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Lion Links: 3/29/21

Oscar Pareja is confident Orlando City can compete with Liga MX, USMNT beats Northern Ireland, the U-23 USMNT fails to qualify for the Olympics, and more.

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Merry Monday morning, Mane Landers! I’m looking forward to the end of this month because I get my second vaccine shot this Wednesday. I encourage you to get vaccinated as soon as you are able to so we can all meet together later this year in Exploria Stadium and let the opposition know how difficult it is to play in Orlando.

Oscar Pareja is Confident in the Lions

Normally, one might be leery if a head coach set expectations too high in only his second season. But that is exactly what Oscar Pareja is doing with Orlando City before the 2021 season. He said that his players can not only win in MLS, but also against the Liga MX competition they will face during the Leagues Cup. Pareja hasn’t come to that conclusion just on the value of his own players, but also the value of MLS as a league. The Lions will have a chance to prove him correct later this year in August when they host a Liga MX side in Exploria Stadium.

Daryl Dike Lifts Spirits in England

Orlando’s Daryl Dike has done well while on loan with Barnsley FC in the English Football League Championship. Barnsley went from nearly being relegated last year to having a chance at promotion to the Premier League and Dike has played a part in the club’s ascent since joining. Dike has become a shining light of optimism for the Championship side both on and off the field according to Barnsley Chief Executive Dane Murphy.

“He is such a breath of fresh air,” Murphy said. “Just so full of life, energy, enthusiasm. It’s very different than the English football culture; he is always smiling and wanting to bring as much positivity to the group as possible. It relaxes guys and makes them feel at ease with him.”

USMNT Defeats Northern Ireland in Europe

The United States Men’s National Team scored multiple goals for the fifth-straight match, defeating Northern Ireland 2-1 at Windsor Park in Belfast. It was the first victory for the U.S. over a European team playing on its home soil since 2015. Giovanni Reyna scored off of a deflection in the 30th minute to give the Yanks the early lead and Christian Pulisic earned and then converted a penalty kick in the 59th minute. Dike came on in the 63rd minute and had some chances, but wasn’t able to score. Northern Ireland pulled one back in the 88th minute, but the Yanks were able to hold on for the win.

U-23 USMNT Fails to Qualify for Tokyo Olympics

A defensive breakdown and a terrible goalkeeping error doomed the U-23 United States National Team from making the Olympics for the third time in a row after a 2-1 loss to Honduras. Orlando’s Andres Perea started, but Benji Michel didn’t make it off the bench. A goal late in the first half gave Honduras the lead, and then U.S. goalkeeper David Ochoa gifted a goal to the opposition at the start of the second half. It was a sloppy effort by the U-23 squad, although captain Jackson Yueill did score a golazo in the 52nd minute to try to get the Yanks back in the match.

Unfortunately, the U.S. wasn’t able to find another goal to draw even and the Yanks will not be headed to Tokyo this summer.

Free Kicks
  • Orlando right back Ruan is getting noticed as a potential breakout player for the upcoming season. It’s not really surprising given his speed, but improved crossing could take his game to another level.
  • Meanwhile, Orlando Pride draft pick Mikayla Colohan is on an eight-match scoring streak. Hopefully, she can do the same for the Pride.

That will do it for this Monday. See you next week.