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Lion Links: 8/6/22

Orlando City returns home, Pride set club record, Lions’ transfer grade, and more.

MLS: Orlando City SC at New England Revolution Paul Rutherford-USA TODAY Sports

Happy match day, Mane Landers! It is sure to be a soccer-filled weekend as all three of our Orlando clubs have matches. We also welcome back the English Premier League, which I am personally excited for after having attended a London derby of West Ham at Tottenham in March. Am I a Spurs fan now? I’m not sure if I was officially converted, but my wife sure was after witnessing a stellar Son Heung-Min brace. The rest of European soccer is also back full tilt, so it makes sitting on the couch during these hot and humid weekends a bit more enjoyable. But now, let’s get to what you all came here for — the links!

Orlando City Returns to Exploria Stadium

Orlando City will be at home for the first time since the 5-1 routing of the New York Red Bulls in the semifinal of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. This match will be the second meeting of the regular season against the New England Revolution. The first match was played to a 1-1 draw in Gillette Stadium on June 15. New England will look slightly different this time time as two attackers have moved on during the summer transfer window. Sebastian Lletget and Jozy Altidore have both found new clubs; however, Head Coach Bruce Arena made a big move in bringing in forward Giacomo Vrioni. The 23-year-old striker enters MLS coming off a successful loan to WGS Tirol in the Austrian Bundesliga, where he had 19 goals in 28 league games. Earlier this season, Bruce Arena became the winningest coach in MLS history. Hopefully, he doesn’t add to that tally against the Lions. Tonight’s match is set to kick off at 7:30 p.m.

Orlando Pride In Rare Form

For the first time in club history, the Pride have finished out the month of July without a single loss. With three draws and a win, the club is unbeaten in its past four matches under Interim Head Coach Seb Hines. The Pride will host Angel City FC tomorrow night at 7 p.m. With just three points separating the two teams on the table, a win would jump Orlando into seventh place due to the head-to-head tiebreaker.

Orlando fans will see some familiar faces on the other side of the ball in Sydney Leroux and Claire Emslie. Leroux had been with the Pride since 2018 and playing in 63 games and scoring 18 goals across all competitions. Angel City also scooped up Emslie who was their second pick in the 2022 NWSL Expansion Draft. Emslie previously played for the Pride in 2019.

While most fans will surely be there to watch some soccer, Exploria Stadium will also be themed around the Pride’s Y2K Night for those looking to enjoy the full night of festivities. Supporters are encouraged to sport their Pride gear in some of their favorite 2000s fashion trends. In addition, there will be a Britney Spears impersonator and special 2000s halftime karaoke show.

Orlando City Transfer Grade

According to MLSsoccer.com, Orlando City’s use of the summer transfer window would be considered a loss. Orlando was praised for adding depth and refreshing competition in numerous positional groups. USMNT forward Nicholas Gioacchini was signed on a free transfer from France’s SM Caen and can play center forward or on the wing. Ivan Angulo also adds further options in the attack after the 23-year-old Colombian youth international winger arrives on loan. Orlando rounded out the window by adding Wilder Cartagena, a Peruvian international and central midfielder to add depth behind César Araújo.

While only losing Sebas Mendez and Silvester van der Water, it seems most of the transfers were to replace or try and upgrade these two positions rather than adding to positions that are clearly already thin. Matt Doyle gives his reasoning for a loss as criticism in not dealing with Orlando’s need of depth at left back and center back.

Former Lion Returns to MLS

Former Orlando City winger Richie Laryea will be returning to MLS and Toronto FC. He rejoins on loan from English Premier League side Nottingham Forrest through the summer of 2023. Laryea originally joined Toronto in 2019 after playing for Orlando City. While in Toronto, he found himself being used more defensively than ever before and became one of the best wingbacks in the league.

“It’s great to bring Richie back to the club,” Toronto head coach and sporting director Bob Bradley said in a release. “As everyone knows by now, Richie established himself as one of the best outside backs in the league. He’s a dynamic player, a fantastic dribbler, and a real competitor. To have Richie back in his hometown to play for TFC ahead of Canada’s trip to the World Cup is exciting.”

Following his time with Toronto, he was transferred to Nottingham Forest this past January for a reported $1 million fee. He helped them earn promotion from the Championship, though he played in only five matches.

“I am very excited to have the opportunity to be back with TFC and play in front of our fans at BMO Field,” said Laryea. “I know it’s an important time for the club as we push for the playoffs, and I want to help the team achieve success.”

Free Kicks

Well, that should get you started for your Saturday morning scroll. As I always say, pull on that purple jersey and head over to Exploria Stadium and be loud. Enjoy your weekend, give yourself extra time in traffic, text a loved one, and remember to always be a good human. Vamos Orlando!