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Lion Links: 4/2/22

Orlando City hosts LAFC, Marta’s season ends, the U.S. learns World Cup group opponents, and more.

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

Happy Saturday, Mane Landers! Today marks César Araújo’s 21st birthday and I wish I could buy the young man a beer to celebrate his day and thank him for the intensity he’s already brought to Orlando City. Yesterday was a momentous day in global football, so let’s get to the links!

Lions Host Western Conference Leaders LAFC

After traveling to the west coast for its last two games, it’s Orlando City’s turn to host a team from the other side of the country. Western Conference leaders Los Angeles FC square off against the Lions at Exploria Stadium tonight at 7:30. Head Coach Oscar Pareja said it feels “unusual” to face more Western Conference opposition:

“In front of us is a rival that, as the last two, is a bit unusual. In the last two years, we primarily played against the teams in the East[ern Conference], but at the same time it’s a team that we faced in the bubble in an unforgettable night that we had,” Head Coach Oscar Pareja said of Saturday’s opposition. “They have a different coach now, but have a good base of returning players. They’re a team that is aggressive, with initiative and very good players, especially up front. It’s another good opportunity for us to keep growing.”

Check out our match stream to follow all of our weekend coverage of tonight’s contest.

Pride Ready for Spirit as Marta’s Season Officially Ends

In a rematch of their first game of the NWSL Challenge Cup, the Orlando Pride visit our nation’s capital Sunday afternoon to do battle with the Washington Spirit in their fourth game of the competition. The Pride announced yesterday that team captain Marta’s season is over because she needs surgery to repair the anterior cruciate ligament in her left knee, which she injured in the Pride’s 1-0 loss at the North Carolina Courage on March 26. We join everyone in wishing Marta a speedy recovery!

World Cup Draws England and USA in Group B

I mentioned yesterday was a big day in global football. Why? FIFA held the draw for its 2022 World Cup tournament in host nation Qatar. Two days after qualifying for the competition out of Concacaf, the U.S. Men’s National Team was drawn into Group B with England and Iran. The fourth team in the group will be either Wales, Scotland, or Ukraine depending on how the UEFA World Cup qualifying playoff concludes this summer.

England Reacts to USA Draw

England and the U.S. will face off on Nov. 25 and some voices across the pond are giddy about England’s group draw. Today’s The Daily Mirror headline declares Group B “England’s Qatar Group of Life,” suggesting The Three Lions have nothing to fear in the group stage.

The Guardian’s Jonathan Wilson gave England a succinct history lesson in his preview of all of the groups.

The USA may be one of the less threatening of the second pot of seeds, but England have failed to beat them in two previous World Cup meetings.

MLS Returns Today with 13 Matches

Now that the international break is over, MLS action resumes with 13 matches today and one tomorrow. According to J. Sam Jones’s “Plusometer,” this weekend’s can’t-miss games are Saturday’s Minnesota United-Seattle Sounders tilt and Sunday’s LA Galaxy-Portland Timbers affair. I’d argue the Orlando City-LAFC matchup should be right up there with those two.

Free Kicks

The World Cup’s England-U.S. match-up reminded me of a book I read last year and I highly recommend it. Check out Geoffrey Douglas’s The Game of Their Lives: The Untold Story of the World Cup’s Biggest Upset. Douglas tells the story of the American men who shocked the world by beating England in the 1950 World Cup. But first...Vamos Orlando!