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Lion Links: 10/24/22

New York City FC and Austin FC advance, NWSL championship match is set, Vlatko Andonovski weighs in on World Cup draw, and more.

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San Diego Wave FC v Portland Thorns - Semifinal: 2022 NWSL Championship Photo by Amanda Loman/Getty Images

Merry Monday morning, Mane Landers! We might not have any Orlando City or Orlando Pride soccer to enjoy, but there are still many matches worth watching. That is the beauty of soccer. Between all the leagues, international play, and local clubs, there is always some soccer to watch. Let’s get to the links.

MLS Playoff Picture Comes into Focus

The Pigeons were able to do what Orlando City could not by defeating CF Montréal 3-1 on Sunday. Maxi Moralez got things started early, and Héber doubled NYCFC’s total in first-half stoppage time. Talles Magno added the third before Djordje Mihailovic earned Montréal a consolation goal. The win sets up a rematch of last season’s Eastern Conference final as NYCFC will meet the Philadelphia Union again. This time, the Union are unlikely to have a large part of their squad miss the match due to COVID-19 protocols. It will be a much more interesting match.

In the Western Conference, Austin FC defeated FC Dallas 2-1 with goals from Moussa Djitté and Sebastián Driussi to advance to the Western Conference final against LAFC. Austin’s goals came in a three-minute period in the first half, and Dallas spoiled the clean sheet, thanks to Alan Velasco’s goal in the 65th minute.

Thorns and Current Reach the NWSL Championship

Crystal Dunn picked the perfect time for her first goal since returning from maternity leave, sending the Portland Thorns to the NWSL championship thanks to a goal in stoppage time in a 2-1 win over the San Diego Wave. The Wave took an early lead thanks to two former Pride players. Alex Morgan provided an assist for Taylor Kornieck to open the scoring with a header. Raquel Rodriguez then gave the Thorns an equalizer later in the first half.

Portland’s opponent in the championship match will be the Kansas City Current, which defeated OL Reign 2-0 in the late match. The Current went from last in the league last season to the championship match. It should give Pride fans something to be hopeful for going into next season as the club rebuilds.

USWNT Head Coach Weighs in on World Cup Draw

The United States Women’s National Team will face the Netherlands, Vietnam, and a playoff winner in Group E of the Women’s World Cup next summer. According to USWNT Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski, it is the hardest group in the tournament.

Others have an even more positive spin on the draw given the U.S. avoids England, Germany, France, Canada, and Brazil until the final, so long as they make it that far. The USWNT will also not travel much, playing every game in the group stage in New Zealand.

Pepi Keeps Scoring in Europe

Ricardo Pepi scored the first goal for FC Groningen in its 4-2 rout of PSV Eindhoven. It was Pepi’s fourth goal in four appearances and his sixth across all competitions since joining the Dutch club on loan. That is pretty good form for someone hoping to make the USMNT World Cup roster. Of course, the best thing for FC Groningen is that the win puts them above the relegation line.

As for how other Americans did in Europe this weekend, Tim Ream and Antonee Robinson helped Fulham win 3-2 against Brenden Aaronson’s Leeds United. Tyler Adams didn’t play for Leeds due to a muscle injury, which raises some worries with the World Cup next month. Giovanni Reyna scored his first goal for Borussia Dortmund since August of last year in his club’s 5-0 win against VfB Stuttgart.

Free Kicks

That will do it for today. Have a great week and vamos Orlando!