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Lion Links: 3/13/21

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Orlando City turns down large offer for Daryl Dike, Pato arrives in Orlando, a sudden twist in Alex De John’s career, and more.

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

Happy Saturday, everyone. It’s inching closer and closer to the 2021 MLS and NWSL season and our teams are gearing up for what will hopefully be a great year. The Pride are in action today against Florida State and, while we’re not going to be in Tallahassee to see it today, we eagerly await news that the team is scoring goals again. It should be interesting to see who plays today with another preseason friendly tomorrow against Flagler College.

Let’s get to the news of the day.

Orlando City Reportedly Turned Down $10 Million for Dike

This one goes out to the “but it’s not a $20 million buyout!” crowd. The BBC reported Friday that Orlando City had turned down a purchase bid of $10 million from a “big six” Premier League club for striker Daryl Dike, who is currently on loan with Barnsley FC. Further, Orlando Sentinel reporter Julia Poe reported that a source confirmed that the bid was made and that it included the same retention of 20% of the sell-on fee that was included in the purchase option in Dike’s loan to Barnsley. Poe’s story, as well as the BBC’s, both reiterated that the loan to Barnsley has a $20 million purchase price.

What this all means is that the club places a great deal of faith in Dike’s continued development and, so far, Luiz Muzzi has earned the benefit of the doubt when it comes to personnel decisions. The club wants Dike to stay in Orlando a while longer, continue to grow as a player, and then wish him well and sell him on to a European side for a large sum. A $10 million sale seems hard to turn down and I’m sure the club had to think long and hard before doing so. It would be — by far — a club record sale. So, to turn that down is an indicator of what Orlando City thinks Dike will become. Gifted strikers bring good financial returns and the Lions are betting on making bank on Dike down the road. Atlanta sold Miguel Almiron to a non-big six club for $21 million. Dike’s sale could bring in more than that if he keeps filling the goal.

The Duck Migrates to Orlando

Brazilian forward Alexandre Pato has arrived. Orlando City released comments from Pato and photos of ‘The Duck’ at Exploria Stadium, showing off his new purple ‘Thick N Thin’ No. 7 kit on Friday. Pato seems excited to be here and to play for Oscar Pareja.

“He’s like a father,” Pato said. “He loves you, but sometimes he knows [you] need a push. ... I will give everything for him. From the first impression, he’s amazing.”

...

“I’m so empowered now,” Pato said. “My mentality is empowered. I understand what I need to do to enjoy my work. I need to work hard. You get some things important in your life, you need to work hard. So that’s my challenge when I accept[ed] to come to Orlando.”

Orlando Stepping Up as Soccer Destination

We’ve been saying for years that Orlando is the soccer capital of the south and we will continue to irrationally believe that until the sun explodes, but the soccer world really has made its home in Central Florida since the pandemic began.

At a time when sports events closed down, Orlando hosted a combined 94 matches at Exploria Stadium and ESPN Wide World of Sports — only nine of which were closed to fans.

The ability to host games helped to absorb a year of loss for a city dependent on tourism and potentially bolstered Orlando’s bid to become a World Cup host city in 2026.

“I think that in tough times like these, it could have exposed weaknesses and instead just the opposite happened,” Greater Orlando Sports CEO Jason Siegel said. “It showed our true character. I believe that’s the reason that our community was able to come together and start the process of recovering.”

Pulling off events like the MLS is Back Tournament, the Concacaf Champions League, the SheBelieves Cup, international friendlies, and MLS and NWSL Fall Series matches during such a crazy time can only improve Orlando’s chances of becoming a World Cup host city.

Ex-Lion Alex De John Signs with Atlanta United

Like many of you, I was surprised to see that former Orlando City defender Alex De John had signed with Atlanta United on Friday. After all, De John just signed with the Pittsburgh Riverhounds a month ago and seemed poised to get a lot of playing time in the USL Championship. It turns out that the Riverhounds are magnanimous folks who apparently just let their players walk away. Pittsburgh released De John from his contract so he could sign with the Five Stripes. Pittsburgh released a statement yesterday about it.

Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC has released defender Alex De John from his contract with the club after De John was offered an opportunity to sign with Major League Soccer’s Atlanta United FC.

“We were excited to have Alex’s USL rights for the 2021 season, but we were very clear with him and his agent prior to signing that we would not stand in his way if an MLS opportunity presented itself,” Riverhounds Head Coach Bob Lilley said. “Although we are disappointed to lose his services, we wish Alex success moving forward with Atlanta.”

It’s unclear if the Riverhounds received anything for De John’s rights from Atlanta, but if they did not, they are now on our Arya Stark list of names for letting him go to Atlanta. This should only add some more spice to the growing rivalry.

Free Kicks
  • Orlando City is among the MLS teams with the highest percentages of returning minutes played (88%) from a year ago, which is a sharp rise from the transition from 2019 to 2020, when the club returned below 75% of its minutes played.
  • Those born on this date include singer/songwriter Neil Sedaka (1941), open-wheel racer Lyn St. James (1947), actor William H. Macy (1950), singer and actress Charo (1951), U2 bassist Adam Clayton (1960), Annabeth Gish (1971), actor/rapper Common (1972), racer Marco Andretti (1987), and basketball’s Tristan Thompson (1991).

That’s all for me this morning. Enjoy your weekend as we get closer and closer to meaningful OCSC games in 2021.