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Lion Links: 4/9/22

Lions and Fire prepare for rematch, Florida rivalry reignites, Atlanta United loses a key piece, and more.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Chicago Fire Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Happy match day, Mane Landers! I hope your week has been better than mine. I had an unexpected surgery on Tuesday, so I will be watching the match from my bed this week. Nothing takes the pain of a bad week away like an Orlando City win though. The Lions take on the Chicago Fire at 1 p.m. But for now, here is what you came for — links from around the soccer world.

Lions-Fire Rematch Set for Today

It seems like just yesterday we were all watching Orlando debut its newest away kit at Soldier Field. Now, we will see the Lions play host to the Chicago Fire at Exploria Stadium today. Our friends at Hot Time In Old Town broke down their thoughts of what we can expect in the match. Their suggested lineup has Xhedran Shaqiri out with his recent injury.

“I don’t think there’s any point in rushing Xherdan Shaqiri back after he tweaked his hamstring early on in the Dallas match, plus Brian Gutierrez has been good and deserves some more playing time. If Shaq is fine, sure, play him. But if there’s a doubt, any doubt, start Guti.”

With just a few weeks of matches and film to look back on, it should be no surprise how Orlando is going to attack. The Lions play the wings with pace and try to pick out Alexandre Pato or Ercan Kara with a cross towards the box. Because of this, Chicago will have to be disciplined in the back and will look to counter.

“In order to win, the Fire are going to need to figure out a way to successfully counterattack. Whether that leaves an extra player up top to create a bigger numbers advantage to negate the speed deficit or play a more dangerous game of luring Orlando further in to give them a bigger head start, the Fire needs to figure out this counterattacking thing. Not just for this weekend, but going forward as well.”

Without Antonio Carlos leading the back line, we put faith in Rodrigo Schlegel to step up in key moments. The first match between the two clubs ended in a scoreless draw. Pato has since been finding the back of the net, but Kara has yet to open his MLS account. Hopefully, today will be his day.

As far as injuries are concerned, our match preview has all the details as well as our projected lineup and how to watch the match.

“In addition to Carlos being out, the Lions have Michael Halliday (left thigh) listed as questionable on the availability report. Chicago’s game notes show no one as out, with Rafael Czichos (health & safety protocols), Fabian Herbers (right hip), Miguel Navarro (left knee), and Xherdan Shaqiri (left calf) all listed as questionable.”

Florida Rivals Meet in U.S. Open Cup

Orlando City now knows that it will host longstanding rival Tampa Bay in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup. The match will be played Wednesday, April 20 at 7 p.m., but, unfortunately, it will be played at Osceola County Stadium. City fans who joined the support after the jump to MLS might not know why this I-4 Derby between the Lions and Rowdies is considered a rivalry.

“The history between the two clubs goes back to Orlando City’s USL Pro days, when the two teams faced off in the preseason I-4 Derby in 2013 and 2014. The teams played a two-legged preseason series in both years, with one at Al Lang Stadium and one at the Citrus Bowl. The Lions dominated the series, taking all four games.”

Orlando and Tampa Bay have played one competitive match which came in the 2014 U.S. Open Cup. Kevin Molino scored twice to see the Lions earn a 4-1 victory.

“In all, Orlando City has played 25 Open Cup games since 2011. The Lions have gone 13-9-3 in those games, with a home record of 7-3-1. Since joining MLS in 2015, the Lions are 5-5-3 in the Open Cup and 2-3-1 at home.”

The best Orlando City run in the tournament was the 2019 edition. Unlikely hero Adam Grinwis stepped up to stop two NYCFC penalties in the quarterfinal shootout that Orlando folklore knows as “The Running of the Wall.” The Lions later lost to Atlanta United 2-0 in the semifinal.

Orlando Foe Josef Martinez Undergoes Knee Surgery

Atlanta United will be missing a key part of its attack as Josef Martinez has needed additional surgery on his knee. In 2020, Martinez had ACL surgery on the same knee. His latest surgery has an estimated recovery time of 6-8 weeks. Atlanta currently sits in third place in the Eastern Conference, but without the team’s star striker and Designated Player the Five Stripes will need to find other ways to score goals.

“With Martinez out through possibly early June, ATLUTD count Jackson Conway, Dom Dwyer and Ronaldo Cisneros as leading options at striker.”

If Atlanta’s depth at striker can’t perform, other Eastern Conference clubs could find themselves climbing the table for the time being.

Orlando City Soccer School-Seminole Yields 31 College Commits

Congratulations are in order for 31 players — representing both the men’s and women’s side — from the Orlando City Youth Academy attending the club’s soccer school location in Seminole. The Lions and Pride are celebrating 31 college commits from OCSS-Seminole. The club hosted a Senior Night for the 31 players receiving either partial or full scholarships at Exploria Stadium to celebrate their accomplishments. See the linked story for the full list of players.

Free Kicks
  • The USWNT takes on Uzbekistan today at 5:30 p.m. in Columbus, OH. In preparation for the match, the Yanks were greeted by some furr-iends.

The Lions are locked in and ready for the match. Get to the stadium early, grab a snack and a drink, and remember to stay hydrated. Vamos Orlando!