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Lion Links: 7/12/21

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Sydney Leroux leads the Orlando Pride offense, USMNT defeats Haiti in Gold Cup, Italy wins Euro 2020, and more.

Canada v Martinique: Group B - 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup Photo by Omar Vega/Getty Images

Happy Monday, everybody! I’m bringing you your links this morning and it’s been a great weekend with plenty of action in the world of soccer. The Orlando Pride played Racing Louisville FC to a 1-1 draw while Orlando City had the weekend off. There was even more soccer happening around the world, including the conclusions of two major tournaments and the start of the Concacaf Gold Cup. Let’s dive right in.

Sydney Leroux is Thriving With the Pride

After scoring in stoppage time to salvage a draw for the Pride against Louisville, Leroux now leads the Pride with five goals this season. With Alex Morgan and Marta both away from the team for the Tokyo Olympics, Leroux will need to continue leading the Pride’s offense. Her contributions in attack go beyond putting the ball in the net though as she makes the effort to force turnovers to then torch opponents in transition. But as more teams catch on to the Pride’s game plan, the Pride’s other players will need to step up and support Leroux so that she isn’t playing on an island up top. Forwards Taylor Kornieck and recent addition Jodie Taylor should help carry some of the load from Leroux as well over the next few weeks.

USMNT Starts Gold Cup With Win Over Haiti

Following its victory in the Concacaf Nations League, the United States Men’s National Team opened its Gold Cup campaign with a somewhat lackluster 1-0 victory against Haiti. The scoring opened early in the eighth minute when Columbus Crew forward Gyasi Zardes flicked a deflected cross on for Colorado Rapids left back Sam Vines to coolly head it in for his first international goal. Paul Arriola was subbed off in the 14th minute due to an injury to his right hamstring in yet another setback for the D.C. United midfielder. The USMNT did create some opportunities, mostly through Shaq Moore on the righthand side, but couldn’t find a second goal. Despite the USMNT dominating possession and putting five of its 13 shots on target, Haiti created some chances as well and had 10 shots with three on target.

Orlando’s Daryl Dike made his competitive debut for the USMNT in the second half, coming on as a sub for Jonathan Lewis in the 62nd minute. The forward didn’t do too much with only seven touches, but he did get a shot on target. Sporting Kansas City’s Gianluca Busio made a real impression as a substitute, looking the part of a complete defensive midfielder. It wasn’t the best performance by the USMNT, but it got the job done and the U.S. will host Martinique on Thursday.

Italy Wins Euro 2020 After Penalty Shootout

After a month of games, a Euro 2020 winner was crowned. In a monumental final at Wembley Stadium in London, a resurgent Italy side outlasted England to win 3-2 in a penalty shootout after a 1-1 deadlock. The match started in glorious fashion for England, with Manchester United fullback Luke Shaw scoring off of a Kieran Trippier cross in just the second minute of action. That was the highlight of the match for England, as the Three Lions played second fiddle to Italy for most of the game. Italy had 66% possession and out-shot England 19-6, putting six of those shots on target while England had two on target. Italy found its equalizer off of a corner kickin the 67th minute when center back Leonardo Bonucci buried the ball into the net after a header hit the post.

In the shootout, England took the early advantage, with Harry Kane and Harry Maguire scoring while Jordan Pickford made a big save on Andrea Belotti. But Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho, who were both subbed on specifically for the shootout, missed their penalty kicks and put England on the brink with penalty specialist Jorginho up next for Italy. Pickford made an excellent save on the Chelsea midfielder, breathing new life into England only for Bukayo Saka’s following penalty to be saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma to give Italy the win. It was the sixth major trophy won by Italy and just the second Euro final decided by penalties.

Lionel Messi and Argentina Win Copa America

In the long and storied history of Lionel Messi, the greatest soccer player in history in my opinion, the one thing that has eluded him is a senior international trophy. But he and Argentina broke through and won the 2021 Copa America final after a 1-0 victory over Brazil. The lone goal in the match came in the 22nd minute when Rodrigo de Paul played a brilliant long ball in to Angel Di Maria, who then chipped Brazilian goalkeeper Ederson. The rest of the game saw Brazil hunt for an equalizer that never came in a physical match that featured a whopping 41 fouls. It was Argentina’s first major trophy since 1993 and the players celebrated the win with Messi in the best way possible.

Free Kicks
  • In case you missed it, Orlando SuperDraft pick Derek Dodson was loaned to Hartford Athletic. He made his professional debut with the USL Championship club and scored his first goal in a 2-2 draw with New York Red Bulls II. He was also named Man of the Match.
  • Orlando Pride Executive Vice President Amanda Duffy discussed the growth of soccer in Louisville. Duffy played a major role in establishing professional soccer in Louisville and was club president for Louisville City FC in the past before making the jump to the NWSL.
  • New Zealand Head Coach Tom Sermanni criticized the Orlando Pride and North Carolina Courage for refusing to release New Zealand players before today’s deadline while allowing other players to join their respective national teams. Pride defender Ali Riley will now join the New Zealand squad for the Olympics, with the Ferns’ first game of the tournament set for July 21 against Australia.
  • With Chris Armas gone, Toronto FC and forward Jozy Altidore are reconciling and he may be available for selection in Toronto’s game against Orlando this Saturday.
  • Former Lions Cyle Larin, Richie Laryea, and Kamal Miller all started for Canada in its 4-1 win over Martinique in the Gold Cup.
  • Before the Euro final, England fans displayed some shocking behavior outside of Wembley Stadium by trying to force their way inside.

That’s all for me this morning. Have a wonderful day and a fantastic week.