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Lion Links: 3/26/22

Pride get first road test against North Carolina, OCB starts off the inaugural MLS NEXT Pro season, and more.

NWSL: Washington Spirit at Orlando Pride Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Hello, Mane Landers! It’s match day for the Pride and Orlando City B. The Young Lions will open up their inaugural MLS NEXT Pro season at home today. Let’s hope both the Pride and OCB can come out with three points in their matches today.

Pride Face First Road Test of Season at North Carolina

The Orlando Pride (0-0-1) will head north to take on the North Carolina Courage (1-0-0) tonight at 7 p.m. at WakeMed Soccer Park. The Pride will be looking to get their first victory in the Challenge Cup tonight in what will be the club’s first away match of the cup schedule. The Courage opened up cup play last weekend with a 2-0 win over NJ/NY Gotham FC, with midfielder Brianna Pinto scoring one of the club’s two goals on the night. Pinto is definitely a player that Orlando must keep a close watch on if the Pride want to come home with a win tonight. The Pride have played well in North Carolina recently, winning one match and drawing three in the club’s last four trips to WakeMed. Orlando will need another good performance from goalkeeper Erin McLeod to come out of tonight's match with at least some points. The Canadian got her first clean sheet in NWSL play since 2015 in last weekend’s performance against the Washington Spirit. Pride fans can watch the match tonight on Paramount+ or internationally on Twitch.

Orlando City B Kick Off MLS NEXT Pro Season Tonight

Orlando City B will take on Chicago Fire II today at 3 p.m. at Osceola Heritage Park. This will be the first game that OCB will play in the inaugural season of the MLS NEXT Pro league. OCB will be competing in the league’s Eastern Conference, where they will be a part of the Central Division, along with Chicago Fire FC II, FC Cincinnati 2, Columbus Crew 2, and Inter Miami CF II. This should be an exciting season for Orlando fans to watch the club’s young talent really grow their games against some of the future stars of MLS. For Orlando fans interested in watching the team’s future talent compete, you can stream all games on the MLS NEXT Pro website, including today’s match against Chicago Fire II.

OCB’s Alex Freeman a Player to Watch

Orlando City B defender Alex Freeman was listed as a player to watch for the upcoming MLS NEXT Pro season. Freeman is a Homegrown Player who helped the U-17 squad win a championship last year. Not only is Freeman a great asset on defense, but he has helped immensely on offense as well, where he had a surprising eight goals as a defender on the U-17 team. It is great to see a Homegrown from Orlando getting the nationwide attention he deserves and it will be exciting to watch Freeman’s progress this season with OCB.

USMNT Clinch Scenarios

After Thursday night’s draw against Mexico at the Azteca, the USMNT has inched ever closer to securing a spot in this year’s World Cup. Tomorrow night, the USMNT will take on Panama in a very important showdown at Orlando’s own Exploria Stadium, where there are two scenarios in which the the team can clinch a spot in the World Cup. The U.S. can get in with a win against Panama and a Costa Rica draw or loss to El Salvador. The Yanks can also clinch a spot with a tie against Panama and a Costa Rica loss to El Salvador. It would be epic if the USMNT could guarantee a spot in the World Cup in Orlando. If you are in the Orlando area on Sunday, get out and support the boys in Red, White & Blue, as they fight to secure a spot in Qatar.

Free Kicks

That’s all from me today. Let’s hope the Pride and OCB can come out with wins and let’s hope for the same from the Lions and the USMNT tomorrow. As always, Go Orlando!