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Lion Links: 2/25/23

Orlando City opens the season tonight at home, opening day roster released, last-minute roster decisions, and more.

Sacramento Republic FC v Orlando City SC - 2022 U.S. Open Cup Final Photo by Roy K. Miller/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Today is the day that we have all been waiting for! MLS action is back. Orlando City invites the New York Red Bulls to town tonight at 7:30 p.m. If you haven’t had this date circled on your calendar for weeks, 1) Do you live under a rock? 2) Welcome to The Mane Land, where we bring all the news related to soccer in The City Beautiful.

But seriously, we’re ecstatic that league play is back underway. Personally, the nervousness is minimal and the anticipation is maximal. I can’t wait to see how this new roster of Lions will hold up against the rest of the league.

But before I go on and on about how hyped I am, let’s all wish a couple happy birthdays to Orlando Pride midfielder Mikayla Cluff and OCB winger Gonzalo Agustoni-Chagas. Now, let’s dive right into the links!

Orlando City Opens 2023 Season At Home

The Lions of Orlando City begin their 2023 campaign at home tonight with 10 new players for 2023, which is the most additions in a primary transfer window for the club since the 2018-2019 off-season. The team is undefeated in home openers through eight seasons in MLS, having won twice and drawn six times on opening day. Most notably, the Lions have not given up a goal in their first match of the season since 2019. As the New York Red Bulls come to town, the Lions will look to build upon their successful previous season that saw the club make yet another playoff run and lift the U.S. Open Cup.

Lions Announce 29-Man First-Team Roster

Luiz Muzzi and the Wilf family have done their fair share of refreshing the Orlando City roster since the 2021 transfer window takeover. While some faces remain the same, such as Peruvian international goalkeeper Pedro Gallese and captain Mauricio Pereyra, there are plenty of new Lions to acquaint yourself with. Newcomers sure to make an instant impact include midfielder and Designated Player Martin Ojeda, MLS U22 initiative forward Ramiro Enrique, and 2023 MLS SuperDraft pick and MAC Hermann Trophy winner Duncan McGuire. Let us know in the comments below which new Lion you are most excited to see take the field on opening day. We’ll have our own roster story later this morning, so stay tuned.

MLS Is Back

If you are trying to get your MLS soccer fix beyond your Orlando City Lions, there are plenty of other matches to watch on MLS Season Pass on Apple TV. Over 60,000 fans are expected for the start of Charlotte FC’s second year in MLS as North Carolina side hosts the New England Revolution. Orlando City rival Inter Miami will look to show off its new striker — and former Atlanta United player — Josef Martinez against CF Montréal. Newcomer St. Louis City will finally see what the team is made of as the expansion side takes on Austin FC. Meanwhile, an early Eastern Conference match-up of favorites Philadelphia Union and the Columbus Crew will surely be worth a look. These are just a few of many matches that we’ll have our eyes on as we welcome back the start of MLS league play.

Last-Minute MLS Roster Decisions

Plenty of teams were still tweaking that roster compliance knob on Friday to either become roster compliant or to ensure they have what it takes to lift the MLS Cup trophy at the end of the season. The league’s third all-time leading scorer Kei Kamara was traded to the Chicago Fire in a last-minute deal with CF Montréal. Chicago is sending Montréal $250,000 in General Allocation Money across two seasons, plus additional performance-based incentives. Charlotte FC has signed three 2023 MLS SuperDraft picks — midfielders Nick Scardina, Andrew Privett, and forward Patrick Agyemang — through 2023. Toronto FC has signed academy defender Kobe Franklin to a Homegrown contract through 2024. The San Jose Earthquakes have signed 2023 MLS SuperDraft pick Daniel Munie to a first-team contract. Meanwhile, Minnesota United FC and defender Alan Benítez have mutually agreed to terminate his contract.

Free Kicks
  • Still trying to decide what number to put on your 2023 “The Wall” kit? We’ve got you covered with all players and jersey numbers here.
  • The LA Galaxy and LAFC season opener has been postponed due to safety considerations resulting from inclement weather as heavy rains have brought flooding to the Rose Bowl pitch.
  • Micah Burton and Keyrol Figueroa scored to lead the U-17 USMNT to a 2-0 win over Canada Friday night in the U-17 Concacaf Championships. The Baby Nats will face Mexico in the final Sunday at 5 p.m.

If that isn’t enough to get you hyped on soccer and today’s match, I don’t know what is. Remember that it’s opening day downtown. Give yourself a little bit of extra time to get to the stadium and give the game day staff a little bit of extra grace as they work out the kinks. Soccer is back and this should be a fun day and experience for all.

Now, pull on that shiny new purple jersey and head on down to the stadium. Vamos Orlando!