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Lion Links: 2/18/23

Haley Bugeja scores double, USWNT readies for Japan, Central Florida Crusaders add to roster, and more.

Malta v Azerbaijan - FIFA Women’s World Cup 2023 Qualifying Round Group Stage Soccer Photo by Domenic Aquilina/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Happy Saturday, Mane Land fam! Speaking of family, my wife and I are lucky enough to have my parents in town for a short visit this weekend. It’s always great to catch up with loved ones as we live a day’s drive between both of our families. My typical weekend lately has consisted of catching all the top of the table Premier League matches, but today I will be dipping down to the relegation battle between Leeds United and Everton.

Both Orlando City and the Pride play preseason matches today. And, we’re just hours away from officially seeing that new purple City kit. Please, let there just be some sweet and subtle gold accents with nothing too flashy or over the top. Now, let’s get down to the links!

Pride’s Haley Bugeja Leads Malta to Win

Orlando Pride forward Haley Bugeja earned herself a start for Malta and netted two goals for her efforts. Luxembourg scored first in the match from the penalty spot in the 13th minute, but Malta was soon given a penalty opportunity of its own. In the 35th minute, Bugeja was fouled in the box. She stepped up and leveled the match 1-1. In the 67th minute, Bugeja scored the winning goal off a powerful header from a Maria Farrugia diagonal ball to seal the match 2-1.

USWNT Readies for Japan

After a 2-0 victory over Canada to open the 2023 SheBelieves Cup at Exploria Stadium, the U.S. Women’s National Team heads to GEODIS Park in Nashville. On Sunday, the tournament journey continues with a match against a Japan side that will be looking to bounce back after a 1-0 defeat to Brazil on Thursday. Sunday’s match-up in Nashville will be the 39th all-time meeting between the USWNT and Japan and the first since the 3-1 U.S. victory on March 11 of the 2020 SheBelieves Cup.

If you are looking for some familiar faces on the Japan roster, there are a couple of NWSL players that you might recognize. Angel City FC midfielder Jun Endo and Portland Thorns FC midfielder Hina Sugita are the NWSL representatives on the roster. There will surely be some friendly banter between Sugita and her Thorns teammates on the USWNT, Becky Sauerbrunn and Crystal Dunn.

Central Florida Crusaders Bolster Rosters

The Central Florida Crusaders continue to fill out both the men’s and women’s team rosters. The latest additions are four new players for the men’s team in goalkeeper Scott Flores, defender Stephen Harrison, and midfielders Haroldo Campos and Diego Pantuzza. Meanwhile, the women’s team has added goalkeeper Jena Tilleman. Click through to find out more about the new additions.

LA Galaxy’s Julián Araujo Joins FC Barcelona

It took over two weeks to sort out the 18-second delay that left LA Galaxy right back Julián Araujo short of achieving his FC Barcelona dream. Now, he is finally moving forward with a deal that brings the LA Galaxy a reported club-record $4 million transfer fee. Additionally, the club will retain a sell-on percentage if Araujo is sold later down the road. Because the official move comes after the La Liga deadline, Araujo will not be registered to play until the next transfer window opens in the summer; however, he will train with Barcelona B before moving up to the first team.

“Julián joining FC Barcelona is a great story of a young kid from Southern California coming into the LA Galaxy Academy, through LA Galaxy II and excelling with the First Team,” said LA Galaxy Head Coach and Sporting Director Greg Vanney. “As we continue to evolve as a club, we’re leaning heavily into the LA Galaxy Academy development side. We are going to help develop players who can play at the biggest clubs in the world, but can also help the LA Galaxy win championships. We wish Julián all the best in the next phase of his career.”

Free Kicks

That’s all I have for you today. I hope you all have a great weekend and are able to snag a new kit. Vamos Orlando!