After a detour to present Orlando City’s All-Star candidacies, the Weston Weekly returns! And there’s plenty to chew on from a big week in soccer…
Open Cup run begins with promise
Orlando City began their 2019 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup run with a breezy 3-1 win against USL Championship expansion side Memphis 901 FC.
No one has any illusions about the talent disparity between the two sides—it was a game Orlando should have won comfortably, and they did. But the game showed how far Orlando have come since the doldrums of last season.
The Lions utterly dominated possession, spending most of the match in the mid-70s before falling to a final number of 65% in garbage time. They rested with the ball, pushed with purpose, and got their deserved goal late in the first half when—I can’t believe I’m about to type this—right back Shane O’Neill was fouled in the box. A Memphis goal early in the second half did little to deter the Lions, who marched back quickly and scored on a gorgeous counter-attack from Cristian Higuita and Sacha Kljestan.
There was never really a moment, even after Memphis tied the game, where you thought Orlando were in any real danger. Even with major players like Nani, Dom Dwyer, Sebas Mendez, Will Johnson, and both starting full backs out or rested, the Lions played with the exact identity James O’Connor has cultivated—using the wide areas to create 2v1s and spread out the defense, then attack. This is how a long-term project works. You have to build an identity, permeate it through the whole squad, and go to battle with it.
Orlando City host New England on Wednesday at Exploria Stadium in the Round of 16. The Lions will be favored to advance against a New England side that miraculously snuck by a New York Red Bulls team playing mostly backups. Bruce Arena is in, but how much new manager bounce will he have?
There’s a great deal on tickets—I’ll be going (I get to go as a fan!), and I highly encourage as many people as possible to turn out if you can make it work. This is a competition that has grown in importance year after year, and a deep run could be a catalyst for the James O’Connor-Luiz Muzzi project. Exciting times.
It feels silly to have to do this, but all anyone wants to talk about in the wake of the United States women’s national team’s record-breaking rout of Thailand at the FIFA Women’s World Cup is how awful the players are for excitedly celebrating the goals.
I know if I scored at the World Cup, I would not care what the game state was. I would lose my ever-loving mind. That’s a special, remarkable achievement no matter the context. How would you react if you scored at the World Cup?
I have no interest in being the fun police for the USWNT. They are elite athletes who have worked their whole lives for this and have earned the right to express themselves however they choose, so long as it isn’t causing harm. The players went over to support the Thailand players after the final whistle in a touching display of sportsmanship. This has more than a whiff of trying to make smoke without fire.
The real controversy here lies not with the USWNT, nor with Thailand, but with the lack of funding from national federations for women’s teams around the globe. This is true of literally every country on the planet. For the women’s game to grow and for situations like this to be avoided, it has to be backed with the proper resources.
A Cool Thing
Check out Paris Saint-Germain and France star Kylian Mbappe hanging out at the NBA Finals!
Mbappe x NBA Finals 🏆 pic.twitter.com/cxJNObBI3m— ESPN UK (@ESPNUK) June 14, 2019
Mbappe scored 39 goals in 43 appearances across all competitions in 2018/19. He’s already been the best player on a World Cup winner. And at 20 years old, he is younger than every member of the Raptors roster!