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Lion Links: 3/16/21

Orlando City beats Philly, Yunus Musah commits to the U.S., Pato is happy, Olympic qualifying, and more.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Happy St. Patrick’s Eve, Mane Landers! I’m back a lot sooner than any of us expected, but since I’m here we might as well try to make the best of it. I don’t know how many of you have ordered the new Thick N Thin home kit, but mine arrived the other day, and I have to say that it looks even better in person. Let’s see what made the news today.

Lions Defeat Union

Orlando City won the club’s first 2021 preseason scrimmage 1-0 against the Philadelphia Union. Alexander Alvarado scored the lone goal of the match. While both teams played some of their younger players, the Union still fielded a pretty strong lineup. The match provided an opportunity for Óscar Pareja to evaluate his players, including the younger Lions. Orlando City will be back in action this Thursday in a closed door match against New York City FC.

Musah is Officially a Yank

Yunus Musah had the opportunity to play internationally for England, Ghana, Italy or the United States. As of yesterday, the 18-year-old multinational committed to compete for the U.S. Musah made two appearances in friendlies for the U.S. against Wales and Panama last November. The young midfielder currently plays for Valencia in La Liga. Musah’s decision to play for the U.S. adds another outstanding player to the USMNT, and makes him another piece in what could be a golden generation for U.S. Soccer. If this news alone isn’t enough to get you excited, take a look at this.

Pato’s Happy Decision

Orlando City supporters were very happy to hear that Alexandre Pato signed with the club, but it seems that Pato made that decision in order for he and his family to also find their own happiness.

“I received many opportunities to go to Europe again, to Asia and the Emirates. I said to my family, ‘No, I want to be more happy.’ I don’t know, maybe other places have very good football and nice people, but I said, ‘No, I want a new challenge’ but I need to find someplace nice for a family,” Pato said.

“I expected for the new step, for the new club to get my happiness back for myself. I want to just be happy. I am 31-years-old and I am still so young. 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 to come to Orlando,” he added.

Concacaf Olympic Qualifying Approaches

This Thursday, the U-23 USMNT will take on Costa Rica to start Concacaf Olympic qualification. The U.S. is in Group A with Mexico, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic. As I’m certain you are aware, Orlando City’s Andrés Perea and Benji Michel are on the roster for the competition. Since the under-23 rule was instituted, the U.S. has qualified in four out of seven attempts. Gregg Berhalter’s squad will try to make it five.

Free Kicks
  • Just a little preseason workout for Orlando City. I know it might not look too hard, but those professional athletes are moving very deliberately.
  • Folarin Balogun is a dual national who could still conceivably play for the USMNT. Most hadn’t given him much thought as he’s been playing with the English youth national teams for a while, but once Musah announced his intentions, Balogun put out this cryptic Tweet. What it means (if anything) is anyone’s guess at this point.
  • Soccer skill seems to run in Nani’s family. His younger cousin, Sidnei Tavares, is getting minutes and making waves at Leicester City. It won’t be long before some of the bigger clubs in Europe come knocking.
  • D.C. United’s Steve Birnbaum will be out for 2-3 months due to ankle surgery. D.C.’s captain was expected back sooner, but physicians determined that the additional operation was necessary.
  • Jose Gallegos from San Antonio FC of the USL is headed to a two-week trial with Bayern Munich. Gallegos was a finalist for the USL “Young Player of the Year” award, and now is a potential transfer for the Bavarian club.
  • I’m going to end today with a level of adorableness usually reserved for Baby Groot. It seems that Alex Morgan, Ali Krieger, and Ashlyn Harris got the kids together for a play date. Enjoy.

And if that wasn’t cute enough...

Have a great day!