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Lion Links: 6/25/21

Orlando City plays Inter Miami tonight, Nani and Daryl Dike make Team of the Week, Orlando Pride win social media award, and more.

MLS: San Jose Earthquakes at Orlando City SC Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

How’s it going, Mane Landers? This Friday is better than most because it’s also a game day as Orlando City takes on Inter Miami at 8 p.m. That’s not the only soccer to look forward to this weekend as the Orlando Pride are in action tomorrow at 8 p.m. against the Houston Dash. The knockout stage of the 2020 Euros also begins tomorrow. It’s an exciting time to be a soccer fan, so let’s get right into today’s links.

The Lions Face Miami Tonight

The first Tropic Thunder match-up of 2021 takes place tonight as the Lions are on the road in Miami. The Lions lost twice in Fort Lauderdale last year, but also won twice against their Floridian rivals to split the series. The game is Orlando’s third in just seven days, while Miami has had nearly a full week of rest. That being said, momentum is on Orlando’s side after a 3-2 win against Toronto FC last Saturday and a 5-0 win over the San Jose Earthquakes on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Miami is riding a three-game losing streak and will also be without defensive midfielder Gregore and center back Ryan Shawcross after they received red cards in a 1-0 loss to D.C. United.

Nani Named to MLS Team of the Week, Dike Makes Bench

After scoring from the spot and making two great assists in Orlando’s win over San Jose, Nani was named to the MLS Team of the Week. Nani joined the New England Revolution’s Carles Gil and LAFC’s Carlos Vela as star players who shined in midweek games. He was nominated for Player of the Week as well, but that honor went to Gil. It’s Nani’s first time as a starter on the Team of the Week in 2021 after making the bench three times earlier this season.

Daryl Dike made the Team of the Week bench this week after getting on the end of both of Nani’s assists for a brace in his first start of 2021. Benji Michel was snubbed despite also scoring twice and drawing the penalty that Nani scored. If Michel has more performances like the one he had Tuesday then it will become impossible for the league to ignore him.

Orlando Pride Win Social Media Award

At Sports Business Journal’s 2021 Sports Business Awards, the Pride won the award for Best in Sports Social Media. After withdrawing from the 2020 NWSL Challenge Cup, the Orlando Pride created a “Pride Stan” persona across their social media accounts to promote the National Women’s Soccer League at a critical time when the NWSL was the first North American team sport to resume competition during the pandemic. Using memes, gifs, and plenty of polls on who to cheer for, the account kept fans engaged with every single match in the Challenge Cup. During the 17 days of the tournament, the Pride accounts totaled over 1.5 million engagements from Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

The NWSL won the award for Sports Breakthrough of the Year as well for increasing viewership, paying its players their salaries and benefits, and partnering with high-profile sponsors such as Google and Verizon.

Young Lions Will Compete in MLS Next Cup Playoffs

The MLS NEXT Cup playoffs kick off today and Orlando City’s U-15 and U-17 sides will be in action. In the U-15 bracket, Orlando will take on Real Salt Lake today at 10 a.m. with a potential match-up with Inter Miami in the quarterfinals. As for the U-17 playoffs, Orlando will play New England tomorrow at 10 a.m. in what should be a good match. Later games in both brackets will be streamed, but each game across all levels will still be filmed and will include a post-game report. Thomas Williams, who recently signed a Homegrown Player contract with Orlando’s first team, was noted as a player to watch in the tournament as he anchors the U-17 team’s defense.

UEFA Changes Tiebreaker Rule

A major change will be implemented in European soccer tournaments this upcoming season as UEFA decided that away goals will no longer break ties in knockout stages. Instead, only extra time and penalties will be used to break deadlocks. Citing changes in the significance of home-field advantage, UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin stated the rule dissuaded home teams from attacking since the away team would gain more from scoring. It will be interesting to see the impact this has on matches and if it could possibly be implemented in Concacaf tournaments in the future. What do you think? We’re fairly used to single-elimination formats here in the U.S., but would you like to see this in more tournaments?

Free Kicks
  • Orlando City showed support to all those affected by the deadly collapse of a condo building in Miami.
  • Marta’s stunner from long range in the Pride’s 3-1 win over Kansas City was also appreciated by the folks over at ESPN.
  • New York Red Bulls midfielder Caden Clark signed a three-year deal with RB Leipzig in Germany. The 18-year-old will remain with the Red Bulls through the rest of the 2021 season.
  • Tobin Heath and Christen Press are leaving England after solid seasons with Manchester United in the Women’s Super League. Both players made the United States Women’s National Team’s Olympic roster and their NWSL rights are owned by Racing Louisville FC. The Pride play Louisville three times this year, including home matches on July 9 and Sept. 11 that may be worth circling on your calendar if you haven’t already.
  • The United States Soccer Federation took to Twitter to respond to the “LFG” documentary about the USWNT’s fight for equal pay, saying that there was an inaccurate account of the facts.

That’s going to be it for me today. I hope you all have a wonderful weekend filled with soccer. Go Lions and Pride!