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Lion Links: 3/10/21

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Orlando Pride’s Challenge Cup schedule unveiled, Ali Riley and Toni Pressley bond, USWNT will head to Sweden, and more.

MLS: MLS All-Star Game Press Conference Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope everyone’s week is off to a good start. I’ve been busy putting a sportscast project together for my portfolio class. Before we get to today’s links, let’s wish a happy birthday to Orlando City midfielder Junior Urso as he turns 32 years old today.

Orlando Pride’s NWSL Challenge Cup Schedule Revealed

The Orlando Pride will begin the NWSL Challenge Cup on the road on April 10 against expansion team Racing Louisville FC. The Pride will then play at home on April 14 against Sky Blue FC and again on April 21 against the Washington Spirit. Their last match will be on the road against the North Carolina Courage on May 1. The top team from each four-team division will move on to take part in the tournament final on May 8. The Pride’s home match against Sky Blue and road game in North Carolina will both be nationally televised on CBS Sports Network while the other two games can be streamed on Paramount+.

For the pair of home games at Exploria Stadium, fans are permitted to attend at reduced capacity under the same club policies that have been in place since Major League Soccer returned to play in 2020. Season ticket members have an exclusive window to purchase tickets starting today at 2 p.m. and the tickets open up to the general public tomorrow at 2 p.m. Fans will also be able to attend the Pride’s home games during the regular season, which begins on May 15.

Pride Defenders Bonding Off the Field

Due to the Pride not getting much playing time together in 2020, defenders Ali Riley and Toni Pressley have strengthened their friendship outside of soccer. The duo bonded over a love for vegan cooking and are working on a cookbook as just one of many projects. Between learning about tarot cards and improving their video editing skills for social media content, the pair are working on ways to become better teammates. This also allows them to engage with fans more after a year that limited interactions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We haven’t been able to engage and interact with fans in person for a year,” Riley said. “I haven’t been able to meet any fans yet in person. So for me to kind of be able to show my personality a little bit and my teammates as well, it’s just so fun for me...Of course we want to do well on the field and we want to make our community, the club [and] Orlando proud, but I think it’s also cool to allow people to get to know us.”

MLS News From Around the League

BetMGM released the odds each MLS team has to win the MLS Cup in 2021 and LAFC is the early favorite at +500 odds. The Seattle Sounders are second at +800 odds while the current MLS Cup champion Columbus Crew are at +900 odds. Orlando City was given the eighth-best chance to win the MLS Cup at +1800 odds.

We may also find out Orlando’s first opponent of the season if the league’s slate of opening matches is announced today. Since joining MLS, the Lions have started each season at home so it will be interesting to see if the trend continues.

In other news, LAFC signed University of Central Florida alumnus Cal Jennings. The forward led Memphis 901 FC with nine goals last year in the USL Championship and joins a strong LAFC offense. The Vancouver Whitecaps acquired right back Bruno Gaspar on loan, the LA Galaxy agreed to a deal for AS Monaco winger Samuel Grandsir, and D.C. United added 19-year-old forward Jovanny Bolivar on loan from Deportivo La Guaira in Venezuela.

USWNT Will Head to Europe Next Month

The United States Women’s National Team will travel to Europe next month for a pair of friendlies. The first match is on April 10 against Sweden while the second match will be on April 13 against an opponent yet to be announced. This news means that the Orlando Pride’s Alex Morgan, and possibly Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger, would miss the start of the NWSL Challenge Cup if called up. Morgan isn’t a fan of the Challenge Cup taking place during an international break as it would further delay her return to playing with Pride.

“I’m super bummed that the Challenge Cup is falling within a FIFA window,” Morgan said. “I think that NWSL could’ve had the opportunity to start the Challenge Cup outside of the FIFA window in order for each team to have their entire roster...But having to adjust is something that I think is gonna be a theme for this year if the Olympics are gonna happen, and you have to count on those happening.”

Free Kicks
  • Our condolences go out to Orlando right back Ruan and his family after his mother passed away Tuesday.
  • Have you ever wondered what Exploria Stadium would look like in Minecraft? Well, check it out.

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