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Lion Links: 1/3/22

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Daryl Dike thanks Orlando City, Chris Mueller settles in at Hibernian, Ricardo Pepi nears deal with FC Augsburg, and more.

MLS: Nashville SC at Orlando City SC Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Happy new year, Mane Landers! I talked a big game on New Year’s Eve that I would make it past midnight with my family in an Orlando hotel, but I called it a night an hour before the ball dropped. While sipping on a little champagne before bedtime, I watched planes descend on Orlando International Airport and wondered when Orlando City’s new signings would start flying into town. But for now, let’s get to the links!

Daryl Dike Bids Farewell to Orlando

If you’re just emerging from a New Year’s Eve party that lasted all weekend, you need to know that Daryl Dike is no longer a Lion now that he was transferred to West Bromwich Albion in the English Football League Championship. Dike was selected by the Lions in the 2020 MLS SuperDraft and tweeted his thanks to the club.

MLSsoccer.com picked out the five most memorable goals Dike scored for Orlando in MLS, including his winner to beat D.C. United this past October in Exploria Stadium.

Chris Mueller Settles in With Hibernian

Former Lion Chris Mueller is in Scotland and training in preparation for Hibernian’s first match of 2022 on Jan. 17 against Celtic. The 25-year-old winger talked about his departure from the Lions and how his training in Scotland differs from when he was in Orlando.

“The training I’ve seen has been more intense and more rapid than Orlando; shorter bursts and more intense, but there’s also gym work. At Orlando we spent a lot of time on the pitch but no gym work.

“Saying goodbye to Orlando was bittersweet. Leaving was tough because I had so many good years there but I didn’t leave on the highest note, because I wanted to win and perform better throughout the year.”

Mueller had three goals and six assists for Orlando this past season and signed a pre-contract agreement with the Scottish club in July. He also discussed the departure of Jack Ross as manager shortly after meeting him in person for the first time.

Ricardo Pepi Reportedly Set to Join FC Augsburg

FC Dallas and Bundesliga club FC Augsburg are reportedly finalizing a $20 million transfer of forward Ricardo Pepi. The 18-year-old enjoyed a great year for club and country, scoring 13 goals for Dallas this past season and emerging as the United States Men’s National Team’s top option to spearhead the attack. Augsburg sits 15th in the Bundesliga, just a point away from the relegation zone. The German club has only scored 17 goals in 17 games this season so Pepi should boost its offense. Pepi has been a popular transfer target throughout Europe and was linked with a move to Wolfsburg last week. Fabrizio Romano was one of the first to report the news and expects the move to become official soon.

Meanwhile, Caden Clark may not make his debut for RB Leipzig this spring as reports surfaced that the 18-year-old will be loaned back to the New York Red Bulls for the first half of the 2022 MLS season.

Maxi Moralez Returns to NYCFC; Fire Sign New Center Back

New York City FC re-signed attacking midfielder Maxi Moralez to a one-year deal with an option for 2023. Moralez was a Designated Player for NYCFC but the club announced he re-signed below that threshold. Elsewhere in the Eastern Conference, center back Rafael Czichos signed with the Chicago Fire on a three-year deal. Czichos joins from the Bundesliga’s FC Köln and is now expected to anchor the Fire’s back line under new head coach Ezra Hendrickson.

Chelsea Fans Can Stand for First Time in Years

Chelsea hosted a “safe-standing” trial in its 2-2 draw against Liverpool at Stamford Bridge. Thousands of Chelsea supporters legally stood during the match without being ordered to sit for the first time since all-seater stadiums became mandatory in the top two tiers of English football in 1994. That mandate came after the crush at Hillsborough Stadium during a 1989 FA Cup semifinal. If you haven’t, I recommend checking out ESPN’s documentary Hillsborough about the disaster and its aftermath.

As for the match, American winger Christian Pulisic gave Chelsea fans plenty to cheer for with his equalizer late in the first half.

Free Kicks
  • Former Lion Harrison Heath officially announced his retirement.

Thanks to all of you for joining us here at The Mane Land. I wish you all a wonderful 2022 and that you crush those resolutions. As you do, I’ll keep watching airplanes in the sky and wondering if they have an Orlando City signing on board. Training camp and the 2022 MLS SuperDraft are both right around the corner!