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Lion Links: 4/23/21

Orlando City faces road test, Exploria Stadium will host the Gold Cup, Ashlyn Harris wins NWSL Player of the Week, and more.

MLS: Sporting KC at FC Dallas Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

How’s it going, Mane Landers? Not only is today Friday, but it’s also an Orlando City game day. The game should be a great way to transition to the weekend, even though I’ll be spending it smashing the refresh button on my computer at work. Still, it’s nice to have the season back in full swing. Let’s get this Friday started with some links from around the soccer world.

The Lions Hit the Road

Orlando City faces its first road test of the season with a match against Sporting Kansas City tonight at 7:30 p.m. Even in a tough match on the road, the Lions will be hunting for all three points. The match will be the 20th meeting between head coaches Oscar Pareja and Peter Vermes, as well as Vermes’ 600th MLS match as either a player or coach. Alexandre Pato won’t feature for the Lions as he is still recovering from injury, but forward Tesho Akindele has a decent track record against Sporting KC. While playing on the road is never easy in MLS, the Lions looked comfortable traveling for the first time this year.

The Gold Cup is Heading to Exploria Stadium

Exploria Stadium was selected as a venue to host the 2021 Gold Cup set to take place this July. Although the schedule and match information isn’t available just yet, it’s exciting to see yet another major event coming to the soccer-specific stadium. Exploria has become a popular destination for soccer after Orlando proved it could handle hosting matches during the pandemic. With the Gold Cup on its way this summer, the city continues to build a strong resume for hosting games in the 2026 FIFA World Cup.

Andres Perea’s Forging His Own Path

Although the U-23 United States Men’s National Team wasn’t able to qualify for the Olympics this summer, Perea has a chance to make an impact with the U.S. during the Gold Cup this summer. At both the club and international level, the 20-year-old has impressed as a central midfielder who rarely turns the ball over. In Orlando’s season opener, Perea came on in the second half to give needed depth to the Lions offense. As he continues to do well with the Lions, more opportunities should open up for Perea with the U.S.

Ashlyn Harris Named NWSL Player of the Week

Orlando Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris made nine saves in the team’s 1-0 win over the Washington Spirit, including yet another penalty save to preserve a clean sheet. Her performance was enough to be named NWSL Player of the Week as the Pride won its first match since 2019.

Even beyond Harris, the Pride’s defense did well in the match as Gunny Jónsdóttir played at an unfamiliar position as right back in her Pride debut. On offense, American pair Alex Morgan and Sydney Leroux linked up for the game’s only goal. The win showed plenty of potential moving forward for the Pride as they avoided elimination in the NWSL Challenge Cup.

Free Kicks

That’s going to be it for now, Mane Landers. Make sure to get all your ducks in a row before the game tonight so you aren’t stuck running errands while the Lions are on the hunt. Tonight should be fun, but be safe and have plenty of fun!