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Lion Links: 8/13/21

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Orlando City falls in Leagues Cup, Alex Morgan is still recovering, USMNT rises in FIFA rankings, and more.

FBL-ORLANDO-SANTOS LAGUNA Photo by CHANDAN KHANNA/AFP via Getty Images

How’s it going, Mane Landers? It’s Friday the 13th, so make sure to avoid broken mirrors and black cats today. I’m not usually superstitious, but Friday the 13th brings out some additional caution in me. I wish you the best of luck today and the rest of your weekend. For now, let’s get things started with some links from around the soccer world.

Orlando City Loses Leagues Cup Match

The Lions’ first taste of an international tournament was a bitter one as they fell 1-0 to Santos Laguna in the Leagues Cup quarterfinals. Juan Otero was able to find space and fire a shot towards the bottom left corner that Mason Stajduhar couldn’t keep out, his attempted save sending the ball into the roof of the net. Orlando had its chances in the match, but was only able to put two of its 13 shots on target. It’s a frustrating result for Orlando, but there’s at least time to rest before hitting the road for a match against Nashville SC on Aug. 18.

The Orlando Pride Await Alex Morgan’s Return

Although the Olympics may be over, the Orlando Pride won’t have United States Women’s National Team forward Alex Morgan available when they take on the Portland Thorns tomorrow at 7 p.m. at Exploria Stadium. Morgan picked up what looked to be an ankle injury in the last few minutes of the bronze medal match and plans to return to market on Aug. 18. Interim Head Coach Becky Burleigh will be able to come up with a timetable for recovery once she sees Morgan, but it may take some time until she’s able to play for the Pride. Burleigh is undefeated in two matches and is keeping track of what she sees in training that will help the Pride moving forward.

“It’s not always tactical things,” Burleigh said. “Sometimes it is, but it’s also some of the human-related issues that we see with our team — both positive and negative, but mostly positive — so that we can highlight those things. I think when you’re trying to create an identity, we want to try and remember those situations and go back and find them on the practice film and be able to highlight those to our team.”

Lions Will Feature in MLS Skills Challenge

Orlando City’s Nani and Pedro Gallese will both take part in the MLS All-Star Skills Challenge on Aug. 24. Nani won the 2019 edition of the event alongside Chris Mueller and Sebas Mendez, hitting the crossbar at the last second (which was a good thing in that competition). He will be joined by the LA Galaxy’s Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez, LAFC’s Carlos Vela, and other playmakers known for their accuracy from distance. New England Revolution goalkeeper Matt Turner and Gallese will also be participating, although the extent of what they’ll be doing isn’t clear just yet.

The MLS squad will compete against Liga MX’s, which is headlined by French striker Andre-Pierre Gignac. Free kick specialist Rubens Sambueza and Balón de Oro 2021 winner Jonathan Rodríguez will also be competing, so it should be an exciting match-up for bragging rights.

Atlanta United Names Gonzalo Pineda as New Head Coach

After parting ways with Gabriel Heinze last month, Atlanta United named Gonzalo Pineda as its next head coach. Pineda played for 13 years and joins Atlanta in the middle of his fifth season as an assistant coach with the Seattle Sounders under Brian Schmetzer. He will be Atlanta’s first head coach with previous MLS experience and a change of pace compared to Heinze and Frank de Boer. Former Lion Rob Valentino will remain on Atlanta’s coaching staff and will serve as interim coach for Atlanta’s next two games, a pair of home matches against LAFC and Toronto FC.

USMNT Reaches Top Ten in Latest FIFA Rankings

The United States Men’s National Team rose 10 spots in the newest FIFA rankings to reach 10th, its highest ranking since 2006. Winning both the Concacaf Nations League and Concacaf Gold Cup certainly helped boost the Yanks in the rankings, although they sit just under ninth-place Mexico. Canada jumped 11 spots in the rankings, sliding into 59th overall to surpass Concacaf opponents Honduras (63rd) and El Salvador (64th). Belgium still holds the top spot in the rankings, followed by Brazil, France, England, and Italy for the top five spots.

Free Kicks
  • Austin Bold FC of the USL Championship is exploring options for its future due to a decrease in attendance now that Austin FC is playing in MLS. A move to the Fort Worth area may be in the cards following the 2021 season.

That will do it for me today. I hope you all have a nice Friday and rest of your weekend. Go Orlando!