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Lion Links: 9/2/21

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Jordan Bender recalled from USL loan, Orlando City injury updates, Daryl Dike wants to improve Lions’ offense, and more.

United States v Mexico: Final - 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup Photo by John Dorton/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Good morning, friends! With the international “break,” the new cycle in our Orlando City sphere is relatively quiet. But in a sport that’s 24/7, 365 days a year, we’ve got plenty of news to share with you, so let’s jump into it.

Jordan Bender Recalled from USL Loan

Orlando City Homegrown Player Jordan Bender was recalled from his loan with USL Championship side Charlotte Independence after less than four months. The young winger played 15 times in the USL, tripling his career professional appearances, but only two of them were starts. In total, Bender played just 355 minutes — fewer than 25 minutes per game — during his time away. With that limited playing time, he scored no goals and registered no assists, and only had two total shots, with both on target. This move is probably not to strengthen Orlando City in the short term, though he is back in training and Orlando has dealt with injury issues everywhere.

Concacaf World Cup Qualifying Starts Tonight

It’s been 1,484 days since the United States Men’s National Team suffered a legendarily embarrassing defeat to Trinidad & Tobago that kept the U.S. out of the 2018 World Cup. A lot has changed since that fateful night, but now is the time to make amends for that failure. The USMNT begins its Concacaf World Cup qualification campaign tonight in El Salvador. Star playmakers Christian Pulisic did not make the trip to Central America with the rest of the team and will not play tonight, but he could still be available for the final two games this window. Goalkeeper Zach Steffen also didn’t make the trip due to back spasms. making New England’s Matt Turner the starter for tonight.

Outside of the USMNT’s trip to El Salvador, the other six teams in the Concacaf “Ocho” also open up their campaigns, with Jamaica traveling to play Mexico, Panama hosting Costa Rica, and Honduras facing Canada in Canada.

Rochester Rhinos now Rochester New York FC (ugh)

One of the most storied brands in American professional soccer took a step in a “meh” direction yesterday, with the club formerly known as the Rochester Rhinos being rebranded to Rochester New York FC. The club, partially owned by star Leicester City striker Jamie Vardy, hasn’t played a match in four years, but in the late 90s was a force. Playing in the USL, the Rhinos dominated their division and are still the only non-MLS side to win a U.S. Open Cup in the MLS era, defeating the Colorado Rapids in 1999.

The new branding, aside from being a clunky mouthful, has drawn heaps of criticism from the American soccer world, with many commentators calling it yet another attempt to destroy actual history in exchange for a “global brand.” While RNYFC (ugh) is on nowhere the scale of an MLS side, it’s yet another example of the bland, corporate nothingness of modern rebrands in the sport.

World Cup Qualifying Begins in Earnest

While Concacaf and AFC might kick off qualifying tonight, the first round of qualifiers in Europe and Africa were played last night. Among the highlights were a 2-1 victory for Portugal over Ireland, where Cristiano Ronaldo scored at the death to lift his side over the Irish. Elsewhere, France played Bosnia & Herzegovina to a somewhat surprising 1-1 draw in France.

In Africa, Liverpool winger Sadio Mane started and scored in a 2-0 win for Senegal over Togo, while Arsenal striker Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang’s Gabon side fell 2-1 to Libya on the road.

Free Kicks
  • Some Orlando City injury updates, including the return of Andres Perea to training. Mauricio Pereyra is still out, though.
  • Alexandre Pato says via Twitter he’s almost back, but whether that’s actually the case remains to be seen.

That’s all for this Thursday morning. Thank you all for joining me. Have a fantastic rest of your day.