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Lion Links: 4/1/22

Orlando City hosts LAFC tomorrow, U-12 age group added to OCSC academy, FIFA World Cup draw is today, and more.

MLS: Orlando City SC at LA Galaxy Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to April, Mane Landers. It’s April Fools’ Day, so make sure to take any outrageous news you see today with a grain of salt. Of course, you don’t have to worry about that here at The Mane Land as we get ready for a weekend filled with Orlando soccer. Let’s get this month started with some links from around the soccer world!

Key Players Return Ahead of Orlando’s Home Game

Goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, winger Facundo Torres, and midfielder Sebas Mendez are all back with Orlando City ahead of its match tomorrow night against LAFC at Exploria Stadium. The trio spent the past week in South America for World Cup qualifying and should give a boost to an Orlando side coming off a 1-1 draw against the Portland Timbers. Torres scored and Gallese had a clean sheet in Orlando’s 1-0 win against the LA Galaxy on March 19, so hopefully that momentum continues after the international break.

In Orlando’s draw in Portland, Alexandre Pato recorded his first assist of the season by feeding a great ball to Junior Urso, who scored his second goal of the year. Although the Lions haven’t scored multiple goals in a game since the opener, they’ve only been shut out (controversially, no less) once in their five games and the offense seems to be finding its footing.

Orlando City Academy Adds U-12 Age Group

Orlando City announced that its academy will have a team in the U-12 age group as it continues to develop players for the first team. The fully-funded U-12 squad will play in the upcoming season, with a schedule to be released in May. The team will train at Osceola Heritage Park alongside Orlando City’s first team, OCB, and the U-15 and U-17 teams.

“We are very excited to add the U-12 age group to the Orlando City Academy,” Orlando City Academy Director Marcelo Neveleff said. “We firmly believe that this addition will enhance the way we develop our players in being able to identify talent at a much younger age. This is a great step for our club and we look forward to welcoming a number of new Lions into our family.”

FIFA World Cup Draw Takes Place Today

The draw for the 2022 FIFA World Cup is at noon today as the qualified nations learn which groups they’ll play in. The FIFA rankings were used to place the teams into pots, with the winners of the intercontinental playoffs and the remaining UEFA playoff placed in the fourth pot. Teams can’t be drawn with others in their pot or with others from their confederation, excluding UEFA, as that is unavoidable.

The United States is ranked 15th in the world and was put in the second pot alongside Mexico, Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Uruguay, Switzerland and Croatia. Despite finishing at the top of the Octagon, Canada was placed in the fourth pot alongside others with strong qualifying campaigns but low rankings, such as Cameroon and Ecuador. That fourth pot can also include 18th-ranked Wales and 22nd-ranked Peru, depending on how the remaining playoffs shake out. We may not know which group winds up as the “group of death” until those playoffs in June, but the draw should let us know which match-ups to look forward to in November.

Daryl Dike Suffers Another Leg Injury

Former Lion Daryl Dike won’t play this weekend for West Bromwich Albion after suffering another injury to the same leg that’s kept him sidelined since January. Manager Steve Bruce spoke about Dike’s setback in training and is being cautious with Dike’s return to action as a result. The 21-year-old joined West Brom from Orlando during the winter transfer window but has only featured in two games for the Championship side. The injury also kept Dike from playing in the U.S.’s final World Cup qualifying window. Hopefully this is just a minor setback for the American and he can come back strongly.

Women’s Champions League Semifinals are Set

After a 2-1 loss to Juventus in the first leg, Olympique Lyonnais won 3-1 in the second leg to advance to the Champions League semifinals. Norwegian forward Ada Hegerberg scored Lyon’s first goal in the 33rd minute and USWNT midfielder Lindsey Horan gave a great cross for Melvine Malard to score minutes later. American midfielder Catarina Macario then used a spin move in the box to score Lyon’s third goal and the defense held on to win on aggregate.

Lyon will take on fellow French club Paris Saint-Germain in the semifinals. The other semifinal will be between Barcelona and VfL Wolfsburg, which won 2-0 at home against Arsenal.

Free Kicks
  • Orlando Pride players Sydney Leroux and Erika Tymrak set some milestones in the team’s match against NJ/NY Gotham FC.
  • Before Athletic Training Month came to a close, Orlando City and the Pride gave some recognition to their athletic trainers.
  • There are many players for USMNT Head Coach Gregg Berhalter to consider taking to the World Cup. While there are players who will definitely be on the plane to Qatar, the striker position remains mostly up for grabs.
  • Here’s a great video that breaks down former Lion Kaká’s storied career and how his playstyle differed from other global superstars.

I hope you enjoyed today’s links! I’m excited to see all three of Orlando’s soccer teams in action later this weekend. Have yourself a fantastic Friday and stay hydrated.