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Lion Links: 7/15/21

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Orlando City is headed north, MLS All-Star voting opens, USMNT to take on Martinique, and more.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Toronto FC Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Good morning, everybody, we’re over halfway done with this week. Maybe it’s just me, but this week is absolutely flying by. Wednesday was a relatively busy news day in our soccer sphere, so let’s dive in. But first, let’s all wish a very happy birthday to Orlando Pride defender Carrie Lawrence.

Orlando City Will Play In Toronto Saturday

Orlando City has its second road game against Toronto FC this season on Saturday, but it’s a much longer trip this time around. After months of sharing Exploria Stadium and setting up camp in Orlando, Toronto is back home and capable of hosting games at BMO Field. It’ll be Toronto’s first game in its home stadium since last September and first home game against an American team since last March, right before the COVID-19 pandemic shut down the border. Saturday will also be Orlando’s first trip to Ontario since August 2019.

The situation with the Canadian teams is still complicated, but with increased vaccination rates amongst teams and staff league-wide and loosening restrictions in Canada, it was finally viable for Toronto, and CF Montreal to return to their home cities. As of now, only fully vaccinated players and staff can travel with a mandatory quarantine — all of Orlando City’s playing staff fall under that category — and their will be other COVID protocols, including mandatory tests.

MLS All-Star Voting Opens

Fan voting for the 2021 MLS All-Star game is now open. Unlike prior years, the lineup will be voted on in a 4-3-3 shape, with three forwards, two attacking midfielders, a defensive midfielder, and a back four with a left back, right back, and two center backs. An interesting array of Lions are available for selection. Most of the team can be picked with some interesting caveats. Only Mauricio Pereyra is listed in the “attacking midfielder” section, while all three of Junior Urso, Andres Perea, and Sebas Mendez are listed as a “defensive midfielder.” Defensively, both Joao Moutinho and Kyle Smith are listed at left back, while nobody is listed as a right back.

The voting system has also been overhauled. Outside of the formation change, it’s also weighted differently, with one third of the vote coming from fans, one third from media, and one third from players, similar to how the NBA decides All-Stars. A total of 12 players will be chosen through this voting, another 12 will be added by All-Star head coach Bob Bradley, and commissioner Don Garber will select two final players. Voting ends in just under a week at 11:59 on July 21. The All-Star game, against Liga MX All-Stars, is Aug. 25.

USMNT Faces Martinique Tonight

The U.S. Men’s National Team’s Gold Cup campaign continues with a group stage bout against Martinique. After a 1-0 win over Haiti, the MLS-heavy roster has another Caribbean challenge, and the Americans will hope for a more decisive scoreline tonight. Martinique is coming off a 4-1 loss to Canada, and the U.S. will be looking to match the Canadians. Daryl Dike could start in this game after coming in as a substitute against Haiti, potentially in place of Gyasi Zardes, with Zardes in a front two, or even on the wing with the lack of depth out wide. The game is set for 9:30 p.m. from Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, airing on Fox Sports 1.

Lionel Messi Set to Sign New Barcelona Contract

After over a year of speculation, FC Barcelona’s greatest ever player looks set to stay for the long term. ESPN reports that the diminuitive Argentine will sign a five-year extension to stay at the Camp Nou, and will take a “significant” pay cut to stay in Spain. Last summer, Messi nearly joined former manager Pep Guardiola at Manchester City and has also been linked to Paris Saint-Germain, as well as audacious rumors connecting him to MLS. Despite Barcelona’s serious financial crisis, new club president Joan Laporta was able to keep the club’s top asset, and make several other shrewd additions — though they still have to be active sellers to try to balance their finances.

Free Kicks
  • Daryl Dike and USMNT legend Damarcus Beasley shared their experiences with racism in soccer on Eurosport’s RAW podcast.
  • Here’s an update on Orlando Pride injuries.
  • Orlando Pride keeper Ashlyn Harris was featured in episode two of the ESPN+ original Abby’s Places.
  • The Leagues Cup final is set to be hosted in Las Vegas’s Allegiant Stadium this summer and next summer. This will be the second Concacaf final at the stadium, as the Gold Cup final will also be played in the massive indoor arena. Orlando City opens Leagues Cup play against Santos Laguna on Aug. 12.
  • Former England legend and Manchester United coach Casey Stone is set to become NWSL San Diego’s first head coach.
  • Former Lion Kevin Molino got the start in Trinidad & Tobago’s 2-0 loss to El Salvador in the Gold Cup. El Salvador clinched their place in the quarterfinal with the win.

That’s all for me today. Thank you all for reading. Have a fantastic Thursday.