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Lion Links: 2/10/21

Orlando City’s offer to Alexandre Pato, Alex De John joins Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, 2021 U.S. Open Cup format revealed, and more.

SOCCER: MAR 09 MLS - Orlando City SC at Chicago Fire Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope everyone has had a good start to their week as we are halfway towards the weekend. Now that the collective bargaining agreement has been ratified, we are closing in on the start of MLS preseason. I’m looking forward to it and can’t wait. We have plenty to cover today, so let’s get to the links.

Orlando City Makes Contract Offer for Alexandre Pato

The Mane Land’s sources confirmed that Orlando City made a contract offer to Brazilian forward Alexandre Pato. The deal is reportedly not a Designated Player contract and an answer to the offer could come by the end of today. Pato has been a free agent since August after leaving Sao Paulo FC, making 20 appearances and scoring five goals in 2019. The 31-year-old has played for many big-name clubs such as A.C. Milan, Villarreal, Corinthians, and Chelsea. This potential move would give Orlando depth at the forward position and Pato also could be a mentor for the young strikers as well. One way or another we should hear something soon, but how do you think Pato would fit in Orlando? Let me know in the comments below.

Alex De John Signs With Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC

Former Orlando City center back Alex De John signed a one-year contract with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, with a club option for 2022. De John has played in top division clubs across Europe before playing with Orlando City for the past two MLS seasons, making 15 appearances for the Lions. This will be De John’s first stint in the USL Championship and he’ll be a veteran presence to boost the Riverhounds’ back line for the upcoming season.

2021 U.S. Open Cup Format Confirmed

The U.S. Soccer Federation revealed the 2021 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup format for this year. It will be a compressed and shortened tournament this year due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. This year’s tournament will have 24 teams, with eight from Major League Soccer, eight from the USL Championship, two from USL League One, two from the National Independent Soccer Association, and four open division spots. There will be five rounds of play starting on May 4 and the final will take place June 29 and 30.

U.S. Soccer has contingency plans in place and if the matches are disrupted then it’s possible the tournament could be cancelled again. The 2020 edition of the tournament was cancelled in August. The U.S. Open Cup usually has more than 100 clubs participating with eight rounds, but that was not deemed feasible by the Open Cup Committee for the 107th edition.

“As we looked at our scheduling options, the Open Cup Committee first prioritized the health and safety of the players and decided against scheduling matches in both March and April due to the ongoing circumstances with the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Marstaller in a statement. “We also took into consideration the extended June FIFA window and the Concacaf Gold Cup taking place through Aug. 1, along with the semifinal and final rounds of the 2021 Concacaf Champions League being scheduled in the fall.

“In the end, we all felt a shortened version for this year was the best format, and we’re excited to have the opportunity to crown a champion after not being able to in 2020.”

Americans Abroad and at Home

Orlando City forward Daryl Dike could make his debut for Barnsley FC tomorrow in the team’s clash against Christian Pulisic and Chelsea in the FA Cup’s fifth round. They won’t be the only Americans in action over in Europe this week as Sergino Dest, Brenden Aaronson, Jordan Morris, Zack Steffen, and others could all see minutes.

As for players in the U.S., Stars and Stripes FC posted a list of U.S. Men’s National Team players who need to have a comeback in 2021. With plenty of tournaments on the horizon, players like Paxton Pomykal, Miles Robinson, and Jozy Altidore could all step up this season. I think Pomykal gets a pass because he missed last year due to a hip injury. If he can bounce back and stay healthy, he has a chance to break through. Gabriel Heinze taking over at Atlanta United club may be the boost that Robinson needs. As for Altidore, he has struggled with injuries throughout his career in MLS but can still be in the USMNT picture if he stays fit and plays consistently.

Domestic and U.S. players abroad could be called up for the U.S. Men’s National Team’s next friendly on March 28 against Northern Ireland in Belfast.

Free Kicks

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