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Lion Links: 7/29/21

Alex Leitao steps down as Orlando City CEO, Florida Cup concludes in Orlando, MLS transfers, and more

Orlando City SC Media Day Photo by Alex Menendez/Getty Images

Happy Thursday, everybody! The summer of soccer is chugging along and things are always busy in our bubble. We’ve got front office updates, local tournaments, news from around the league, the Olympics, Gold Cup, plus the European season starts soon. What’s in store for today?

Alex Leitão Steps Down as CEO of Orlando City

The first major domino in the Wilf family’s takeover of Orlando City has fallen with club CEO Alex Leitão stepping down. Leitão had been with the club since 2013, when he and Flavio Augusto de Silva became owners, with Leitão becoming CEO in 2015 for the team’s first Major League Soccer season.

In his time as CEO, the club built the privately financed Exploria Stadium, added the Orlando Pride, built new training facilities, and attracted high-profile stars for both Orlando City and the Pride. Leitão will stay involved with the club as a soccer-operations adviser. This was a largely expected move, with new owners probably wanting their own person in that position. Fortunately, this shouldn’t affect much in the short term, especially on the field.

Everton, Atletico Nacional Prevail at Florida Cup

The second day of the Florida Cup went down at Camping World Stadium last night, with two big matches. First, Everton took down Pumas 1-0 courtesy of a Moise Kean goal. The Toffees were the superior side and created several good chances, but Pumas kept it to one, though they couldn’t find an equalizer. Everton finished the tournament with a win and a draw (with a penalty shootout victory) in its two games — a good run for a preseason event.

In the second game, Colombian rivals Atletico Nacional and Millonarios did battle. Millonarios were coming off a defeat in penalties to Everton after Sunday’s 1-1 draw and looking to leave Orlando with a positive result. The game got off to a wild start with five goals (!) in the first half. Atletico opened the scoring six minutes in courtesy of Jarlan Barrera and the teams traded goals all half. Atletico’s Jonatan Alvez scored a brace but Millonarios kept it close with two goals of their own from David Silva. Despite the wild first half, the game wasn’t as dynamic down the stretch and the 3-2 scoreline held in Atletico Nacional’s favor. It wasn’t the tournament we originally expected, but given the unforeseen complications, this year’s Florida Cup was a fun couple of days of soccer.

Big MLS Transfer News

The MLS transfer window is open and teams around the league are set to make some serious moves. Yesterday, LAFC and the Colorado Rapids struck a blockbuster trade for Canadian midfielder Mark Anthony Kaye, but even more transfers are on the horizon. Atlanta United, which will continue to spend big no matter how bad it gets, are set to finalize a transfer for Argentine wunderkind Thiago Almada from Velez Sarsfield. Despite his former coach Gabriel Heinze’s recent firing, the signing is close to being finished, as reported by multiple sources, including Fabrizio Romano. Almada is considered arguably the top prospect in South America and will cost Atlanta around $15 million. How this fits into their budget or roster build is unknown, but a player of his quality is a big move for MLS.

The LA Galaxy also have a top talent coming in from abroad, with Romano reporting that Entracht Frankfurt stiker Dejan Joveljić is set to join on a long-term contract. The Serbian international was among the top scorers in the Austrian Bundesliga while on loan last season and would be a high-priced U-22 signing, much like Almada for Atlanta.

MLS MVP Rankings

The good folks over at MLSSoccer.com gave us another power ranking amongst MVP candidates, and it’s interesting. It hasn’t changed much from the last time they released their list, with a top four of Carles Gil, Raul Ruidiaz, Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, and Daniel Salloi standing firm. All four boast among the best goal contribution numbers in the league and are leading stars on some of the best teams. Rounding out the top five, the spot formerly taken up by Orlando City captain Nani, was Seattle’s João Paolo. The deep-lying playmaker is among the elite all-around midfielders, but is certainly a questionable inclusion given his lack of raw production. Nani remains in the “receiving votes” category, taking an expected fall given Orlando City’s recent patch of form.

Free Kicks
  • Outlets out of South America have reported that Orlando City goalkeeper Pedro Gallese could be set to miss multiple weeks of action; however, Oscar Pareja said there isn’t a timeline and in fact they’ll evaluate Gallese again on Friday. El Pulpo did miss training on Wednesday.
  • Once again, Ashlyn Harris has claimed the Ashlyn Harris Award, which is known in some parts as the NWSL Save of the Week.
  • USMNT and FC Barcelona fullback Sergiño Dest has been subject to interest from other big clubs in Europe but is determined to stay and earn his place at the Camp Nou.
  • All for XI wrote an awesome feature on Zambia’s surprise performances at the Olympics.
  • Kyle Smith took the nickname “El Soldado” to a new level in a photo shoot for the team’s new pre-match tops.

That’s all for me today. Don’t forget, Daryl Dike and the U.S. Men’s National Team have a huge Gold Cup semifinal tonight against Qatar, plus there’s a huge day of soccer tomorrow. Have a great day, everyone Let’s enjoy some soccer.