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Lion Links: 12/30/22

Soccer icon Pele dies, Heber traded to the Seattle Sounders, American goalkeepers excel abroad, and more.

Queens Park Rangers v Luton Town - Sky Bet Championship - Loftus Road Photo by Kieran Cleeves/PA Images via Getty Images

How’s it going, Mane Landers? It’s New Year’s Eve’s eve, which isn’t a holiday but it’s still fun to say. Only two days remain in 2022 and I’m hoping to finish up one last book for my yearly total before picking out a list for 2023. Before we dive into today’s links, let’s wish a happy birthday to Orlando City B goalkeeper Isaac Delgado!

Pele Passes Away at Age 82

The soccer world is in mourning as Brazilian legend Pele died after over a year of treatment for colon cancer. Known as one of the greatest to ever play, he is the only player to ever win three World Cups. At age 17, Pele scored six goals in the 1958 World Cup, including a brace in the final to beat Sweden. He helped Brazil defend its title in 1962 and then scored in the 1970 World Cup final to win his third. At the club level, he played for Santos for nearly 20 years before joining the New York Cosmos in 1975. Pele changed soccer off the field as well, becoming an ambassador for the sport after his retirement. Neymar, Kylian Mbappe, and clubs around the world reacted to Pele’s death and his funeral will take place on Monday at Santos in Sao Paulo. Pele leaves behind a legacy that will never be matched in soccer again.

Heber Officially Heads to Seattle

The Seattle Sounders traded away $400,000 in General Allocation Money to New York City FC in exchange for Brazilian forward Heber. The 31-year-old is signed through 2023, with an option for 2024 as well. Heber joined NYCFC in 2019 and scored eight goals in 1,001 minutes last season. It will be interesting to see how he fits in with an aging Seattle offense that also includes Nicolas Lodeiro, Fredy Montero, and Raul Ruidiaz. NYCFC will look quite different next year as Heber is just the latest player to leave the club, as Valentin Castellanos, Maxi Moralez, Anton Tinnerholm, and Nicolas Acevado have all departed the club.

Looking Ahead to the USWNT’s 2023

The United States Women’s National Team could make history in 2023 as the first team to win three-straight World Cups. The lead-up to next summer’s World Cup also includes some intriguing match-ups for the USWNT to find its footing after losing to England and Spain this past year. The USWNT will play New Zealand twice next month and both will be in New Zealand for the U.S. to get a taste of the venues it will play in come July. The SheBelieves Cup will be in February and the USWNT’s first match is in Orlando on Feb. 16 against Canada. The key thing to watch this year regarding the USWNT is how Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski balances a roster with both veteran stars and promising young players. The rest of the world is closing the gap in talent, but the U.S. has a chance to prove it’s still on top in 2023.

Keeping Up With the Americans Abroad

The English Football League Championship is becoming must-watch soccer for those wanting to watch Americans in action while the MLS off-season continues. Middlesbrough goalkeeper Zack Steffen came up with four saves in a 2-1 win over Blackburn Rovers. Ethan Horvath also made two saves in Luton Town’s 3-0 victory against Queens Park Rangers. Both goalkeepers have their clubs in good positions to claim a playoff spot for promotion into the English Premier League. Meanwhile at the bottom of the table, Duane Holmes scored his first goal of the season to give Huddersfield its second win in four days. Daryl Dike didn’t score in West Brom’s 2-0 win over Preston North End, but he did come on as a substitute.

Free Kicks
  • It was a brutal year in women’s soccer in terms of injuries. The Orlando Pride’s Marta was one of 57 players in the world’s top leagues to tear their ACLs.

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