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Lion Links: 10/20/22

MLS playoffs continue today, Andre Blake and Jakob Glesnes win awards, Ricardo Pepi scores again, and more.

Brentford FC v Chelsea FC - Premier League Photo by Jacques Feeney/Offside/Offside via Getty Images

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I’m still not quite used to the fact that there won’t be any more games from Orlando City, the Orlando Pride, or Orlando City B this year. I don’t know what to do with my hands. Fortunately, there’s still plenty of soccer all over the world for us to sink our teeth into and the World Cup is just a month away. Let’s dive right into today’s links!

MLS Playoffs Resume Tonight

The top seeds in the MLS playoffs join the fray tonight in a pair of exciting conference semifinals. Of the two matches, I’m honestly more excited for the match between the Philadelphia Union and FC Cincinnati at 8 p.m. Cincinnati General Manager Chris Albright and Head Coach Pat Noonan both came to Ohio from the Union this past off-season. They helped turn the team around and now face their former club in Cincy’s biggest match since joining the league. The Union are one of the favorites to win it all, while Cincy is bringing plenty of energy and a potent offense into this match. It has the potential to be one of the best playoff games in recent memory.

That match will be followed by a postseason edition of El Trafico as the LA Galaxy make a short trip to take on LAFC at 10 p.m. A Supporters’ Shield winner hasn’t won the MLS Cup since 2017, but LAFC has a roster filled with enough talent to do it. There are big names on both teams and it will be interesting to see how LAFC utilizes Gareth Bale, who came to MLS partly because of these playoffs right before the World Cup. There are also some former Lions to keep an eye out for as LAFC’s Sebas Mendez and the Galaxy’s Sacha Kljestan could receive some minutes in the midfield.

Pair of Union Players Win MLS Awards

Philadelphia goalkeeper Andre Blake was named MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, becoming the first player to win the award three times. The 31-year-old’s 15 clean sheets were the most in MLS as he helped the Union only allow 26 goals in 34 games this season. Blake ran away with the vote, beating out Inter Miami’s Drake Callender and the New England Revolution’s Djordje Petrovic.

Of course, Blake wasn’t the only reason Philadelphia’s defense was so dominant this year. Center back Jakob Glesnes became the first Union player to win MLS Defender of the Year. The 28-year-old played every minute for the Union this season, recording 57 interceptions and three assists while only picking up two yellow cards. He won the award over teammate Kai Wagner and New York City FC’s Alexander Callens.

Americans Earn Important Minutes Abroad

The World Cup is only a month away and every game until then is crucial for the players who hope to be in Qatar come late November. American striker Ricardo Pepi is making the most of his move to the Netherlands, scoring his fifth goal for FC Groningen in a 3-0 win over FC Dordrecht. Christian Pulisic came off the bench and nearly scored in Chelsea’s scoreless draw against Brentford. He could take on a larger role as the World Cup nears and Chelsea manager Graham Potter had some praise for his performance. Elsewhere in England, Zack Steffen came up with four saves in Middlesbrough’s 4-1 win against Wigan Athletic. Giovanni Reyna, Malik Tillman, and Cameron Carter-Vickers were also in action to help their teams win tournament games.

Looking Ahead to the Women’s World Cup Draw

This Saturday, the United States Women’s National Team will learn which nations it will be grouped up with in next summer’s World Cup. An interesting wrinkle to this draw compared to those of the past is that it will determine which teams will be playing their group games in Australia and which will play in New Zealand. The USWNT is in Pot 1, meaning it can’t be drawn against the hosts or the other top teams: Sweden, Germany, England, France, and Spain. Three spots in the tournament are still unclaimed as of now, with a 10-team playoff set to take place in February. With an expanded field of 32 teams, each group will have four teams this time around.

Free Kicks
  • Orlando center back Rodrigo Schlegel gave a nice boost to everyone’s spirits on Twitter.

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a wonderful Thursday and rest of your week.