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Lion Links: 1/30/22

Orlando opens preseason match vs. Rapids, the Pride acquire two players, the USMNT faces Canada today, and more.

MLS: Orlando City SC vs. Chicago Fire Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to Lion Links, Mane Landers! The U.S. Men’s National Team takes on Canada today in a World Cup qualifier in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, where today’s high is forecast to be 19 degrees. It’s not much warmer here in Florida. Brrrr. Let’s warm up with some Links.

Orlando City Opens Preseason Scrimmage to Public

When Orlando City announced its preseason slate on Jan. 15, all of the matches were scheduled to take place behind closed doors. A segment of the team’s fan base pleaded for a chance to see the Lions play before the regular season starts on Feb. 27. The Mane Land’s David Rohe suggested one way the Lions could do a better job of engaging their supporters was to open up preseason matches to the public. On Friday, the club announced fans can attend its Feb. 11 match against the Colorado Rapids. Season ticket holders will receive free tickets and others can attend for $10. Orlando City’s front office deserves credit for listening and taking action.

Pride Rebuild Continues

The Pride shipped midfielder Marisa Viggiano to Houston for defender Megan Montefusco and signed 2021 third-round draft pick Kerry Abello on Friday to continue their aggresive off-season rebuild. In Montefusco, Orlando acquired a much-needed center back after dealing Ali Krieger to NJ/NY Gotham FC and Phoebe McClernon to OL Reign in December. Montefusco will likely partner with Amy Turner in the central defense of the Pride’s back four this season. Abello joins Orlando on a two-year deal, which was the Pride’s third signing of a draft pick in as many days after the club signed Mikayla Cluff on Wednesday and Julie Doyle on Thursday.

USMNT Battles Canada in World Cup Qualifying

The U.S. Men’s National Team battles Canada today in frigid Hamilton, Ontario in a contest to determine if Canada will hold on to the top spot in Concacaf’s World Cup qualifying octagonal or hand it to the U.S. Tim Weah, who played well in the 1-0 U.S. win over El Salvador on Thursday, didn’t travel with the team to Canada because his vaccination status doesn’t meet our northern neigbor’s entry requirements. Orlando City fans will recognize three familiar faces on the Canadian side in former Lions Cyle Larin, Richie Laryea, and Kamal Miller.

Barco Departs Atlanta and Bello May Follow

Atlanta United midfielder Ezequiel Barco will join Argentine side River Plate on a two-year loan with an option to buy, and his departure is expected to create room for Atlanta to sign attacker Thiago Almada from Velez Sarsfield. Atlanta may soon transfer USMNT defender George Bello to Belgian first-division side Cercle Brugge if Bello is willing to agree to a contract there.

MLSSoccer.com’s Transfer Tracker also includes a report from The Athletic that Toronto FC is on the verge of completing a long-rumored deal for Mexican international defender Carlos Salcedo, with Toronto Designated Player Yeferson Soteldo headed the other way to Liga MX’s Tigres UANL.

Free Kicks

Get down to Orlando’s Harp and Celt or your closest American Outlaws chapter’s watch party for today’s USA-Canada match. I’ll be at St. Pete’s Mary Margaret’s Olde Irish Tavern with the Sunshine City’s chapter. U-S-A! U-S-A! U-S-A!