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Lion Links: 5/7/21

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Jordan Bender loaned to Charlotte Independence, Nani wins MLS Goal of the Week, USWNT will play in Summer Series, and more.

MLS: FC Cincinnati at Orlando City SC Matt Stamey-USA TODAY Sports

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope you all are keeping nice and cool out there as temperatures keep climbing. Make sure to stay hydrated so you can make the most out of what should be a sunny weekend. Before we hop into today’s links, let’s wish Orlando Pride forward Sydney Leroux a happy birthday! With her birthday today and Mother’s Day this Sunday, it should be a nice couple of days for her. Now, let’s get to the links!

Jordan Bender Loaned to the Charlotte Independence

Orlando City midfielder Jordan Bender is headed to the USL Championship, where he will join the Charlotte Independence on loan for the 2021 season. The move will be a good chance for the Homegrown Player to get some minutes and Orlando retains the right to recall him from the loan. Given Orlando’s depth at midfield, Bender’s absence won’t leave the team shorthanded while he’s in North Carolina with the Independence.

Orlando Prepares for Tough Test Against New York City FC

The Lions will welcome NYCFC to Exploria Stadium tomorrow evening at 6 p.m. for a match between two of the Eastern Conference’s stronger teams. Orlando is undefeated through three matches while NYCFC has won its past two games after starting the season with a loss. The last meeting between the two teams was in last year’s playoffs when the Lions won the penalty shootout in dramatic fashion for their first MLS postseason victory. Orlando midfielder Mauricio Pereyra isn’t getting caught up in the past though, as his attention is on the task ahead after making his season debut last week.

“I think the emotions we lived in the last year and the playoffs, they are already gone,” added Orlando City midfielder Mauricio Pereyra. “This is a new season, this is a new year and this is a different game. Those emotions we should keep in our memories, but we know that this is a different game. [NYCFC] are coming from good results and are playing good football and we are in the same spot.”

Pereyra’s words contrast those from NYCFC right back Anton Tinnerholm, who is on the hunt for vengeance after Orlando eliminated his club from the playoffs.

“All of us, we’re not really over last year,” Tinnerholm said. “It was a brutal game for all of us and how it ended. Especially for me, I was forced to be subbed off in overtime...We don’t have very good memories from that game, but now we’re stepping into the game on Saturday here to do something. We [have] some revenge to take. You’re going to see all the guys, they’re going to really want to win the game from the first minute. I can’t expect anything else.”

As long as it doesn’t get brutal on the pitch, this revenge storyline should make for an exciting game. Miguel Gallardo and Evan Weston are looking forward to it as well and discussed what to watch for.

Nani Wins MLS Goal of the Week

After finishing second last week for his backheel goal, Orlando’s Nani won MLS Goal of the Week on Thursday. Nani’s fancy footwork at the top of the box helped him shake a defender to then blast the ball past FC Cincinnati goalkeeper Przemyslaw Tyton for his second goal of the season.

Nani’s strike claimed 37.9% of the vote, with San Jose Earthquakes midfielder Jackson Yueill close behind in second with 30.1%. Orlando’s captain is off to a great start so far with two impressive goals in Orlando’s first three games this season.

Oscar Pareja Discusses Unrest in Colombia

Orlando City Head Coach Oscar Pareja was born in Colombia and played for the national team for a few years before moving to the United States in 1998. Now, his home country is in the midst of conflict between protestors and riot police after a tax reform sparked unrest over human rights issues. Pareja has reached out to his friends and family in Colombia as he wishes for peace in Colombia during this difficult time.

“I just have the opportunity ... to send the message to our people and ask them [to have] a lot of confidence in God that things will get better,” Pareja said. “But at the same times we have to be patient and not [get] so desperate and just take our frustrations towards other people or institutions. I think that will damage not just our image but most important that will damage ourselves.”

USWNT Will Play in Summer Series

The United States Women’s National Team will head to Texas for the 2021 WNT Summer Series against nations that did not qualify for the Tokyo Olympics. The USWNT’s first game will be against Portugal on June 10 and then it plays Jamaica on June 13, with both matches taking place at BBVA Stadium in Houston. The last match will be the first soccer game ever played at Austin FC’s new Q2 Stadium as the U.S. takes on Nigeria on June 16. The format should help USWNT Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski get the team prepared for the Olympics later this summer as he works on finalizing the 18-player roster.

As for how this news affects the Pride, Alex Morgan will likely make the trip to Texas. Ashlyn Harris and Ali Krieger may also head that way, but the exhibitions will be during a break in NWSL scheduling as the Pride play on June 6 and June 20.

Manchester United and Villarreal Reach Europa League Final

After winning the first leg 6-2, Manchester United went on the road and took care of business against AS Roma. Edinson Cavani scored in both halves for a brace as United lost 3-2 but advanced on aggregate to reach the Europa League final. In the other semifinal, Arsenal had a chance to mirror the Champions League’s all-English final but couldn’t score in a 0-0 draw with Villarreal and lost on aggregate.

It all sets up for a clash between United’s soaring offense and Villarreal’s smothering defense on May 26. United has scored 18 goals since joining the knockout stage while Villarreal has only conceded eight goals in the tournament, with three of those goals coming from one game in the group stage.

Free Kicks
  • Daryl Dike is one of four finalists for the English Football League Championship Player of the Month. In April, Dike scored four goals in six games to help book Barnsley FC a spot in the Championship playoffs.
  • In some happy news, Tesho Akindele’s family will be welcoming a new addition in the future.
  • The schedule for CONMEBOL qualifiers in June was released. Pedro Gallese and Peru will take on Colombia on June 3 while Sebas Mendez and Ecuador will face Brazil on June 4. Then Peru will play Ecuador on June 8.

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