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Lion Links: 2/25/22

Orlando City prepares for season opener, Orlando City B’s schedule announced, Barcelona wins in Europa League action, and more.

Leagues Cup 2021: Quarterfinals - Santos Laguna v Orlando City SC Photo by Douglas P. DeFelice/Getty Images

How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope you are all excited for the start of the MLS season this weekend. It does feel a bit weird having the season begin so early in the year but I’m not complaining too much. Let’s dive into today’s news from around the soccer world.

Orlando City Prepares for CF Montreal

The Lions have never lost a season opener and will hope that trend continues when they take on Montreal in Exploria Stadium this Sunday at 1 p.m. While most of Orlando’s defensive core remains intact from last season, the offense will look a bit different after the departures of Nani, Daryl Dike, and Chris Mueller this off-season. The club added Uruguayan winger Facundo Torres and Austrian forward Ercan Kara during the off-season and it will be interesting to see how they do on Sunday. Extratime co-host David Gass named Torres as a contender for MLS Newcomer of the Year.

“If I’m not going with Shaqiri, I’m going to go with Facundo Torres,” Gass said. “They brought in a center forward, [Mauricio] Pereyra’s not a high-level chance creator but he will cover a ton of ground and be active for you. I think Torres, you’re looking at a guy who’s already in the Uruguayan national team, a young player. I think there’s pressure but it’s not 100% on his shoulders. And Orlando has space for him to be successful.”

The last time Orlando and Montreal faced off was on Decision Day of last season as the Lions traveled to Canada and came away with all three points. While the Lions will be well rested heading into the match, Montreal is coming off of a huge 3-0 win against Santos Laguna in the Concacaf Champions League earlier this week.

MLS NEXT Pro Schedule Announced

Orlando City B’s upcoming schedule was released and the Young Lions will play their first game in MLS NEXT Pro at home on March 26 against Chicago Fire FC II. They will then host NYCFC II on April 3 before heading down the road to take on Inter Miami II on April 10. All 12 of OCB’s home games will be played at Osceola County Stadium in Kissimmee. The 24-game season will wrap up on Sept. 18, with OCB hosting Toronto FC II. The top four teams from each conference will qualify for the playoffs and you’ll be able to watch every game at www.mlsnextpro.com.

Russian Invasion’s Impact on Soccer

Following Russia’s attack on Ukraine, UEFA is reportedly set to move the Champions League final currently scheduled to take place on May 28 in Saint Petersburg. UEFA released a statement that its Executive Committee will meet today to evaluate the situation.

The soccer federations from Poland, the Czech Republic, and Sweden issued a joint statement to FIFA for World Cup qualifiers not to be played in Russia. Poland is currently set to take on Russia in Moscow on March 24 and the winner will face the winning side between the Czech Republic and Sweden. Ukraine’s World Cup qualifying matches are already set to be played on the road.

The Ukrainian Premier League was suspended indefinitely after martial law was declared and Brazilian players in the league issued an appeal to their government for support. After scoring the first of two goals for Atalanta, Ukrainian midfielder Ruslan Manilovskyi revealed a shirt stating “no war in Ukraine.”

Russian striker Fedor Smolov shared a similar statement on social media and German club Schalke 04 is removing Russian sponsor Gazprom from its jerseys.

Europa League Knockout Stage Continues

FC Barcelona advanced to the next round of the Europa League knockout stage after scoring three goals in the first half in a convincing 4-2 win on the road against Napoli. RB Leipzig also came up with a big win by defeating Real Sociedad 3-1 to move on while Rangers held Borussia Dortmund to a 2-2 draw to advance on aggregate. Moldovan club FC Sheriff’s tournament run comes to an end after losing a penalty shootout to Braga in Portugal. Atalanta, Sevilla, Porto, and Real Betis are all also moving on to the next round, where they will be drawn today against group winners such as West Ham and Bayer Leverkusen.

In the Europa Conference League, Leicester City and Marseille both advanced and could wind up against AS Roma in today’s draw for the next round.

Free Kicks
  • Former Orlando Pride forward Sarah Hagen was named as an assistant coach with the Green Bay Glory in the USL W-League.

That’s going to be all from me today. I hope you all have a fantastic Friday and rest of your weekend!