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Lion Links: 6/16/21

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Orlando City signs Thomas Williams to Homegrown Player contract, USWNT plays against Nigeria tonight, MLS clubs eye the transfer window, and more.

Orlando City SC v New York Red Bulls Photo by Ira L. Black - Corbis/Getty Images

Hello, Mane Landers. We’ve made it halfway through June and we’ve got plenty of soccer to watch and keep us busy. I’ve been working from home for a bit up here in Chicago, but I did get a chance to go downtown for the Skydeck at Willis Tower and I also got a selfie in front of “The Bean” at Millennium Park. We have plenty to get to today, so let’s get to the links.

Orlando City Signs Thomas Williams

The Lions signed defender Thomas Williams to a first-team Homegrown Player contract. The deal is a guaranteed contract through 2024 with a club option in 2025. Williams is now the 11th Homegrown Player in club history and the youngest Homegrown signing at just 16 years old. He has trained with the first team for the past two preseasons and appeared in 13 matches for Orlando City B during its 2020 USL League One season. Williams is the third Homegrown signing this year and should be an interesting young player to keep an eye on given his age and 6-foot-4 frame.

Getting Ready for the Return of MLS Action

There has been plenty of international soccer to enjoy, but don’t forget that Orlando takes on Toronto FC at Exploria Stadium this Saturday. Evan Weston and Miguel Gallardo provided a nice recap of Orlando’s season thus far as the Lions sit third in the Eastern Conference after seven games.

We are also only a few weeks away from the MLS Secondary Transfer Window opening up on July 7. Orlando’s Daryl Dike, Sporting Kansas City’s Gianluca Busio, and LAFC’s Diego Rossi are just a few of the names in MLS linked with moves to Europe. While they will certainly be players to watch, this window is also a great time for MLS clubs to bring in talented players.

Ravaged by injuries so far this season, the Portland Timbers have been looking to add another center back to strengthen a defense that has conceded 11 goals this year. Nashville SC is unbeaten due in large part to its defense but could add another attacking player as a Designated Player. Austin FC and CF Montreal also have DP spots open and could make a splash this summer for a playoff push.

USWNT Takes On Nigeria Tonight

The United States Women’s National Team will close out the 2021 Summer Series tonight when it takes on Nigeria at Q2 Stadium in Austin. You can watch the match at 9 p.m. on ESPN2. The USWNT won against Jamaica and Portugal as it gets prepared for the Tokyo Olympics next month. Orlando Pride forward Alex Morgan is one of seven USWNT players on the squad with over 100 caps as Carli Lloyd leads with 303. Morgan and Lloyd both scored in the win over Jamaica and Christen Press has also been in solid form with 11 goals in her last 18 games for the U.S.

As for Nigeria, the Super Eagles will aim to end their Summer Series with a win after losing their opener 1-0 to Jamaica and drawing 3-3 with Portugal. Asisat Oshoala is Nigeria’s top player and just won the UEFA Women’s Champions League with FC Barcelona. This will be the first time Nigeria and the U.S. will meet in a friendly after previously facing off five times in World Cups and the Olympics. All five of those meetings were wins by the USWNT.

Final Concacaf Teams Enter the Octagon

Canada, Panama, and El Salvador all advanced to join the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Honduras in the final round of World Cup qualifying. Former Lion Cyle Larin scored in a 3-0 win for Canada as the nation made it to the final round of qualifying for the first time since 1997. Haitian goalkeeper Josue Duverger made five saves in the match but gifted Canada the lead right after halftime.

Columbus Crew goalkeeper Eloy Room saved a penalty against Panama’s Edgar Barcenas for Curacao but it wasn’t enough as Curacao was unable to score in a 0-0 draw and lost 2-1 on aggregate. Meanwhile, El Salvador took care of business at home in a 1-0 win against St. Kitts & Nevis.

The Octagon is now set, with the U.S. starting its World Cup qualification campaign on Sept. 2 in El Salvador. The Yanks will then play at home against Canada on Sept. 5 before a match in Honduras on Sept. 8. With the dates known and opponents now decided, the only missing piece of information is which cities will host games.

Free Kicks
  • A few Lions made some interesting picks for this summer’s Euro 2020 and Copa America tournaments.

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Take care of yourselves, enjoy your Wednesday, and I’ll see you next time.