Monday, December 9, 2013

Source: Orlando City interested in Puerto Rico international

By Mike Gramajo

While the search for the club’s first Designated Player goes on, offseason roster acquisitions are moving sooner than expected 

Sources have told the Orlando Soccer Journal that Orlando City SC are close to signing Puerto Rico National Team midfielder Joseph Jackie Marrero for the 2014 USL Pro season. 

The club has denied to comment on the signing. 

The 20-year-old last appeared for the Puerto Rico Islanders of the North American Soccer League (NASL), making two appearances before the Islanders decided to go on a hiatus in 2013. 

Despite not recording any goals for the Islanders, he’s currently playing overseas for Kultsu FC of the Finnish third division after failing to agree to terms with Liga MX side Puebla FC.

Marrero has appeared 13 times for the Blue Hurricanes, scoring five times, including a brace in last years Caribbean Cup which resulted into a historic 9-0 thrashing of Saint-Martin. 

Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath confirmed last week to the OSJ that he will make several trips to Latin America in the hopes of signing a young player. If the Marrero signing does become official, it will serve great purpose to the large Puerto Rican contingency in Central Florida. 

In fact, the Lions will be playing their 2014 homes games in ESPN’s Wide World of Sports, which is located in Osceola County, home of the second largest Puerto Rican population in the United States. 

What do you think of this development? Do you think the Lions should make the move for the young attacking midfielder? 

Comment below with your thoughts. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Heath talks Sporting KC; Sac Republic being favorites; MLS clubs courting him and more

Valencia Voice 
By Mike Gramajo 

WINTER PARK — While the dream to reach Major League Soccer has become a reality, Orlando City SC head coach Adrian Heath looks to finish his last year in the USL Pro by accomplishing something he’s very familiar to. 


The Lions will play their last season in the USL Pro next year, well-informed the level of play may be a bit more grueling than previous seasons, while also working to set up his roster that will make the jump to MLS once they kickoff in 2015. 

“We take what we do very serious. We want to try and make it three (USL Pro titles) next year,” Heath said. “We got 15 months to get ready for MLS, but now it’s about winning the league and nothing else.

“People have come and gone before, but when we arrived it showed we aren’t going anywhere. The game has grown and football isn’t going away. We’re part of the fabric of society here in Orlando and this is a hotbed of nationalities that come together and play football. The next part is to get more out of it.” 

Since arriving to Central Florida in 2010, OCSC has gone on to win two USL Pro championships (2011 and 2013) while also winning the regular season championship twice (2011 and 2012). While the trophies illustrate the success on the field, the success off the field is credited to fans that have flocked to the Citrus Bowl, most notably the 20,886 that witnessed the Lions clinch a wild 7-4 USL Pro title victory over the Charlotte Eagles back in September. 

While MLS is around the corner, Heath mentioned that the new USL Pro expansion franchise Sacramento Republic FC are heavy favorites next year, labeling them “competitive” as they’re guided by technical director Graham Smith and former Toronto FC coach Preki. 

“I know Graham Smith since I was 16, so there’s a lot of experience there, and I know Preki, and they will go into their first year like how we did; competitive,” said Heath. “They’re making the same noise we made. They’ll put a decent product on the field, and they’ll be a team on top of the league next year, I guarantee it.”

Despite turning down an expensive contract from Toronto FC last year, Heath told OSJ that since his time in America, he’s been offered three other deals by MLS clubs. However, his commitment to the club has kept him put. When asked how he felt about Major League Soccer clubs courting him, Heath said that it’s just a reflection of his hard-work. 

“I’ve had three offers to go to the MLS while I’ve been in America, but the dream from going from nothing when we arrived at Austin to be where we are in six years is incredible,” he added. The thought to see the realization of MLS is great, and looking forward to the future. I try to do the best I can and expect exciting times.”

Focusing more on the jump to America’s top-tier of soccer, the Englishman talked about replicating the same model other small markets have in MLS. Saying that small markets play the biggest role in the league with sellout crowds and the way the culture has grown throughout the previous decade. 

“I have no doubt Orlando can do as well as Portland, Kansas (City) and Salt Lake,” Heath added. “If you look at them, they’re not big markets like New York or Los Angeles, they’re clubs in small markets that proved they can compete in a high level.

"I look at the job Jason Kreis has done at Real Salt Lake, the success Caleb Porter has had in Portland after one year, and what Peter Vermes is putting together in Sporting Kansas City.” 

The development of the youth is something very important for Heath, pointing out that the club will invest more and produce more as they approach MLS. While the Orlando City U23s have showcased a strong side, winning the 2012 Southern Conference in the USL Premier Development League, the former Everton midfielder also credited the impact the Sporting Kansas City loanees had on the team.

“Our relationship with Sporting was beneficial for both of us, and if you look at it, you have witnessed Dom Dwyer regain his confidence,” said Heath. “Our U23s and our academy will play an integral part once we make the jump to MLS.” 

On the development of Dennis Chin 

Despite not replicating his success in 2012 to this past season, Heath told the OSJ that he hopes the
former Rollins Tar forward will get back into form once the season kicks off. 

“We work on him everyday. I’ve said this before, Dennis (Chin) has a lot of physical attributes, he has to make the most out of them. Last year, from him personally, he let himself down," said Heath. "He had a poor year and didn’t progress the way we hoped and he has to resurrect that. This is a big opportunity for all the player if they wanna go with us to the next level in MLS.”

The Lions forward went on to score four goals in Orlando City's playoff run, which resulted into winning the USL Pro championship back in September. While the Oviedo native had an excellent run in the post season, Heath hopes to get more out of him once the USL Pro season commences in late March, early April.

Friday, October 11, 2013

OSJ Relaunch Coming Soon

By Mike Gramajo

Photo by Mike Gramajo
To the good folks in Central Florida and else where around the soccer world, I'm proud to announce that the Orlando Soccer Journal (OSJ) is planning to relaunch in the upcoming weeks.

While I beat wrote on Orlando City SC for the 2012 USL Pro season, I'm thankful enough to be given the opportunity to join the club for the 2013 season as a media relations intern. While my goal is to be a communications director one day, I feel like I have this void in my path.

In the upcoming weeks, I will relaunch this blog for the sole purpose of delivering the latest news on Orlando City SC, regarding the happenings on and off the field. Stay tuned and follow me on Twitter for the latest on the Lions.


Mike Gramajo

Monday, March 11, 2013

OC Weekly Preseason Recap

Photos by Robert Van Deering (Valencia Voice)
By Mike Gramajo

Orlando City SC will look to finish its month of preseason when they partake in a host of collegiate friendlies and competing in the second leg of the I-4 Derby after winning the first leg 3-2 last Saturday.

Lets look at how preseason has been going for the Lions......

New year, same goals
The Lions kicked-off the new year when they played Serie A side AS Roma on January 2nd at Rollins College and despite falling to the Italian giants 5-0, newcomers like Midfielder Jonathan Mendoza sparked interest amongst Orlando's fan base on what the young Colombian can do in the midfield.

"We're confident in bringing in the necessary pieces to be competitive," Head Coach Adrian Heath told reporters after the game.

So far this preseason Orlando has added a host of young and veteran players.

Below are the new players added to the team since the new year started:  
Iron Lion Firm during the I-4 Derby
Bryan Burke
Brian Fekete
Jonathan Mendoza
Freddie Braun 
Jean Alexandre
Long Tan

With the the USL PRO season one month away, There's no question that Orlando City has depth to enter the season and with the newly MLS-USL PRO partnership that was announced on January 23rd, Orlando's Major League Soccer affiliate Sporting Kansas City is bound to loan players to the Lions.

Disney Pro Soccer Classic
Orlando City kicked-off the Disney PSC with a 1-1 draw against MLS' Philadelphia Union, however, City fell 3-0 to Toronto FC despite maintaining possession throughout the game.

"The goals, efforts, we created a lot of chances. I thought we played the best football all evening," Heath said after its collapse against the Canadian side. "The goals we conceded were awful, individual mistakes and we got punished."

Goals were something Orlando City saw a lot.

During their four-games at the Disney PSC, the Lions conceded six goals while scoring 5 goals. Not bad, right? But given that Coach Adrian Heath is known for praising his team for playing possession and defensive soccer, the room for error always remains small.

Collegiate Friendlies
City opened-up its series against Florida college's when they face-offed against the Florida International University Panthers, winning against the Miami-based college 3-0, goals came from Jamie Watson, Justin Clark and U23s and trialist Nico Russo.

"It’s about getting combination football and get a shape of the team. It’s mainly to get everybody fit and well away in Arizona," Heath said after the game. 

Orlando will play four-more college friendlies, playing Stetson University, Florida Gulf Coast, Rollins College and University of Tampa. 

All college friendlies will be played the Seminole Soccer Complex except the matchup against Rollins College, which will be played the Barker Family Stadium on March, 21.

The Long Awaited I-4 Derby versus Tampa Bay Rowdies begins
The Lions opened the I-4 Derby in thrilling action, scoring three goals in the second half to overcome a 0-1 first half deficit to take the lead when they march into Al Lang Field for the second leg of the derby.

Orlando City goals from Jamie Watson, James O'Connor and Jean Alexandre

"We been in control of the game all evening, we were the dominant team," Heath said after the first leg at the Citrus Bowl.

Throughout the preseason, Heath has made it clear that he has the best squad outside the MLS in terms of style and depth.

Orlando City officially open up the USL PRO season on  a two-game road West Coast road trip on April 7 when they visit Phoenix FC before taking on the LA Blues on April 10.

The home opener kicks-off on April 14 versus the Rochester Rhinos, scheduled time is at 6 p.m.

What are your opinions on how the preseason is going so far, and what are some questions you have for the remaining year?

Comment Below and follow me on  Twitter 

Monday, February 25, 2013

El Clasico preview - FC Barcelona vs. Real Madrid

By Mike Gramajo 

Getty Images
Barcelona and Real Madrid meet Tuesday, Feb. 26 for the second leg of its semi-final Copa Del Rey tie. 

Last time both teams met, they dealt with a 1-1 draw, leaving Rafael Varane to tie the game for the Merengues after Cesc Fabregas opened up the scoring for the Catalans. 

The league champions, Madrid, are coming off a 2-1 win against Deportivo La Coruna, rallying back from a 0-1 deficit when Kaka tied the game in the 73rd minute and Cristiano Ronaldo assisted Gonzalo Higuain in the 88th minute. 

The Blaugrana were able to bounce back from a shocking 2-0 loss to AC Milan in the knockout stage of the Champions League after rallying back last Saturday against Sevilla, leaving Lionel Messi to score the 2-1 game winner for Barcelona.

Both rival clubs meet again this weekend during league play where Barcelona hold a comfortable 16 point lead against Madrid. 

With the winners of this tie heading towards the cup final, both clubs look to rely on their catalyst of star players. 

Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo is tied with Barca’s Lionel Messi with four goals in the tournament, however, both players were not able to get on the scoresheet during its first-leg encounter. 

Despite Madrid not being able to play their captain, Iker Casillas, due to a broken bone to his hand, Diego Lopez will most likely glove up while Jose Callejon will play right wing for Angel Di Maria who picked up a red card last Saturday during league play.

Madrid are currently playing their busiest week after they will come across Barcelona again on Saturday and play its Champions League Round of 16 tie against Manchester United at Old Trafford next week. 

The winners of this tie will go on to the finals where they will meet Sevilla or Atletico Madrid. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

MLS & USL Pro announce partnership, Orlando City & Sporting KC Unite

Courtesy of Orlando City Soccer 
BY Mike Gramajo

Soccer in America took a big step to foster youth development with Major League Soccer and USL Pro announcing a partnership while Orlando City became Sporting Kansas City's USL affiliate.

"We are fortunate Orlando City has agreed to partner with us in this new, groundbreaking opportunity. They are a class club and this will be a great partnership for both organizations," Sporting Kansas City Manager Peter Vermes said. "It will provide beneficial opportunities for our players to develop within a competitive environment for a tremendous organization and fanbase. Together, our shared vision for this affiliation made it easy for us to enter into the opportunity."

meanwhile in other parts of Major League Soccer, D.C. United affiliated with USL Pro side Richmond Kickers, New England paired up with Rochester and Philadelphia with Harrisburg. 

“We are excited to begin our partnership with one of the greatest MLS brands, Sporting KC,” said Orlando City President Phil Rawlins. “We believe the integration of USL and MLS will go down as an important day in the history of the American soccer pyramid.”

Orlando City, who is about to enter the the 2013 USL Pro season, could use this boost with Sporting Kansas City while maintaining its close relationship with Barclays Premier League side Stoke City, who sit 10th in Premier League table. 

Follow me on twitter for the latest on Orlando City Soccer; 


Mike Gramajo is a writer for Opinions expressed are his and his only and do not come he contents of this page have not been reviewed or endorsed by the Orlando City SC. All opinions expressed by Mike Gramajo are solely his own and do not reflect the opinions of Orlando City SC.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

AS Roma hand Orlando City harsh defeat

(Photo Credit: Mike Gramajo) 
WINTER PARK, Fla. — New year. New challenge.

Orlando City opened up its 2013 campaign losing to Serie A giants AS Roma 5-0, Wednesday afternoon at the Barker Family Stadium in Rollins College.

The Italian side which currently sit sixth in the Serie A table, trained for the past two weeks at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. While the Lions played its first competitive match after crashing out of the USL Pro playoffs, back in August.

"We're delighted for the opportunity to play them (AS Roma)," coach Adrian Heath told reporters after the game. "It was a real learning curve for some of ours."

Roma wasted no time in scoring, Erik Lamela opened up the scoring within the first minute of the game after a one-two touch play with Miralem Pjanic, the Italian side were quick to break Orlando's defense and get the ball passed goal keeper Miguel Gallardo.

Lamela would complete a brace 10 minutes later, resulting into a similar play from the first goal, however, this time assisted by Alessandro Florenzi.

With Dennis Chin playing the role of a lone striker, Chinny wasn't able to capitalize in the scoring third.

Miralem Pjanic would score in the 31st minute after sending a rocket shot past Gallardo, while Mattia Destro would end the first half scoring in an assisted play.

The Lions were able to hold more possession of the ball in the second half, but Roma just kept denying City from scoring, leaving Jerome Mechack to blast a shot from the 18-yard line.
"We're confident in bringing in the necessary pieces to be competitive." said Heath.

Orlando City will continue its preseason when they return to action in the WDW Pro Soccer Classic, playing MLS' Philadelphia in their opening match on February 9.