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Lion Links: 5/21/21

Orlando City prepares to host Toronto FC, Andres Perea’s journey, the Orlando Pride will head to North Carolina, Daryl Dike is called up, and more.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Orlando City SC Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope the work week wasn’t too rough on you as we head into another soccer-filled weekend. Orlando City and the Orlando Pride are both in action at 7 p.m. tomorrow night. Leagues across Europe will also reach their conclusions over the next few days, so there’s plenty of soccer to look forward to. But for now, enjoy today’s links!

Orlando City Takes On Toronto FC Tomorrow

After a 1-0 road win against D.C. United last week, the Lions return to Exploria Stadium to face Toronto. The Lions have been a defensive powerhouse so far this season by only conceding two goals, a giveaway pounced on by Sporting Kansas City’s Gianluca Busio and a penalty kick from New York City FC’s Valentin Castellanos. Goalkeeper Pedro Gallese already has three clean sheets to his name, most in the league alongside Nashville SC’s Joe Willis, and center back Antonio Carlos anchors a back line that is excelling despite injuries.

It will be the first time Orlando has played Toronto since August of 2019, when the two sides drew 1-1. Jozy Altidore, who has scored six goals against the Lions over the years, got his first start of the season last week in Toronto’s 1-1 draw with NYCFC and should feature in this one as well. Former Lion Dom Dwyer also made his season debut in that match and tomorrow could be his return to Exploria Stadium.

Andres Perea Reflects on His Journey to Orlando

In his first year as a Lion in 2020, Perea found plenty of playing time due to his versatility in the midfield. Capable of playing well both offensively and defensively, Perea can fill most roles asked of him by Orlando Head Coach Oscar Pareja. Perea’s father, who played for Colombia’s Atletico Nacional and later coached its U-20 team, has encouraged him over the course of his career to gain the needed skills to excel as a midfielder.

“He was able to teach me the things that I would need for the future in that position and make sure that I knew everything that I had going,” Perea said. “We always said that football runs through our blood.”

When watching him now as a Lion, you can easily spot his unselfishness and awareness once the ball is at his feet. Although he’s only started once this year, Perea has featured in all five of the Lions’ games, usually as a substitute to shift the game in Orlando’s favor. He’s become a great weapon for Pareja this way, given the coach’s penchant for changing the team’s shape or tactics at will. As he gets more opportunity at both the club and national levels, Perea will only improve further as a midfielder.

The Orlando Pride Prepare for the North Carolina Courage

The Pride’s first road game of the season will take place tomorrow as they take on the North Carolina Courage. The past three meetings between the two teams have been draws, including a scoreless one on May 1 in the 2021 NWSL Challenge Cup. Sam Mewis is returning to the Courage, but won’t be available for this match. Debinha and Jessica McDonald are the two Courage players who could give the Pride’s defense the most trouble.

It will be a tough task for Pride center back Phoebe McClernon, who has started in all of the Pride’s games so far. However, McClernon has improved each match and is getting better at communicating with teammates as she finds her footing with the team. Pride Head Coach Marc Skinner had high praise for McClernon and her confident style of play.

“She’s super competitive,” Skinner said. “She knows who she is. She’s authentic. When you have that, when you step into an arena where you have to make decisions, you are able to kind of sit in your own head with that. ... I’ve seen so many brilliant players not be able to take the pressure on, and she can take the pressure.”

Members of OCSC Staff Announced as Award Finalists

The Greater Orlando Sports Commission released the 52 finalists for the 2021 SPORTYS, awards aimed at recognizing sports business professionals throughout the region. Orlando City CEO Alex Leitao was nominated for Executive of the Year, Pedro Araujo was nominated for Best in Marketing, Chris Spano for Best in Sales, and Marcos Peres for Best in Sports media. The Pride’s Ad Astra jersey launch, where they literally sent a jersey into space, was nominated for Sponsorship Activation of the Year. The winners of each of the 12 categories will be revealed on June 19.

Daryl Dike Called Up to USMNT

Orlando forward Daryl Dike was one of 27 players called up for the United States Men’s National Team training camp ahead of its friendly with Switzerland on May 30. That game will be the last tune-up for Head Coach Gregg Berhalter and the USMNT before the Nations League semifinal with Honduras on June 3. With this news, it looks like Dike won’t play for the Lions on May 29 against the New York Red Bulls, which was a possibility if Barnsley FC lost on aggregate against Swansea City tomorrow at 1:30 p.m.

Weston McKennie, John Brooks, Sergino Dest, Giovanni Reyna, and Josh Sargent are some of the bigger names also called up for the camp. Forward Matthew Hoppe, goalkeeper David Ochoa, and defender Justin Che will all have a shot at earning their first appearances for the USMNT as well. Galatasaray defender DeAndre Yedlin also earned a call-up, his first since November of 2019.

Free Kicks
  • As a way to raise awareness regarding plastic waste in our oceans, MLS revealed PRIMEBLUE jerseys made from recycled plastics. While I think the jersey would look better with white rather than the orange, it still looks good on Orlando forward Alexandre Pato. If you’re planning on buying one, we urge you to visit the store through this link, which is something that costs you nothing extra and can help us a little.

That’s going to be it for today, Mane Landers. I hope you all have a wonderful Friday and rest of your weekend!