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Lion Links: 2/19/21

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Remembering Nani’s success with Orlando City, Chris Mueller earns praise, Orlando Pride players feature in SheBelieves Cup, and more.

2021 SheBelieves Cup - Brazil v Argentina Photo by Alex Menendez/ Getty Images

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope you’re all doing well as we head into the weekend. There’s been plenty of soccer this week and even more in the coming days as the SheBelieves Cup continues. Before we jump into today’s links, let’s wish a happy birthday to the Orlando Pride’s Marta and Toni Pressley. The engaged couple share a birthday today, which is pretty cool.

Nani’s Impact With Orlando City

After joining the team ahead of the 2019 season, Nani has helped the Lions become a force to be reckoned with in MLS. In his first season with Orlando City, Nani scored 12 goals and had 10 assists to become the first player to reach double digits in both categories in Orlando’s MLS history. Due to a suspension and the pandemic, Nani didn’t take the field for Orlando in 2020 until the MLS is Back Tournament. The captain performed well in the tournament, scoring late against Inter Miami in the opener, setting up Joao Moutinho’s equalizer against LAFC, and scoring twice to beat Minnesota United and advance to the tournament final.

Nani then led the Lions to the MLS playoffs for the first time and converted a penalty for Orlando’s first MLS postseason goal. Orlando’s captain will lead the team into a 2021 season full of expectations and it will be exciting to see how far the team can go.

Chris Mueller Is One of MLS’ Best Americans

Nani wasn’t the only player with a strong 2020 season. Winger Chris Mueller had his best year yet in Orlando with 10 goals and seven assists during regular-season play. Benefitting from having other great offensive players around him, Mueller emerged as a winger capable of crashing the box to score on his own. His performance earned him call-ups to the United States Men’s National Team and he’s become one of the best American players in the league. With an energetic style of play that keeps fans on their feet and a strong finishing ability that keeps defenders on their toes, he should do well this upcoming season as well.

SheBelieves Cup Kicks Off

The United States Women’s National Team won 1-0 against Canada in its first game of the SheBelieves Cup. Rose Lavelle scored the lone goal of the match, finding the back of the net with a pinpoint strike in the 79th minute. The Pride’s Alex Morgan didn’t start, but came on in the 64th minute for Carli Lloyd. As for Canada, Pride center back Shelina Zadorsky started while midfielder Jordyn Listro made the bench but didn’t feature.

As for the other SheBelieves Cup match, Marta started and converted a penalty in Brazil’s 4-1 win over Argentina. The next SheBelieves Cup matches will be this Sunday as the USWNT takes on Brazil at 3 p.m. and Canada faces Argentina at 6 p.m.

Europa League Round of 32 Begins

Across the pond, the day belonged to Manchester United and Tottenham Hotspur in the first legs of the Europa League’s round of 32. Bruno Fernandes scored a brace, Marcus Rashford extended the lead, and Daniel James’ 90th-minute goal put a bow on a 4-0 result in United’s favor. Although he didn’t score, Fred delivered this brilliant ball to set up Rashford’s goal on the counter.

On the road against Wolfsberger, Gareth Bale set up Son Heung-Min to give Tottenham an early lead and then scored himself in what ended up as a 4-1 result. Elsewhere in Europe, American forward Tim Weah scored for Lille but the club still fell to a pair of late goals by Ajax. Arsenal only managed a 1-1 result with Benfica after Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang whiffed on what should have been an easy goal. AC Milan, Bayer Leverkusen, Napoli, and RB Salzburg also failed to take the lead in their first legs.

Free Kicks

That’s going to be it for today, folks. Hopefully you all have a smooth Friday and a great weekend. Stay safe out there and look out for each other.