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Lion Links: 3/23/22

Orlando City gets ready for the Portland Timbers, Orlando Pride release statement on banner, USMNT prepares to face Mexico at the Azteca, and more.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Chicago Fire Mike Dinovo-USA TODAY Sports

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all of you are doing well down in Florida. It’s finally warming up a little bit up here in Chicago and I’m looking forward to enjoying some spring weather. There is plenty to cover today so let’s get to the links.

Lions Get Ready for the Portland Timbers

Orlando City SC will look for two wins in a row as it heads out west again to take on the Portland Timbers this Sunday. The Lions went on the road and shut out the LA Galaxy 1-0 this past weekend while the Portland Timbers lost 4-1 to FC Dallas in Texas. The last time the Lions faced the Timbers was back in 2020 in a 2-1 defeat in the MLS is Back Tournament final. The Lions haven’t played at Providence Park since a 1-1 draw in 2019. This weekend is also a homecoming of sorts for Homegrown Player Benji Michel, who played three seasons at the University of Portland.

Orlando Pride Release Statement on Banner

The Orlando Pride and the Black Swans Supporters group released a joint statement addressing this past Saturday’s NWSL Challenge Cup incident where the group was asked to take down its banner that said the word “Gay” in protest of Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill.

The club will allow the banner at future Pride home matches and is committed to better lines of communication between the two parties. The Pride will also continue to focus on equality initiatives both in the Orlando community and on online platforms to use their voice to promote positive change.

USMNT Prepares to Face Mexico at the Azteca

The United States Men’s National Team will play Mexico at the Azteca tomorrow evening as it enters its final three matches to qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar. The Americans aim to return to the World Cup after failing to qualify in the previous cycle. RB Leipzig and USMNT midfielder Tyler Adams gave some insight on the team’s mindset as it approaches these qualifiers.

“We have to qualify, there’s no other option. I think that when you’re in big games and important games you always have to remember what motivates you and what you’re doing it for,” Adams said at a news conference on Tuesday. “We’re doing it for all the U.S. fans and we don’t want to let down our nation.”

The team will be without Sergino Dest, Brenden Aaronson, Weston McKennie, and Matt Turner due to injuries. However, Giovanni Reyna returns to the team after dealing with a hamstring injury for the past five months. The 19-year-old played a few matches with Borussia Dortmund recently, and is confident he can assist the national team while still taking care of his health.

“I know I can help the group just with my playing and being here. We got really important games and our main goal is to go to the World Cup,” Reyna said. “I’m definitely going to be managing my fitness, we’re gonna be smart with it.”

After its match with Mexico on Thursday, the USMNT will be in Orlando for its qualifier against Panama on Sunday at Exploria Stadium. The Americans will play their final World Cup qualifying match on March 30 when they go on the road to play Costa Rica. Here’s a look at the USMNT’s qualifying scenarios during this crucial window.

2022 U.S. Open Cup Begins

After not being played for two years due to the pandemic, the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup made its return yesterday. Local team Orlando FC Wolves made its tournament debut, falling 6-0 to The Villages SC of USL League Two.

The Buffaloes will play the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the second round as they hope to avenge their loss to the Rowdies in the 2019 U.S. Open Cup. The first round continues today with 10 matches, including one in Florida between Miami United FC and City Soccer FC. Orlando City will join the tournament next month in the third round.

Free Kicks
  • The latest MLS power rankings have been released. Orlando City moved up two spots to 17th after its road win against the LA Galaxy.
  • Stuff, the mascot for the Orlando Magic, made a new friend at the Amway Center last night.
  • In the UEFA Women’s Champions League, Real Madrid took a surprising lead over FC Barcelona after a goal in the eighth minute from Olga Carmona. But a brace from Alexia Putellas helped Barcelona come back and win 3-1.
  • Check out former USMNT forward Willy Roy’s story about scoring the U.S.’s first-ever goal at the Azteca.
  • Netherlands manager Louis van Gaal isn’t thrilled that the World Cup is being played in Qatar later this year. He called it ridiculous and accused FIFA of taking the tournament to Qatar for commercial reasons.

That will do it for me, Mane Landers. Enjoy your Wednesday and I’ll see you next time.