Lion Links: 9/17/21

Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images Crucial matches await Orlando City, Carli Lloyd scores five in USWNT win, Europa League action begins, and more. How’s it going, Mane Landers? I hope you all are hanging in there as we shift gears to the weekend. I don’t have any plans for the weekend beyond working and getting some reading in. If you’ve read any good books lately, feel free to let me know in the comments so I can check them out! Now, let’s jump into today’s links. Important Games Ahead for Orlando City Although the Lions sit third in the Eastern Conference, they are trending in the wrong direction with crucial games ahead as the season heats up. After a tough loss at home to CF Montreal, Orlando will now head north to take on a Philadelphia Union side that was just eliminated from the Concacaf Champions League. Nani and Andres Perea won’t be with the Lions due to their red cards Wednesday night and the Orlando defense will have to find a way to stop Union striker Kacper Przybylko, who has scored four goals in the last four regular-season meetings between the two clubs. The schedule doesn’t get any easier for the Lions after Sunday as they have a road match against the New England Revolution on Sept. 25, another road game against Nashville SC on Sept. 29, and then a match at home against D.C. United on Oct. 2. You should also take the Lions into account when making your Halloween plans this year as Orlando hosts Nashville in a critical game late in the season. With the standings tight and an additional CCL spot up for grabs based on regular-season performance, every remaining game between Eastern Conference teams should be worth watching. USWNT Dominates Paraguay in Friendly In her first match since announcing her retirement, United States Women’s National Team forward Carli Lloyd scored a whopping five goals to lead the team to a 9-0 win over Paraguay. Lloyd scored twice within the first six minutes and had two more in the first half before adding a fifth in the 61st minute. Andi Sullivan had a brace and an assist, Lynn Williams had a goal and two assists, Tobin Heath scored, and Mallory Pugh had three assists as the USWNT ran rampant. The Orlando Pride’s Alex Morgan began the game on the bench and came on in the 59th minute for some playing time. It was the first ever meeting between the two sides and they will face off again on Tuesday. USMNT Falls in FIFA World Rankings The United States Men’s National Team is undefeated in its 2022 FIFA World Cup qualifying campaign so far, but it was also far from dominant in draws against El Salvador and Canada. As a result, the USMNT fell from 10th to 13th in the latest FIFA world rankings. However, the USMNT’s movement in the rankings may have less to do with its performance and more to do with strong windows from Denmark (10th), the Netherlands (11th), and Uruguay (12th) against tougher opposition. Mexico maintained its spot in ninth while Canada moved up from 59th to 51st to jump past Jamaica. In South America, Pedro Gallese’s Peru moved up one spot to 21st, while Sebas Mendez’ Ecuador is now in 52nd. While the rankings can be a little arbitrary at times, they will carry some weight if used again as seeding for the World Cup draw. Europa League Delivers Excitement While the UEFA Europa League tends to be overshadowed by the UEFA Champions League, particularly during the group stage, there were plenty of great matches to get the tournament started. The biggest match-up was between Leicester City and Napoli, with the Italian side relying on a brace from Nigerian striker Victor Osimhen in the second half for a 2-2 draw. Osimhen had a great header to equalize, but his first goal is the best highlight of the day. Victor Osimhen, the first touch, the second touch— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) September 16, 2021 West Ham started its Europa campaign in convincing fashion with a 2-0 win over Dinamo Zagreb. Both Scottish sides faltered as Rangers lost 2-0 to Lyon and Celtic fell in a thrilling 4-3 result against Real Betis. A pair of German midfielders turned back the clock as Mesut Ozil scored from a tight angle in Fenerbahce’s 1-1 draw with Eintracht Frankfurt and Mario Gotze had a goal and an assist in PSV Eindhoven’s 2-2 draw with Real Sociedad. American defender DeAndre Yedlin played all 90 minutes in Galatasaray’s 1-0 win over Lazio that was decided by a bizarre own goal. OWN GOAL OF THE WEEK?!— CBS Sports Golazo ⚽️ (@CBSSportsGolazo) September 16, 2021 Also, don’t forget about the Europa Conference League this year. Tottenham Hotspur had to come back to draw 2-2 with Rennes while AS Roma overcame an early deficit to cruise to a 5-1 win over CSKA Sofia. Free Kicks‘s Andrew Wiebe named who he believes is each MLS club’s best candidate for an MLS award this year. Orlando center back Antonio Carlos was listed as a strong contender for Defender of the Year. The 2022 Concacaf Men’s U-20 Championship will be used to determine qualification for the 2023 U-20 World Cup and 2024 Summer Olympics rather than using separate qualifiers. In the Concacaf U-20 Championship next summer, the semifinalists will qualify for the World Cup while the finalists will qualify for the Olympics. The Washington Spirit’s postponed match against the Portland Thorns has been declared a forfeit by the National Women’s Soccer League. Portland now extends its lead at the top of the standings thanks to the 3-0 result while the Spirit lose an important opportunity for points with only six games left. Toronto FC fullback Justin Morrow will retire following this season. The 34-year-old has played the last eight years with Toronto, racking up 18 goals and 20 assists. The National Soccer Hall of Fame made changes to its eligibility process that could increase the annual class size to a maximum of six instead of four. That’s going to be it for today. I hope you all have a great Friday and rest of your weekend. Go Orlando!