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Lion Links: 7/2/22

Silvester Van der Water leaves Orlando, Pride add Haley Bugeja, U-20 USMNT secures Olympic berth, and more.

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MLS: Orlando City SC at Nashville SC Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Who doesn’t love a long holiday weekend? July 4 is my favorite holiday, so I’m gearing up for some pool time, grilling, and fireworks. Speaking of fireworks, let me know what your favorite one is in the comments below. I love a large willow effect slowly streaming down from the sky. This year the holiday will be even better as Orlando City looks for its second straight win in all competitions at Exploria Stadium when D.C. United visits.

There is a whole slew of Orlando and soccer news today, starting with the unfortunate news that the Orlando City U-17 team’s run is over. The squad fought to a 0-0 draw with the Columbus Crew’s academy kids but lost the ensuing shootout, 4-3.

Before we dive in, we want to wish a happy birthday to OCB players Brandon Hackenberg and Tahir Reid-Brown. Now, let’s get to today’s links.

Van der Water Transfers Home

Silvester van der Water has signed a three-year deal with an option year with SC Cambuur in the Eredivisie, the Dutch top flight. A promising talent on the wings, van der Water spent most of his time with Orlando City injured or integrating into the squad via late substitutions from the bench. In what has been a rather short spell with the Lions, van der Water was initially signed on Feb. 23, 2021 to a three-year deal with a club option. The transfer seems like an honest move to get the player back to his home of the Netherlands as he struggles to find minutes in MLS.

Van der Water appeared in 31 MLS games during his two seasons with the Lions, starting only 12 times for a total of 1,011 minutes. He leaves the club having scored three goals and added three assists. By transferring van der Water, Orlando City frees up an international slot and cap space that could be used to bolster the team.

Orlando Pride Add Haley Bugeja

The Pride have added to the attack with the signing of Maltese international forward Haley Bugeja through the 2023 NWSL season. As the Pride continue to rebuild this year, the 18-year-old fills a gap of need at striker.

Bugeja brings Serie A experience to the Pride. She finished in the top five goal scorers in the league during her first season and was named Best Young Player for the 2020-2021 season. Bugeja was in form with 15 goals in 36 games for Sassuolo before sustaining a long-term injury. She has also represented Malta 14 times and was recently involved in the team’s UEFA European qualifying campaign.

Orlando Pride Host Louisville in Daytona

The Orlando Pride will call the infield of the Daytona International Speedway home tomorrow night as they host Racing Louisville. The match is part of a one-of-a-kind, two-day festival that also features a freestyle soccer show, a men’s legends game, and performance from Chance the Rapper. Orlando Interim Head Coach Seb Hines has spoken on what the match and festival can bring for the Orlando Pride and NWSL as a whole.

“I think it’s great. It’s an opportunity for us to come out of our comfort zone a little bit … being the headline game can only help the league and women’s soccer move forward and bring bigger crowds to stadiums. It’s coming out of our comfort zone and really showing the world what we can do as a league.”

When preparing for a match that will be played next to a NASCAR pit row, Hines reiterated the difficulty of replicating such an environment. The players have also taken a week off to reflect after their latest loss of 6-0 to the Portland Thorns and find a mentality to bounce back.

“There’s been a different mindset in training sessions. Our fundamentals need to be better, but the players have shown this since coming back from the break. I’m really excited for the game; it’s going to be a great event for everyone and looking to get three points and technically get our first win at home.”

For those who can’t make the drive over to Daytona, the match will be kicking off at 8 p.m. on the CBS Sports Network. Here’s a look at the pitch:

U-20 USMNT Qualifies for Olympics

Orlando City’s Michael Halliday started again for the U-20 USMNT at right back as the team defeated host Honduras 3-0 in Estadio Francisco Morazán. Having already secured a FIFA U-20 World Cup berth, the team was able to additionally make claim to a spot in the 2024 Olympic Games in Paris. With the win, the United States will have reached its is first appearance at the Men’s Olympic Football Tournament since Beijing 2008 and now has the opportunity to win its third-straight Concacaf U-20 Championship. The United States will take on Dominican Republic tomorrow at 8 p.m. in the final.

Rapinoe to Receive Presidential Medal of Freedom

President Joe Biden has chosen USWNT and OL Reign captain Megan Rapinoe to receive the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor that can be bestowed in the United States. The award is given out by the President to recognize individuals who have made exemplary contributions to the prosperity, values, or security of the United States, world peace, or other significant societal, public or private endeavors. Rapinoe is the first soccer player to be so honored.

“In that moment I spoke to the President, I was, and still am, totally overwhelmed,” said Rapinoe. “I just think of all the people who I feel deserve a part of this medal, from my family to current and former teammates, all the women of the U.S. Women’s National Team throughout our history, to Colin Kaepernick, the three woman who founded Black Lives Matter – Opal, Alicia and Patrisse – to Marsha P, Sylvia and Billie Jean, the Williams sisters, of course my fiancé Sue Bird, and so many more. I am humbled and truly honored to be chosen for this award by President Biden and feel as inspired and motivated as ever to continue this long history of fighting for the freedoms of all people. To quote Emma Lazarus, ‘Until we are all free, we are none of us free.’”

Rapinoe is among 17 others to be honored at the ceremony. Prior to this year, just 647 people have received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in the past 59 years since the award was first given out in 1963 by President John F. Kennedy.

OCB Falls 3-2 at Rochester

The Young Lions of Orlando City B could not overcome a three-goal deficit against Rochester New York FC. Jack Lynn once again found the net and Neicer Acosta added to the tally, but it was not enough as the final whistle blew at 3-2. The starting lineup had a splash of senior squad players as the club continues to try to find minutes for those looking to break into the lineup and garner competitive experience. Orlando City senior squad and backup keeper Adam Grinwis found another start with OCB, as did Thomas Williams and Joey DeZart. Our Sean Rollins has your match recap.

Free Kicks

Well, that’s a wrap. There is no Orlando soccer today, but don’t forget to head over to Daytona tomorrow as the Pride play at “home.” Have a safe holiday weekend. Look out for each other, drink plenty of water, and don’t let children shoot fireworks. Vamos Orlando!