NWSL Draft done and dusted, the folks over at Sports Illustrated graded how each NWSL team is doing so far this off-season. The Orlando Pride were given an A- for their rebuild after naming Amanda Cromwell as their head coach and trading away veterans Alex Morgan, Ashlyn Harris, and Ali Krieger. After surviving the expansion draft relatively unchanged, the Pride brought in plenty of potential talent in the NWSL Draft with three picks in the first round. The Pride’s first pick was UCLA forward Mia Fishel, who is excited to get to work in Orlando.

While there are a few concerns regarding trading away Phoebe McClernon and the lack of depth behind goalkeeper Erin McLeod, it’s still been a solid off-season for the Pride so far. Angel City FC was awarded the highest grade out of the 12 NWSL clubs for assembling a talented roster that includes stars such as Christen Press, Julie Ertz, and Savannah McCaskill.

Notable Names Chosen in MLS Re-Entry Draft

Six players were selected in the second stage of the 2021 MLS Re-Entry Draft, including Robert Beric, Jan Gregus, and Bryan Acosta. Those three were all Designated Players for their teams last season, so it’s worth keeping an eye on where they end up. Beric had 20 goals across the past two seasons for the Chicago Fire and was chosen by a Sporting Kansas City side that already includes potent attackers in Johnny Russell and Daniel Salloi. Acosta was chosen by the Colorado Rapids after three years with FC Dallas while the San Jose Earthquakes selected former Minnesota United midfielder Gregus.

In other MLS transfer news, Nashville SC reportedly traded Canadian defender Alistair Johnston to CF Montreal in exchange for $1 million in allocation money. Johnston was drafted by Nashville in 2020 and did well last season, starting in 24 games as part of Nashville’s stellar defense. The Philadelphia Union acquired Inter Miami forward Julian Carranza on loan in exchange for a second-round pick in the upcoming MLS SuperDraft. Veteran midfielder Ozzie Alonso was signed by Atlanta United for the upcoming season, with an option for 2023 as well.

USMNT Finish 2021 in 11th in FIFA Rankings

In the final FIFA rankings of 2021, the United States Men’s National Team reached 11th after edging past Germany. The USMNT ends the year as the top ranked team in Concacaf, with Mexico in 14th and Canada in 40th. It was a great year for the USMNT, which won both the Gold Cup and Nations League over Mexico this summer. 2021 also included plenty of great goals from the Americans and the folks over at ranked which goals were the best of the year. Orlando forward Daryl Dike claimed one of the top 10 spots and hopefully we see the big guy scoring even more for the Yanks next year.

Free Kicks
  • Congratulations to Orlando goalkeeper Adam Grinwis on getting married!

That’s going to be it for this Christmas Eve. I hope you all have a wonderful Friday and rest of your holiday weekend!