Friday, July 25, 2014

Orlando City Notebook: Heath previews Rhinos meeting; Lampard to NYCFC; and injury updates

(Courtesy of Orlando City)
By Mike Gramajo

SANFORD, Fla. — Orlando City’s Adrian Heath made it no secret on July 12 that he believes his squad can go unbeaten in their last USL PRO season. 

After a scoreless draw at Sacramento last week, which kept that dream alive, Heath’s men will look to keep living up to that expectation when they visit the Rochester Rhinos on Sunday at Sahlen’s Stadium (WATCH HERE). 

“They’re (Rochester) probably more dangerous now then they would of been if they won their last five,” Heath told the OSJ ahead of their league clash against the Rhinos. “I believe so much in this group and if they play in their full potential, we can go all the way without a loss."

The Lions look to have an advantage heading into Sunday’s match, as the Rhinos have lost three of their last five matches, while only winning and drawing once. 

OCSC are currently riding an 18-game unbeaten streak, four games away from tying the 2013 Richmond Kickers unbeaten run. With Orlando and Richmond not scheduled to play each other toward the latter part of the season, Heath did add that it’s not easy regarding their unbeaten start given that in the past, the Kickers have always proved to be a tough opponent. 

“It’s tough, we haven’t played Richmond yet who’s second in the league,” said Heath. “We have some big games coming up. If we don’t perform anything like our best, then we will get beat. It’s about bringing your A-game. This group is very good when we play at our maximum.” 

Here’s more regarding Orlando City push for the post-season: 

Heath talks about Lampard joining New York City FC 
From one Englishman to another, Heath voiced his thoughts on former Chelsea and England star Frank Lampard joining fellow expansion club New York City FC on Thursday. 

“He’s had an unbelievable career,” said Heath. “Frank arguably has gotten more out of his career than any player in the history of English football. He performs at the maximum, he’s consistent, he looks after his body. I don’t care that he’s 36, he’s fit and this year broke the Chelsea record.

“Without a doubt, Frank on the field will be very, very good for New York City.” 

Orlando City and New York City are set to join Major League Soccer in 2015 as expansion clubs. 

Orlando City injury list sheds some light heading into the week
While Orlando City’s injury list seemed to pile up, good news surfaced on the horizon but the shade of a dark cloud still surfaced. 

Corey Hertzog (groin) and Brad Rusin (knee/ankle) trained apart from the team on Friday, but told the OSJ that they should be clear to play in the next home game after a ‘productive’ training session. 

However, Bryan Burke’s injury may seem more serious than thought previously. After breaking his leg in 2013, which saw the defender out for 10 months, Burke recovered quickly than expected. He resurrected his form and worked his way back into the starting lineup until he tore a ligament located where his previous injury was. 

A source told the OSJ that his rehabilitation is back to day one like his previous injury, and could be out for the rest of the season. 

Midfielder Anthony Pulis (quad) also remained sideline during Friday’s practice, and is expected to be out for a ‘couple more weeks’ after picking up the injury during a July 12 league game vs. Wilmington.

Yordany Alvarez (concussion) did not practice with the team, while the club is expected to make an announcement regarding his injury. Meanwhile, defender Justin Clark also remained sidelined for Friday’s practice session after Heath confirmed he picked up a knock (did not reveal what type of injury). 

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Orlando City issue statement regarding fan misbehavior

By Mike Gramajo 

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Problems off the pitch continued for one of Orlando City’s premier supporters’ groups. 

Members of the Iron Lion Firm were told to leave after what reports from OCSC front office staff claim that fan misconduct throughout the match failed to comply to the fan code of conducts which were distributed to fans upon entering the ESPN Wide World of Sports. 

With Orlando City heading into halftime leading 1-0, witness reports claimed that Disney security along with Osceola County Sheriff’s began to escort members of the supporter group, including the ILF’s vice-president. 

While Orlando City COO Brett Lashbrook refused to comment on whether the fans ejected from the match belonged to a particular supporter club, it was made self-evident that certain ILF members were ejected. That followed with protests from other members of the ILF which then followed with a vast majority of the group exiting the game toward the final 10 minutes. 

This incident comes after a week when members of the ILF and Ruckus were arrested when Orlando City played its second-leg of the I-4 Derby in St. Petersburg at Al Lang Field, which followed with club president Phil Rawlins issuing a statement. Both groups were suspended indefinitely until they can agree to an MLS Fan Code of Conduct.  

“No one like us, and we don’t care,” were some chants heard from the supporter group ILF. Other chants that followed, “Tell me how it feels to lose the Iron Lion Firm,” started once OCSC front office staff got involved in the second half after foul language began to surface within their section. 

OCSC videographer, who refused to be named, claimed he was harass by members of the ILF with curse words and threats being made. 

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Heath looks to finish USL PRO season unbeaten

By Mike Gramajo

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — If Orlando City’s 2-0 victory over Wilmington Hammerheads meant extending their unbeaten run in USL PRO to 17 games, then it signified something different for head coach Adrian Heath. 

OCSC topped the Hammerheads on Saturday night in front of 4,919 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. However, for Heath the match revealed his sights on ending his final USL season unbeaten. 

“Only everyday. I believe this group can do it,” Heath said. “It’s something I’ve spoke about. I know that if we play the way we can, this team is capable of going undefeated. Whether we can do it is another thing, but I believe we can. That’s something certainly as this run continues I’ll keep reminding them about because that would be some achievement if we could do it.” 

Heath reminded reporters that it doesn’t matter what league you play in, and finishing the season unbeaten would be a landmark given the fact that not many teams have accomplished such a feat. 

Orlando City look to keep the dream alive when they visit the Sacramento Republic on Thursday. 

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Must-See: Dom Dwyer selfie celebration

Orlando City wins I-4 Derby, top Rowdies

(Courtesy of Orlando City)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – Orlando City SC defeated the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the North American Soccer League (NASL) 3-2 (6-2 aggregate) at Al Lang Stadium on Sunday evening to claim its second consecutive I-4 Derby title, presented by United World Soccer. Numerous City supporters ventured on the away trip to witness the Lions defeat the Rowdies for the sixth time in as many matches played over the past two seasons.

“As I said to the players, you can never get tired of winning titles. We scored some very good goals tonight and all three were delights to watch,” said Head Coach Adrian Heath after the derby win. “Coming in with a three goal lead, we could’ve taken our foot off the pedal but we didn’t. We worked and hard and I’m delighted not only for the players but also for our supporters. Once again, it was a great turnout from them, and I hope they’ve enjoyed it as much as we have.”

Orlando City broke through in the 31st minute when Kevin Molino played a crafty one-two with Corey Hertzog inside the area, before producing a composed finish from six yards away. Molino’s ability to provide the opening goal for Orlando continues the impressive 2014 campaign being displayed so far by the club’s first-ever Major League Soccer (MLS) signing, who currently leads USL PRO in goals (11), assists (6) and points (28).

Tampa Bay leveled the score-line just four minutes later, after a costly mistake from the Orlando defense. Midfielder Darel Russell was able to dispossess Lions’ center-half Tommy Redding and play Georgi Hristov in behind with ample space, leaving Carl Woszczynksi with no chance.

For City’s second goal of the half, Molino was once again involved when the Trinidadian earned a free-kick for Orlando on the edge of the area in the 43rd minute. Ceren’s ensuing set-piece featured a bit of cleverness, as the midfielder beat Thompson by striking his effort under the wall to find the back of the net.

The 2-1 score-line at the end of the half was a fair reflection of the first 45 minutes, as Orlando were the better side on the ball while the Rowdies’ attacking efforts were more sporadic and less threatening. As a result, Tampa Head Coach Ricky Hill made two attacking changes at the half, bringing on Midfielder Evans Frimpong and Forward Luciano Olguin.

Less than 20 minutes into the half, Tampa coordinated a response to Ceren’s strike when Hristov scored his second goal of the match. The striker was played in behind Ricardo Morris and slotted the ball underneath Woszczynski for an equalizer that was crucial for Tampa to stand any chance of claiming the I-4 Derby title.

Tampa Bay’s push to get forward in the second half seemed to re-motivate Orlando City, who had been in no rush to secure another goal, as they maintained a 5-2 lead on aggregate.

After holding off Tampa Bay’s push early in the second half, City responded with another goal in the 75thminute via Corey Hertzog. The striker’s finish proved to be the final dagger, as the Rowdies would’ve had to put forth a monumental effort to overcome four goals in 15 minutes.

To prevent any further damage, Heath brought on Mbengue and several trialist players to provide fresh legs as Orlando secured its second straight I-4 Derby title with tremendous support from the numerous City faithful in attendance, who made the trip down I-4 to create a home atmosphere on the road.

Orlando’s next match will take place in league play when the Lions host the Wilmington Hammerheads on July 12 at ESPN Wide World of Sports. Kick-off is set for 7:30 p.m. EST. The match will be live streamed via

— Via Jhamie Chin / Orlando City SC 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Orlando City notebook: Kaka talks about Orlando City, growth of MLS and more

(Courtesy of Orlando City)
By Mike Gramajo

It’s official, Ricardo Kaka will be a part of Orlando City’s 2015 inaugural Major League Soccer season. 

OCSC’s first-ever Designated Player signing spoke to reporters on Wednesday via conference call, admitting he came close to joining big market city’s like New York and Los Angeles, but a project like Orlando seemed something he couldn’t miss out on. 

In my latest SBI Soccer piece, I have all the notes from Kaka’s conference call, including his thoughts on MLS, his time in AC Milan, and other players he hopes to bring to Orlando. 

Give the story a read, and feel free to comment below. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Orlando City officially sign Kaka as DP


ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando City’s long awaited pursuit of Ricardo Kaka is finally over. 

Orlando City SC announced on Tuesday morning that they have signed Brazilian superstar Kaka to a designated player contract, which will run through 2017. 

“I’m happy to be here in Orlando. I said one day I’ll like to play in America,” said Kaka. “This thing started in 2012 when we had our first meeting when Flavio said to me he had this dream to built this amazing thing in America. It’s a dream come true.” 

Orlando City aren’t expected to make their Major League Soccer debut until March 2015, leaving Kaka to rejoin his boyhood club in Brazil, Sao Paulo FC, for six months before coming back to Orlando just in time for preseason camp. 

“We not only brought a Brazilian superstar, we brought a world superstar,” said Club president Phil Rawlins. “Today is the day when we put MLS on notice. We may be franchise No. 21, but we’re not here to make up the numbers, we’re here to win. We’ve created a strategy and a tradition of wining soccer matches and championships, we want to do that in Major League Soccer.”

The 2007 FIFA World Player of the Year spent the 2013/2014 season in Italy, playing in the Serie A for AC Milan, but failed to qualify to European contention, triggering an exit from the Italian club. The midfielder is heralded with winning the FIFA World Cup with Brazil in 2002. 

Kaka told reporters that he’s been aware of Orlando City since 2012 and his friendship with club majority owner Flavio Augusto da Silva played a factor in the decision to play for the Lions. 

“I thought the moment to come was arriving and Orlando was the project I want to be part of,” said Kaka. “I didn’t come to America to enjoy the American lifestyle, I chose to come because I want to win the league, do something special for my career and this team. I can be an example for other players to come and enjoy playing soccer in America. I spoke with Los Angeles (Galaxy), and New York (Red Bulls).”