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Lion Links: 6/23/22

Orlando City prepares for FC Cincinnati, Erin McLeod nominated for NWSL Save of the Week, MLS NEXT Cup starts this weekend, and more.

NWSL: Orlando Pride at Portland Thorns FC Craig Mitchelldyer-USA TODAY Sports

How’s it going, Mane Landers? Make sure to drink plenty of water today as this summer heat isn’t playing around. Even trips out to my mailbox and back feel like an expedition through a desert. I’ve been cooling off most nights with tiki drinks and just finished “Only Murders in the Building,” which was phenomenal. If you haven’t seen it yet and are a fan of mysteries, give it a try, as the second season drops next week. But for now, enjoy these links from around the soccer world.

Orlando City Hits the Road

After a win at home last weekend, the Lions will now head to Ohio for a match tomorrow night against FC Cincinnati. This is the second meeting between the two clubs this season, with Cincinnati winning 2-1 in Exploria Stadium on March 12. Cincy forward Brandon Vazquez had a brace in that match and has been on a tear this season. The other Cincy player to keep an eye on is Nigerian defensive midfielder Obinna Nwobodo. Cincy added Nwobodo as a Designated Player last month and he was impressive in a 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union.

Orlando’s defense will certainly have its hands full, especially considering center back Robin Jansson won’t be available due to yellow card accumulation. However, there seems to be some good news on the horizon as Antonio Carlos continues to recover from his injury.

Erin McLeod Up for NWSL Save of the Week

Orlando Pride goalkeeper Erin McLeod was nominated for the NWSL Save of the Week for her amazing save against Becky Sauerbrunn this past weekend. Sauerbrunn was left unmarked in the box on a corner kick, but McLeod was able to stretch and the swat the ball away to keep the game level for the time being. McLeod faces stiff competition for the award as Alyssa Naeher, Bella Bixby, and DiDi Haracic also came up with impressive saves this past weekend.

MLS NEXT Cup Begins This Weekend

Orlando City’s U-15 and U-17 academy teams will both be in action this weekend as the MLS NEXT Cup kicks off in Frisco, TX. Over 20 matches across the four tournaments will be streamed on Twitch and YouTube, including the U-15 final on July 2 and the U-17 semifinal on July 3. Orlando’s U-17 side won the MLS NEXT Cup last year and will start this year’s edition against Inter Miami on Sunday at 10 a.m. If it wins, Orlando would then face either the Barca Residency Program or the Earthquakes on Monday. As for the U-15 team, it will take on the New York Red Bulls this Saturday at 10 a.m. in the first round. The winner of that match will then play on Sunday against the winner between New York City FC and the San Jose Earthquakes for a chance to reach the quarterfinals. I’m a sucker for anything involving a massive bracket, so I’m pretty excited to see how far the Young Lions can go.

Getting Ready for the Concacaf Women’s Championship

The 2022 Concacaf Women’s Championship will start on the Fourth of July when the United States Women’s National Team plays against Haiti at 7 p.m. in Monterrey. You’ll be able to watch every match on Paramount+ and can check out the broadcast schedule below.

The tournament doubles as qualification for both the 2023 Women’s World Cup and 2024 Olympics and USWNT Head Coach Vlatko Andonovski called up a mix of young and veteran talent for this tournament. Former Pride player Taylor Kornieck is the only player on the roster who has yet to make an appearance with the USWNT. While her height is helpful on offense, it was her vision that helped catch Andonovski’s attention.

“I know she’s flashy when it comes down to her aerial challenges or physicality but what stood out to us is her ability to read the game and creativity,” Andonovski told reporters.

Whereas Kornieck is on the hunt for her first cap, OL Reign forward Megan Rapinoe has 187 and is also headed to Mexico for the tournament. While injuries have limited her this NWSL season, Rapinoe will bring plenty of experience and a clinical touch to help the USWNT and be a mentor for younger players. The USWNT has a pair of friendlies against Colombia between now and the tournament, with the first taking place on Saturday.

Free Kicks

That’s all I have for you today. It hurts a bit watching all of these Open Cup quarterfinals take place while having to wait for Orlando to take the field on Wednesday. Thankfully, there’s plenty of soccer to look forward to this weekend. Have a great Thursday!