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Lion Links: 12/10/22

Orlando Pride re-sign Erika Tymrak, Exploria Stadium to host SheBelieves Cup, and soccer world is shocked by the death of journalist Grant Wahl.

Sports Illustrated Senior Writer Grant Wahl, 2002 World Cup Set Number: X66174

Happy Saturday, Mane Landers. I hope you all are starting off a great weekend. I was lucky enough to celebrate my 30th birthday yesterday and will catch some beach time with friends today and enjoy the weather. Who says you can’t watch World Cup matches while sitting next to the ocean? No one and for good reason. A little rest and relaxation is just what the doctor ordered. Now, enough about my weekend plans — lets get to the links!

National Soccer Writer Grant Wahl Dies

Sorry to start your Saturday with some sad news, but the shocking reports broke Friday evening that national soccer writer Grant Wahl collapsed and died while covering the Argentina-Netherlands quarterfinal match at the World Cup. Wahl, who was just 48 years old, had worked for such outlets as CBS Sports, FOX Sports, and Sports Illustrated throughout his illustrious career. By his own admission, he had been suffering from an illness while in Qatar that got bad enough for him to have visited a hospital on Monday, per the linked story above from the Associated Press. Wahl’s passion for the game and for writing about it is something we here at The Mane Land certainly could relate to and his family and friends will be in our thoughts and prayers.

Erika Tymrak Renews Contract

On Friday, the Orlando Pride announced the club has re-signed midfielder Erika Tymrak to a two-year deal. She spent the last two seasons with the Pride but became a free agent following the 2022 NWSL season. With her new contract, she will be with the club through 2024. Tymrak initially joined Orlando ahead of the 2021 season after spending 2020 in retirement. The 31-year-old midfielder has made 42 appearances in all competitions with Orlando, with 19 starts. Across two years, Tymrak has scored two goals and added three assists for the Pride.

“I am absolutely thrilled to continue my career with the Pride as we promote this beautiful game and solidify our identity in this league,” Tymrak said about the signing. “I’m excited to get back on the pitch and work towards bringing a championship to Orlando.”

Exploria Stadium Will Again Host SheBelieves Cup

Exploria Stadium is set to host a pair of matches for the eighth annual SheBelieves Cup on Thursday, Feb. 16 Japan will face Brazil in the afternoon match, with a marquee match-up between the United States and Canada at 7 p.m. The tournament is set to run from Feb. 16-22, with the matches in downtown Orlando serving as the first of the competition. The 2023 edition of SheBelieves will mark the fourth time the competition will be played in the downtown Orlando venue. Due to COVID-19 protocols, the entirety of 2021 SheBelieves Cup was held at Exploria Stadium. The tournament made previous stops in 2018 and 2020 at the stadium as well. For its 2023 edition, the tournament will return to its traditional three-venue format with matches played at Exploria Stadium, GEODIS Park in Nashville, and Toyota Stadium in Frisco.

All four nations participating in this upcoming year’s tournament are set to take part in the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup next summer, and all four are ranked in the top 11 in the world, with the USWNT at No. 1, Canada at No. 6, Brazil at No. 9 and Japan at No. 11.

Orlando City’s MLS Off-Season So Far

MLSsoccer.com has ranked all MLS clubs and their moves for the off-season to date. The rankings come across five distinct tiers such as: “Somebody Do Something,” “Welcome To The Party,” “Yeah That Was A Move,” “This Move Has My Attention,” and finally “Well These Are Some Developments.” With the rankings, Orlando City has been given a third-tier off-season grade so far and find themselves in “Yeah That Was A Move.”

Following the mutual termination of Junior Urso’s contract, the club has now traded Andres Perea also out of the midfield. Tesho Akindele is no longer a depth player for the club in a forward or late pressing role. Joao Moutinho has also moved on to the the Serie A, leaving a gaping hole at left back despite bringing in Luca Petrasso from Toronto. While Petrasso is a young player with upside, he will have big shoes to fill from Moutinho’s absence. Additionally, Felipe Martins has joined the midfield most recently from Austin FC.

While all of these additions are minor moves, it does make it feel like Orlando City is moving toward something bigger, especially after re-signing Mauricio Pereyra to a TAM-level deal. With plenty of time still left in the off-season, only time will tell if we see the club step up and make a big tier-one signing.

World Cup Quarterfinals

Both 2022 World Cup quarterfinals matches found their way to penalty shootouts on Friday. After a scoreless 90 minutes, both Brazil and Croatia scored goals in extra time to finish the match 1-1. Neymar moved into a tie with Pele as Brazil’s all-time leading men’s scorer with 77 goals thanks to a goal that looked to have put his team on course for the semifinals. However, Croatia came out on top with a 4-2 edge in the penalty shootout. Afterwards, Neymar said he wasn’t sure if he’d play for Brazil again.

The USMNT fell to Netherlands, but it was Netherlands who then fell to Argentina in an epic match for the ages. Argentina led by two goals before Wout Weghorst scored in the 83rd minute. He then scored again in the 11th minute of stoppage time to draw the Dutch level. While no goals were scored in extra time, the Netherlands saw Denzel Dumfries sent off with a red card in the 128th minute. Argentina then went on to claim its place in the semifinals with a 4-3 penalty shootout after the first two Dutch shooters both failed to score.

Today, Morocco and Portugal will play at 10 a.m. France and England will be the game everyone has their eyes on at 2 p.m. to round out the quarterfinals. Let us know in the comments who you think will be the final two teams to make the semifinals.

Free Kicks

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a great Saturday and rest of your weekend!