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Lion Links: 10/8/22

Win and in for the Lions, Schlegel and Smith to be center back pairing, USWNT loses in England, and more.

Syndication: The Columbus Dispatch Barbara J. Perenic/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK

Happy Saturday, Mane Landers. I hope you all are resting up and taking the day off like our Orlando City Lions. The club is set to battle in one last regular-season match against the Columbus Crew tomorrow to see if they will qualify for the playoffs. If you haven’t bought your ticket yet, I don’t know what you’re waiting for. It’s essentially a win-or-go-home mentality that will definitely have a playoff feel. The match is set to begin at 2:30 p.m. Now, on to the links!

Orlando City: Win and In

It’s simple for the Lions on Sunday, win and they will punch their ticket to the 2022 MLS Cup playoffs. Orlando City has dropped to eighth place in the Eastern Conference standings with 45 points and is currently below the playoff line. The Columbus Crew are set to visit Exploria Stadium for Decision Day. The Crew are right above the Lions in seventh, with 46 points. A win will raise Orlando City past the Crew and into the playoffs. The berth would serve as Orlando’s third-consecutive appearance in the postseason — all of which have come under Head Coach Oscar Pareja.

“Here we are in front of the last regular season match looking to hopefully continue in the playoff run,” said Head Coach Oscar Pareja. “It is nothing that you haven’t seen or heard before. We are preparing for the next game. The responsibility is on our shoulders and our destiny is on our shoulders in front of a rival that is in the same situation. We could have done this job before and gotten the result before, but it is a very tight competition with a lot of compromises and commitments during the season. This one is the same as last year as we were in front of another big game. We are excited to be at home in front of our fans and win this game. Advancing is obviously our priority.”

Orlando City and Columbus last met in April. The Lions walked away with a 2-0 victory over the Crew, with defender Rodrigo Schlegel scoring his first MLS goal in the match. Ercan Kara added the insurance goal to secure the win on the road for the Lions.

Orlando’s Decision Day Defenders

A second-half mistake by Antonio Carlos gathered another yellow card for the club’s best defender. This leaves Orlando City without either of the two first-choice center backs. Carlos will sit out of the game suspended on yellow-card accumulation, while Robin Jansson has not played since mid-August due to injury.

Pareja will be preparing for a makeshift back line and center back pairing that has only played together once this season. Kyle Smith will likely slide over from right back, while Ruan takes his place at fullback. Schlegel and Smith will be paired to deal with Cucho Hernandez, who has not scored in his last 622 minutes, but did begin his campaign with eight goals in eight games. The Schlegel and Smith pairing partnered earlier this season at center back in a 1-0 loss to Cincinnati.

USWNT Lose at Wembley

The United States Women’s National Team fell to England 2-1 in front of a record-setting crowd of 75,000 in attendance at Wembley Stadium in London. Prior to the match, England stood in solidarity with the USWNT to show their support of NWSL players.

All three of the goals in the match were scored in the first half. England opened the scoring account early with a goal by Lauren Hemp, but Portland Thorns forward Sophia Smith leveled it for the USWNT. Georgia Stanway converted penalty in the 33rd minute that served as the game winner due to a controversially overturned Trinity Rodman goal. England and Head Coach Sarina Wiegman continued their unbeaten streak with the win. Wiegman has coached the team to 21 victories in the current 23-game run.

Ricardo Pepi Scores Brace

United States Men’s National Team striker Ricardo Pepi continues to strengthen his case for a World Cup call-up. Pepi scored twice for FC Groningen and extended his scoring streak to three games in the Eredivisie. The 19-year-old is rediscovering his form in the Dutch top flight after being loaned out by German Bundesliga side FC Augsburg. In four games with FC Groningen, Pepi is already making Eridivisie history thanks to his four-goal, one-assist output.

Free Kicks

That’s all I have for you. I hope you find time to rest your mind before the match tomorrow. If you are anything like me, you have been on edge since the Inter Miami loss as the club hunts for its playoff berth. I have a feeling the Lions will get the job done at home tomorrow. Vamos Orlando!