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Lion Links: 3/30/22

Orlando City gets ready for LAFC, Orlando Pride will host Gotham FC tonight, USMNT looks to clinch a World Cup spot, and more.

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NWSL: Orlando Pride at North Carolina Courage Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

Hello, Mane Landers. I hope all is well with you down in Florida. Let’s wish Orlando Pride goalkeeper Anna Moorhouse a happy birthday today! There is plenty to cover today so let’s get to the links.

Lions Get Ready for LAFC

Orlando City will welcome the top team in the Western Conference to Exploria Stadium this Saturday as LAFC comes to town for the first time since the MLS is Back Tournament in 2020. The Lions and LAFC faced off in the quarterfinals of that competition, with Joao Moutinho scoring a late equalizer and Orlando winning the penalty shootout. LAFC has undergone plenty of change since then, as Bob Bradley now coaches in Toronto. Steve Cherundolo is at the helm now and American midfielder Kellyn Acosta is a player to keep an eye on after joining LAFC this off-season. LAFC is undefeated this season after four matches, with its last win coming on March 20 against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Miguel Gallardo and Evan Weston analyzed this week’s match-up and the players who can make an impact.

Orlando Pride Take on NJ/NY Gotham FC Tonight

The Orlando Pride will host NJ/NY Gotham FC tonight at Exploria Stadium in the NWSL Challenge Cup. The Pride enter tonight’s match sitting in third place in the East division while Gotham FC sits below them in fourth. Both clubs have one point from two matches. The Pride will be without their captain, Marta, after she was injured in the Pride’s 1-0 loss to the North Carolina Courage this past weekend. She will undergo surgery and the Brazilian national team stated it was an ACL injury.

It’s not great news for a Pride team that has yet to score in the tournament. The offense will lean on Sydney Leroux and Darian Jenkins to create scoring opportunities and Head Coach Amanda Cromwell spoke about the team’s struggles to score.

“We’ve just got to be better on the ball,” Cromwell told reporters this week. “We’re trying to help them with breaking the lines, building out of the back, and just being a little more composed in possession. Knocking a few [goals] in would be helpful.”

Tonight’s match will see former Orlando Pride goalkeeper Ashlyn Harris and defender Ali Krieger return to Exploria Stadium. Harris was crucial for Gotham FC as she made nine saves in its last match against the Washington Spirit to secure a 1-1 draw. Orlando Pride goalkeeper Erin McLeod has produced seven saves over the course of two matches. Though the Pride have yet to score in the Challenge Cup, the defense has been a bright spot for the club as the only conceded goal came from a penalty kick.

USMNT Looks to Clinch a World Cup Spot

The U.S. Men’s National Team will wrap up its World Cup qualifying campaign tonight when it travels to face Costa Rica. As long as the U.S. doesn’t lose to Costa Rica by six or more goals, it will qualify directly to the World Cup in Qatar later this year. SBNation’s Stars and Stripes FC discussed some keys to watch for in tonight’s finale. One thing to keep an eye on is Head Coach Gregg Berhalter’s tactics as he may try to set up the Yanks defensively to avoid leaking goals. Berhalter will likely manage the mileage using squad rotation as the USMNT will have some heavy legs with this being its third match in seven days. It will also be interesting to see who will start as the team’s striker. We’ve seen both Ricardo Pepi and Jesus Ferreira up top in this window so either of them could get another shot down in Costa Rica or Berhalter may elect to go with someone else with fresher legs.

More Nations Qualify for World Cup

Orlando goalkeeper Pedro Gallese and Peru took care of business at home in a 2-0 win against Paraguay to qualify for the intercontinental playoff in June. Gianluca Lapadula scored early on and former Lion Yoshimar Yotun doubled Peru’s lead in the 42nd minute. The win eliminated Chile and Colombia from contention and Peru will face the winner between the United Arab Emirates and Australia with a spot in the World Cup on the line.

In Europe, Portugal punched its ticket to Qatar after beating North Macedonia 2-0 thanks to a brace from Bruno Fernandes. Poland scored twice in the second half to secure its spot in the World Cup as it shut out Sweden 2-0.

There was plenty of drama in a penalty shootout between Egypt and Senegal as Mohamed Salah missed his penalty kick while fellow Liverpool teammate Sadio Mane converted his to send Senegal to the World Cup. Ghana also qualified as it edged out Nigeria on away goals after Thomas Partey scored early in the match. Despite Nigeria getting an equalizer from William Troost-Ekong’s penalty kick, Ghana was able to hang on for the 1-1 draw and qualify after missing out on the World Cup in Russia in 2018. Cameroon mounted a comeback in extra time to beat Algeria, Morocco cruised past the Democratic Republic of the Congo in a 4-1 win, and a scoreless draw was enough for Tunisia to get past Mali.

USWNT Announces Roster for Friendlies

United States Women’s National Team Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski named his 23-player roster for the upcoming friendlies on April 9 and 12 against Uzbekistan. Olympique Lyonnais midfielders Catarina Macario and Lindsey Horan are the only players on the roster who don’t play in the NWSL. A few other notable players on the roster are Trinity Rodman, Ashley Hatch, and Samantha Mewis. Unfortunately, Kansas City Current forward Lynn Williams won’t be joining the team as she suffered a season-ending leg injury and Chicago Red Stars defender Tierna Davidson tore her ACL. The team will first play Uzbekistan on April 9 in Columbus and then the two teams will face off again in Chester, PA on April 12.

Free Kicks

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