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Lion Links: 4/9/21

Orlando City signs Rio Hope-Gund, NWSL Challenge Cup starts today, USWNT prepares for Sweden, and more.

2021 SheBelieves Cup - United States v Canada Photo by Brad Smith/ISI Photos/Getty Images

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope you all are hanging in there as we get closer and closer to Orlando City and Orlando Pride soccer. I’m looking forward to games not being so crammed together this year so I can have some breathing room between matches. Last year was a great time to be a Lions supporter, but it was also hectic to say the least. The Lions’ last preseason game will take place today when they take on Minnesota United. But for now, let’s enjoy these links from around the soccer world.

Orlando City Signs Rio Hope-Gund

Defender Rio Hope-Gund is officially a Lion after Orlando signed the 21-year-old to a one-year deal with club options for 2022, 2023, and 2024. Drafted in the first round of the 2021 MLS SuperDraft by the Lions, Hope-Gund played eight games with Georgetown for a fourth and final season this spring before heading to Orlando. Hope-Gund was added to Orlando’s Supplemental Roster and should help fill the void at center back left by the departures of Kamal Miller and Alex De John this off-season.

The NWSL Season Begins Today

Although the Orlando Pride won’t play until tomorrow, the wait is over for the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup. The reigning champion Houston Dash will get the tournament started tonight at 8:30 p.m. as they host the Chicago Red Stars, with a later match between the Portland Thorns and Kansas City at 10:30 p.m. After not participating in the Challenge Cup last season, the Pride will take on Racing Louisville FC tomorrow at 7 p.m.

It should be an exciting season for the league with plenty of storylines to track all year long. The Portland Thorns are loaded with talent and may topple the North Carolina Courage as the most dominant team in the league. As for the Pride, it will be interesting to see how their deep midfield and lethal attackers can stack up against the rest of the league.

USWNT Prepares for Sweden

Pride forward Alex Morgan is with the United States Women’s National Team in Europe for a pair of friendlies. The first is tomorrow at 1:10 p.m. against Sweden at Friends Arena in Stockholm. It will be the 41st match between the two sides, with the most recent meeting taking place on Nov. 7, 2019 when the USWNT won 3-2 in Columbus, OH. Sweden qualified for the Tokyo Olympics this summer and is currently on an eight-game unbeaten streak. The USWNT’s second friendly will be against France on April 13 as the team continues preparations for the Olympics.

Away Teams Performed Well in Europa League

Manchester United was the biggest winner in the Europa League quarterfinals’ first legs. On the road in Spain, Marcus Rashford scored in the first half and Bruno Fernandes converted a penalty in the 90th minute to give United a pair of away goals in a 2-0 win over Granada. In Amsterdam, AS Roma mounted a comeback in the second half to win 2-1 over Ajax thanks to goals from Lorenzo Pellegrini and Ibañez. Villarreal also won, defeating Dinamo Zagreb 1-0 in Croatia.

The only draw took place at Emirates Stadium as Arsenal and Slavia Prague fought to a 1-1 result. Arsenal’s Nicolas Pépé seemed to score the game-winner in the 86th minute, but Tomáš Holeš scored an equalizer in stoppage time off of a corner kick to give Prague a critical away goal. You can check out the goal below, as well as the exact moment Arsenal Manager Mikel Arteta’s heart breaks.

Free Kicks
  • Let’s start these free kicks off with a great meme from Orlando midfielder Andrés Perea regarding teammate Daryl Dike.
  • In case you didn’t know Pride midfielder Meggie Dougherty Howard is Floridian, this video should make it clear.

That will do it for today’s links, folks. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend. Stay safe out there!