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Lion Links: 6/22/21

Akindele is honored on TotW, Lions look forward to full capacity, MLS launches new league, and more.

SOCCER: JUN 19 MLS - Orlando City SC at Toronto FC

Happy Tuesday, everyone! It was a good weekend as Orlando soccer teams took four points from the available six and the Orlando Pride stayed undefeated. There’s plenty more soccer to come before the weekend though, with Orlando City playing tonight, the Pride playing tomorrow, and then OCSC playing again on Friday. As usual, we have more than enough to discuss today, so let’s jump on in.

Akindele Named to MLS Team of the Wek

Tesho Akindele had himself a game against Toronto on Saturday night. The Canadian opened the scoring just a minute into the game, and also had the assist on the second goal of the game. Our own Topher Adams named him as the Man of the Match with a grade of 8.5 out of 10. He was rightfully included as one of two starting strikers in the latest edition of the MLS Team of the Week. He now has three goals and three assists in his last six games, and is in a fine run of form to say the least. The Canadian also became just the third player in MLS history to score goals in the first minute of two different games in the same season, joining Steve Rammel of D.C. United in 1996 and Allan Cruz of FC Cincinnati in 2019. Tesho’s first first-minute goal this year came on May 1 vs. Cincinnati. Congrats, Tesho, and keep it up!

Lions Relishing the Return of Full Capacity

Today will be the first full capacity Orlando City game at Exploria Stadium since last year’s home opener all the way back in February of 2020. Needless to say, the Lions are looking forward to it. The team doesn’t expect it to be easy, with Kyle Smith noting that the opposition has veteran players and a good attack, and the Lions want to get back to defensive excellence after conceding two goals against Toronto FC over the weekend. Brandon Austin made his OCSC debut in that game, and spoke about how important it will be to have the stadium at full capacity again.

It’s gonna mean a lot, especially to have full capacity of the fans and have them back in the stadium, which we haven’t had since COVID started. That’s just gonna give us the extra boost, the extra energy to get through the game and give our best performance.”

MLS Launches New League

Major League Soccer has announced the creation of a new professional league that will start play in 2022. The new league will serve as a stepping stone from MLS NEXT, the league’s youth development platform, to MLS itself. The league’s calendar will mimic that of MLS, beginning in March and concluding in December. 20 Major League Soccer clubs will field teams during the inaugural season, with independently owned teams potentially able to join as well. The league’s name and logo have yet to be released, as have the participating teams and the application process for expansion clubs.

USMNT Gold Cup Questions

The Gold Cup is a funny little competition. Pretty much all other continental championships carry significant weight, with the European Championships, Copa America, and African Cup of Nations all very important tournaments. The same can’t really be said for the Gold Cup though, with the region’s strongest teams often not sending first-choice rosters due to how uncompetitive it’s become — only one team has won it that isn’t the U.S. or Mexico in the last 15 iterations of the tournament. While the USMNT will not send its strongest roster to this summer’s competition, we should still be able to glean plenty of important info from the tournament. Foremost in Orlando City fans’ minds may well be who is the team’s best number nine, with Daryl Dike in contention for the spot. Another question is who the backup is to Tyler Adams, since no one has really emerged yet. With any luck, this summer will provide some clarity.

Transfer Rumor Roundup

Transfer season never stops and there are no shortage of interesting rumors to sift through. For one, Manchester City is said to be preparing a £100 million offer in an effort to sign Harry Kane from Tottenham. It likely won’t be enough though, with Daniel Levy valuing the 27-year-old at £150 million and the fact that the Spurs boss doesn’t want to sell him to begin with.

Elsewhere, Manchester United wants to sign Villareal defender Pau Torres after getting a look at him up close during the Europa league final. The Red Devils want to strengthen their defense and were repelled by Real Madrid when asking after Raphael Varane.

Finally, Paris Saint-Germain is reportedly in pole position to sign Varane’s former Real Madrid teammate, Sergio Ramos, on a free transfer. The Parisians are apparently offering more money than other suitors and are also willing to give him a two-year contract.

Free Kicks
  • Sydney Leroux has an...interesting player card.
  • Pedro Gallese hit a milestone for Peru.

That does it for me today. Y’all stay safe out there.