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Lion Links: 4/21/21

Orlando City prepares for Sporting Kansas City, the Orlando Pride host the Washington Spirit tonight, Abi Kim is improving, and more.

NJ/NY Gotham FC v Orlando Pride Photo by Alex Menendez/ Getty Images

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope everyone is doing well as we enter the middle of the week. I’ve just been catching up on shows, packing a few things, and getting ready for a busy work week ahead. The Orlando Pride are in action tonight at Exploria Stadium and Orlando City has a road match against Sporting Kansas City this Friday. Before we jump into today’s links, let’s wish a happy 22nd birthday to Orlando winger Alexander Alvarado!

The Lions Prepare for First Road Trip of 2021

After starting the season at Exploria Stadium, the Lions will travel to take on Sporting KC this Friday at 7:30 p.m. As one of the top teams in the Western Conference, Sporting KC is formidable and won its opening match 2-1 over the New York Red Bulls. The Lions have done well against Sporting KC in the past, beating them the past two years, with Tesho Akindele scoring in the last two meetings. While Sporting had a handful of departures this off-season, striker Dániel Sallói is a player to watch. The Hungarian scored in Sporting KC’s season opener and made the MLS Team of the Week bench.

The Orlando Pride Host the Washington Spirit Tonight

The Pride are coming into tonight's match after losing 1-0 to Gotham FC last week in the NWSL Challenge Cup. The Pride created plenty of scoring chances in that loss, outshooting Gotham, 17-7. The Spirit defeated Racing Louisville FC 1-0 last week after Ashley Sanchez scored the game-winner late in stoppage time. Key Washington players to keep an eye on in tonight’s match are Trinity Rodman and Kumi Yokoyama as both scored in the Spirit’s 3-2 loss to the North Carolina Courage to open the season.

Marta has had success against the Spirit throughout her NWSL career, scoring seven goals. The Pride’s Crystal Thomas and Meggie Dougherty Howard recently played for the Spirit and will have a shot at facing their former team tonight. Alex Morgan is also back after playing friendlies with the United States Women’s National Team in Europe and she’s ready to make an impact for the Pride.

Abi Kim Continues to Improve in Orlando

Despite tearing a ligament in her right hand during the preseason, Pride forward Abi Kim made her debut with the Pride in their NWSL Challenge Cup opener against Racing Louisville FC. Even with a cast on her hand, Kim made an impact after coming on late in the second half and scoring to give the Pride the lead. The match finished even at 2-2, but Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner expressed how Kim has exceeded his own expectations.

“The first thing that drew us to her was the electric pace, “Skinner said. “But then when she got into preseason, she was way more than that.”

Skinner also shared that he was eager to bring Kim to the club in 2020, but an injury sidelined her for the Challenge Cup and prevented her from signing a contract. Instead, Kim went abroad to play for Fiorentina on loan last year and she was able to develop her game despite the language barrier.

European Super League Fallout

All six of the included English Premier League clubs are reportedly in the process of withdrawing from the European Super League. Barcelona and Atletico Madrid have also reportedly pulled out. The reversal is not that surprising considering backlash from players, coaches, politicians, and fans. Domestic European leagues, UEFA, and FIFA also had their say on the matter, threatening sanctions and banning players from international competition.

We’ve also seen ramifications in the front office with Manchester United’s Ed Woodward resigning from his role as executive vice-chairman after eight years. In Italy, Juventus President Andrea Agnelli has also resigned from the club. I expect more fallout from this proposal as it looks like the European Super League has fallen apart.

Free Kicks
  • This week’s MLS power rankings are out and Orlando City remains in seventh after its scoreless draw with Atlanta United.
  • Orlando City U-23 player Martin Vician was nominated for the United Premier Soccer League’s Player of the Week after a pair of hat tricks.
  • FC Cincinnati acquired $950,000 in General Allocation Money from the New York Red Bulls in exchange for midfielder Frankie Amaya, who gets a fresh start after two years in Ohio.
  • Gotham won 4-3 over the North Carolina Courage to move into first place of the group in the east, with two wins so far in the Challenge Cup. Midge Purce, Carli Lloyd, Debinha, and Jessica McDonald all scored in a game that featured five goals in the first half, but it was Gotham substitute Evelyne Viens who scored the game-winner in stoppage time.
  • The USL Championship announced its playoff structure for the 2021 season. It will include a 16-team playoff that begins this November.
  • Ted Lasso is returning to the sidelines for AFC Richmond this summer.

That will do it for me, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Wednesday, take care of yourself, and I’ll see you next time.