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Lion Links: 8/11/21

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Orlando City prepares for Leagues Cup, Orlando Pride head into second half of the NWSL season, Lionel Messi signs with Paris Saint-Germain, and more.

Orlando Pride v North Carolina Courage Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope you all are doing well down in Florida. I just got back from a weekend trip in Detroit. I have family in Michigan, so it was a great weekend all around. We’ve got lots to cover today so let’s get to the links.

Orlando City SC Prepares for Leagues Cup

Orlando City SC will play its first international competition tomorrow in the 2021 Leagues Cup against Santos Laguna. The game will start at 7 p.m. at Exploria Stadium and you can watch the match on ESPN+ or TUDN. The Lions head into this match after back-to-back draws against Inter Miami and FC Cincinnati. This will be the first time Orlando has ever faced a Mexican club in an official match. Santos Laguna is in good form as its 2021 Apertura season began with a 3-0 win against Necaxa, followed by draws against Cruz Azul and Tigres UANL. We were able to see the submitted rosters for each club and Orlando’s biggest absences are Daryl Dike, Sebas Mendez, Uri Rosell, and Alexandre Pato. As for Santos, Fernando Gorriarán and Diego Valdés are the players to keep an eye on in the midfield while winger Ferney Otero is a threat out wide.

The winner will face the Seattle Sounders in the semifinals. The Sounders won their Leagues Cup quarterfinal match against Tigres last night, shutting out the Liga MX side 3-0.

Orlando Pride Hold Playoff Spot at NWSL’s Midpoint

With the first 12 weeks of the National Women’s Soccer League over, the Pride are in playoff position despite a rollercoaster of a season. After a seven-game unbeaten streak to start the season, the Pride endured a six-game winless run before a recent win on the road against the Chicago Red Stars. Marc Skinner departed for Manchester United and Becky Burleigh was brought on as an interim coach to see out the rest of the season.

Hopefully United States Women’s National Team forward Alex Morgan will return to the field for the Pride soon after picking up an injury in the bronze medal game of the Tokyo Olympics. Marta and Ali Riley have already returned and backup goalkeeper Erin McLeod is expected back soon as well. Sydney Leroux has been a force on offense, leading the league with seven goals to help keep the Pride in playoff contention. The Pride have 10 games left this season and sit fourth in the NWSL standings.

Gregg Berhalter Gets Ready for World Cup Qualifying

The United States Men’s National Team managed to defeat Mexico twice this summer to win the Nations League and Gold Cup. Now, USMNT Head Coach Gregg Berhalter turns his attention to Concacaf World Cup qualifying. He expects a grind as the Yanks try to make it back to the World Cup.

“I think it’s a big step for this young player pool,” Berhalter said. “We have one of the youngest national teams in the world right now, and for these guys to get used to winning but also believing that they can do it is really important.

“Our next step now is World Cup qualifying in the fall and there’s 14 games. In World Cup qualifying there’s going to be 14 finals. I think as a coaching staff, one thing that we’re pleased with is that these guys have been in this situation before and we’re ready to go, ready to handle it.”

Berhalter has a large player pool to choose from for these matches, including those playing in Europe. From England, Christian Pulisic watched the USMNT win the Gold Cup and expressed his thoughts on the USMNT before World Cup qualifying begins on Sept. 2.

“I think there’s just a different kind of fight in the team that you’re seeing,” he said. ”I mean the last two competitions that we’ve seen, even watching this Gold Cup, the team just has… Yeah, there’s always that feeling that we’re going to come out with that result. We’re going to fight till the end. We’re going to just find that result in the end. And I think that’s the difference and there’s just so much passion and growth that’s been in the team.”

Lionel Messi Signs with Paris Saint-Germain

After an emotional goodbye to FC Barcelona on Sunday, Lionel Messi officially signed with Paris Saint-Germain. Messi’s contract with Barcelona expired in June and he will join PSG on a two-year contract with an option for a third year. PSG will formally introduce the Argentine legend in a press conference today and he spoke about this next move in his career.

“I am excited to begin a new chapter of my career at Paris Saint-Germain. Everything about the club matches my football ambitions. I know how talented the squad and the coaching staff are here. I am determined to help build something special for the club and the fans, and I am looking forward to stepping out onto the pitch at the Parc des Princes,” Messi said in a statement.

Free Kicks

That will do it for me today, Mane Landers. Enjoy the rest of your Wednesday and I’ll see you next time.