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Lion Links: 1/16/22

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Alexandre Pato returns to Orlando, Lions announce the 2022 preseason schedule, Weston McKennie is on fire, and more.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Orlando City SC Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Hello, Mane Landers! This week kept The Mane Land staff team busy with breaking news, which must indicate the opening of Orlando City’s preseason camp is right around the corner. Tuesday, to be exact. Let’s head to the links!

Pato Returns to Orlando City

Orlando City announced Saturday morning the re-signing of center forward Alexandre Pato to a one-year deal. The Lions’ front office does not include financial terms when it announces transactions. However, multiple outlets reported the deal mostly consists of performance incentives. Pato was injured in the first game of last season and ultimately appeared in only four regular season matches and the Lions’ lone playoff game in Nashville. The accomplished Brazilian striker, if he can stay healthy, and Tesho Akindele are expected to provide goal-scoring depth behind whomever is acquired to succeed Daryl Dike up top. We’re going to sign more guys, right?

Moments after the club announced the return of Pato, which means “duck” in Portuguese, the Lions’ assistant general manager and technical director Ricardo Moreira tweeted perhaps the catchiest celebration of the news. LDG!

Pato shared an announcement video in which he promised “2022 will be better than the last one.”

Lions Announce 2022 Preseason Schedule

The Lions will face five MLS sides and Florida’s two USL Championship clubs in preseason action. All seven matches will be played behind closed doors. The preseason opener is Jan. 23 against an MLS club not yet named. Orlando City will also play Minnesota United, FC Dallas, and the Colorado Rapids. The Lions will battle the USL’s Miami FC, which is now led by former Orlando City B head coach Anthony Pulis. The Welshman played for Orlando City from 2012-2014 when it competed in USL Pro. The Lions and the Tampa Bay Rowdies square off on Feb. 19 to close out the schedule. Even though it’s a preseason match and the two teams compete in different tiers, is it still considered an I-4 derby? I think so.

Weston McKinnie Is On Fire

Juventus and U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder Weston McKennie is the hottest American player in the world right now. McKennie headed in Juve’s second goal in its 2-0 triumph over Udinese yesterday, and he has now netted eight goals in 50 Serie A competitions. Yesterday’s goal followed one he scored in Juve’s Italian Supercoppa loss to Inter Milan on Wednesday. The American continues to improve on the pitch and that bodes well for the U.S. Men’s National Team as it prepares to resume Concacaf World Cup qualifiying later this month.

Reports: Che & Bassett to Europe; Arriola to Mexico City’s Transfer Tracker shared reports that two young MLS players will soon be loaned to European clubs for 18 months with options to buy. FC Dallas will reportedly send Homegrown defender Justin Che to the Bundesliga’s Hoffenheim and the Colorado Rapids will ship USMNT midfielder Cole Bassett to Eredivisie club Feyenoord. Club America is also expected to bring D.C. United and USMNT winger Paul Arriola back to Liga MX.

Man City Downs Chelsea, Coutinho Scores in Aston Villa Debut

A dazzling strike from Kevin De Bruyne lifted Manchester City over Chelsea yesterday to extend the Cityzens’ Premier League lead to 13 points. A close three-team battle for the Premier League crown is looking less likely.

Philippe Coutinho introduced himself to the Villa Park faithful with a game-tying goal after coming on as a substitute in Aston Villa’s come-from-behind 2-2 draw with Manchester United.

Free Kicks

Thanks for visiting, Mane Landers. Enjoy this week’s scenes from preseason camp.