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Lion Links: 4/23/22

Pride’s Viviana Villacorta is eligible, Lions set to host Red Bulls, Gyasi Zardes headed to Colorado, and more.

NWSL: NJ/NY Gotham FC at Orlando Pride Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to Saturday, Mane Land fam! Is it just me or is Saturday the best day of the week? Unfortunately, we have to wait one more day to watch the Lions play — but, the Orlando Pride wrap up their Challenge Cup at Red Bull Arena tonight at 7 p.m. Will tonight be the first win of 2022 for them? I sure hope so. But until kickoff, here are the Lion Links for your Saturday morning scrolling needs.

Pride Gain Attacking Power

Last week, Darian Jenkins scored a pair of goals for the Orlando Pride. This week, for the first time in her professional career, Viviana Villacorta is eligible for match day selection, adding to the Pride attack against Gotham FC. Villacorta notched seven goals and 16 assists in her UCLA career.

Head Coach Amanda Cromwell has consistently been making changes to the starting lineup throughout the Challenge Cup. With very little on the line, it is unsure if we will see Villacorta get the start or come off the bench. Nevertheless, this match would give her time to develop some on-field chemistry with her teammates before the official NWSL opener on May 1 against Gotham FC.

Lions Battle for Second

The New York Red Bulls will be visiting Exploria Stadium at 3:30 p.m. on Sunday. Currently sitting just three points behind the Lions, this match would tie up second place if the visitors were able to come away with a win. While the Red Bulls are coming off a victory over Hartford Athletic in the U.S. Open Cup, they did finish their last MLS match with FC Dallas as a scoreless draw. In the all-time series, the Red Bulls lead with an 8-5-2 advantage. Last year, New York won both meetings by 2-1 scorelines. Notably, this was the first time either team had swept the season series against the other. Be sure to check back later today for our full preview.

MLS Transfer News

It appears Miguel Berry has officially won the permanent striker role over Gyasi Zardes at the Columbus Crew. Zardes is being traded to the Colorado Rapids for $300,000 in General Allocation Money (GAM) with reports that it could increase to as much as $1.25 million in GAM if certain incentive-based performances are met. One interesting fact regarding the trade this year is that Zardes will not be able to represent the Rapids in the U.S. Open Cup.

In other transfer news, Atlanta United is seeking to bring back Rocco Rios Novo to fill the void left by injured captain Brad Guzan. The goalkeeper has previously played for ATL UTD 2 where he made 20 appearances. Reports are that the deal would be for an $80,000 loan until the end of the year with a purchase option of $2,000,000.

The New England Revolution have signed winger Dylan Borrero from Brazilian Serie A side Atletico Mineiro. He will be New England’s first acquisition under the league’s U22 Initiative — inking a three-year MLS contract with a one-year club option.

MLS Next Pro Update

Orlando City B will host New England Revolution II at Osceola County Stadium on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. The Young Lions had started the season strong with a win over Chicago Fire 2 and a shootout victory against NYCFC II. However, Orlando City B has since lost in back-to-back weeks. OCB has been drawing some attention though as this week saw many players called up into various national team camps.

Other MLS Next Pro matches include FC Cincinnati 2 vs Inter Miami II and Houston Dynamo 2 visiting North Texas SC today.

On Sunday, the game of the week will be St. Louis City 2 hosting MNUFC2. City 2 is one of only four unbeaten teams left in MLS NEXT Pro ranks and has seven goals from six different players. Other Sunday notable match-ups include Columbus Crew 2 vs TFC II, Chicago Fire II vs Philadelphia Union II, and Whitecaps FC 2 vs Sporting KC II.

Free Kicks

Well, that is all I have for you today. Be sure to tune in to the Pride tonight and head to the stadium for the Lions tomorrow! Vamos Orlando!