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Lion Links: 3/12/21

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Orlando City continues training, Andres Perea and Benji Michel named to U.S. U-23 roster, Daryl Dike’s rise, and more.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Colorado Rapids Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

How’s it going, Mane Landers? Hopefully you all have been enjoying the warmer weather as we head into the weekend. I don’t have any plans for it beyond working, but things seem to go smoother during the weekend regardless. Enjoy these links from around the soccer world to help get your Friday started off right.

Orlando City Prepares for Upcoming Season

The Lions’ home game on April 17 against Atlanta United will be one of the best from Major League Soccer’s opening slate of matches. Orlando was able to defeat Atlanta on two separate occasions in 2020, but Atlanta forward Josef Martinez will be back to try and spoil the party after recovering from his torn ACL last year. Although Orlando midfielder Mauricio Pereyra will be out due to suspension and Daryl Dike will likely still be in England on loan, the Lions will have reinforcements of their own thanks to Alexandre Pato and Silvester van der Water. It all sets up for an exciting match-up that I really wish wasn’t over a month away.

The good thing about the game being that far out though is that Head Coach Oscar Pareja has time to get the Lions ready. While fans have their sights set on that opening match, Pareja must make sure the Lions are fit for a full season rather after a shortened 2020 season filled with bursts of matches. Currently in Bradenton, the Lions are undergoing a rigorous week of training and it’s nice to see them together and in such good spirits.

Pair of Lions Make Roster for U.S. Olympic Qualifiers

Orlando City’s Andres Perea and Benji Michel were both named to the U-23 United States Men’s National Team’s 20-man roster for Olympic qualifying this month in Mexico. It should be a great opportunity for both players to make a splash as they aim to help the U.S. men’s side qualify for the Olympics for the first time since 2008. The U.S. starts the qualifying tournament on March 18 against Costa Rica, followed by matches with the Dominican Republic and Mexico. The top two finishers in the group of four will advance to a semifinal round that will determine which teams will go to Tokyo this summer.

Daryl Dike’s Ascent into the Spotlight

Although he is eligible, Orlando forward Daryl Dike was not named to the U.S. U-23 Olympic qualifying roster as he continues to impress while on loan with Barnsley FC. Regardless, the 20-year-old has enough skill to beg the question of how he will impact the USMNT in the future. Dike is in a good spot to become one of the USMNT’s top forwards, although Josh Sargent and Matthew Hoppe are also impressing while in Europe. It’s easy to forget that Dike has only been playing professionally for a year, but it also feels like his potential hasn’t been reached. With World Cup qualifying later this year, it will be interesting to see how Dike fits in Gregg Berhalter’s plans.

Europa League Begins Exciting Round of 16

While attention is certainly on Juventus and FC Barcelona exiting the UEFA Champions League, you shouldn’t overlook the Europa League’s round of 16 as it is filled with big clubs and underdogs worth watching. The best match-up is between Manchester United and AC Milan and the two clubs fought to a 1-1 draw at Old Trafford. Although 18-year-old Amad Diallo scored his first goal for United, Milan defender Simon Kjaer scored off of a header in stoppage time for an important away goal.

AS Roma, Tottenham Hotspur, and Arsenal all won to help make their second legs a bit more comfortable. Ajax, Granada, and Villareal also had comfortable wins that should let them cruise to the quarterfinals while Rangers FC played on the road for a 1-1 draw with Slavia Prague.

Free Kicks
  • The more I see the Lions having fun, the more I hate that the season doesn’t start tomorrow. For the time being, we will just have to appreciate Pedro Gallese’s dance moves.

That’s it from me today, Mane Landers. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend.