Friday, August 29, 2014

After suffering concussion in June, Yordany Alvarez hangs up his boots

(Courtesy of OCSC)
By Mike Gramajo

Orlando City Soccer Club may have already started building their Major League Soccer squad for next year, but one of their prolonged players won’t be there come 2015. 

Midfielder Yordany Alvarez, who was on loan from Real Salt Lake and signed an MLS contract for 2015 with OCSC, announced his retirement from professional soccer on Friday after suffering a concussion on June 7 during USL Pro play. 

“We are deeply saddened by this news, but Yordany’s long-term health and well-being must be at the forefront of any decision regarding his future,” Orlando City President Phil Rawlins said in a news release.  “To that end, both the Club and the entire Orlando Health medical staff were very prudent throughout this process in making sure he underwent extensive examinations to determine the possible causes of his condition and to find the best treatment so he can continue to live a full life.”

Alvarez, who defected from Cuba in 2008, was part of Phil Rawlins’ Austin Aztex organization from 2008-2010 before moving the franchise to Orlando in 2011. The Cuban native then navigated Orlando City to the 2011 USL Pro championship during their inaugural season, which also earned him league MVP for that season. 

After one year in Orlando, Alvarez signed with Real Salt Lake in 2012 before reuniting with Heath prior to the 2014 USL Pro season. According to OCSC officials, Alvarez will not be leaving the organization, but will be working with the Orlando City Youth Academy. 

Orlando City’s current 2015 MLS roster consists of Kevin Molino, Darwin Ceren, Tyler Turner, Tommy Redding, Ricardo Kaka, Rafael Ramos and Estrela. 

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

#KakaWatch: Kaka completes 90 minutes, as Sao Paulo win fourth straight

(Getty Images)
By Mike Gramajo

Ricardo Kaka inspired Sao Paulo FC to a fourth-straight victory, topping Santos 2-1 on Sunday at Estadio do Morumbi. 

The Orlando City loanee played the full 90 minutes before being substituted out in stoppage-time for Hudson. 

Paulo Henrique Ganso gave Sao Paulo the early lead, smashing in a volley from close range in the 23rd minute. The lead looked short-lived for the home team when Santos’ Gabriel Marcou equalized in the 85th minute after converting a penalty kick, but the equalizer was denied moments later when Alexandre Pato scored the winner after finding a pass from Denilson to slot the ball past the goalkeeper. 

Sao Paulo look to keep the momentum going when they clash against Criciuma on Thursday in Copa Sudamericana play. Highlights from Sunday’s league win coming soon.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Orlando City fall at Charlotte, as road woes continue for the Lions

CHARLOTTE, NC. – Despite creating several threatening chances and dominating possession throughout tonight’s match, Orlando City SC (16-3-4, 52 points) fell to the Charlotte Eagles (9-13-3, 30 points) 2-0 in a physical road contest.

After a scoreless first half, Eagles’ Midfielder Wells Thompson scored a brace in the latter portion of the second 45, resulting in Orlando’s first-ever loss to Charlotte in 10 outings. City’s two previous matches against Charlotte this season at ESPN Wide World of Sports came in the fashion of 3-1 and 4-1 wins. 

With Charlotte sitting deep in their own half, Orlando’s notable possession-oriented style of play was highly visible in the first half of tonight’s match, as the Lions repeatedly tried to break through the Eagles’ defense. City’s first clear-cut chance came in the 18th minute when Forward Corey Hertzog produced a booming strike from distance, forcing Charlotte Goalkeeper Alec Kann to leap and make a finger-tip save.

As the half progressed, Orlando continued to put Kann and the Charlotte backline under pressure with a flurry of attacking plays. In the final 15 minutes of the half, Orlando produced three quality efforts on goal, including a near-finish from da Luz that hit the post.

Unfortunately for Orlando, Charlotte’s ability to sustain the Lions unrelenting attacks would pay dividends for the North Carolina-based side in the second half when Wells Thompson opened the scoring in the 72ndminute. The midfielder’s driven effort from the right-side of the box ricocheted off the post, leaving Gallardo with no opportunity for the save.

City responded immediately by pushing forward in search of the equalizer in hopes of preserving crucial road points. However, Thompson was able to capitalize on a counter-attack when he notched his brace deep into stoppage time.

NEXT MATCH: Orlando City will face the Richmond Kickers at City Stadium on Saturday, August 23. Kick-off is scheduled for 7 p.m. ET

— Jhamie Chin / Orlando City SC 

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Orlando City back to winning ways, Molino ties single-season league scoring record

By Mike Gramajo

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Darwin Ceren scored a brace while Kevin Molino tied a single-season league scoring record, as Orlando City Soccer Club defeated Harrisburg City Islanders 3-1 on Saturday night, in front of a sold-out crowd of 5,029 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. 

“Goals change games,” said Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath. “I thought the lads were focused. They worked really hard this week, and we aren’t used to losing. Kevin (Molino) is starting to do what we’re asking. He’s having a great year in front of goal.” 

After Robbie Derschang scored the opening goal for Harrisburg in the first five minutes, Ceren leveled the game moments later when a free-kick from distance curled into the net. Orlando City took the lead in the 19th minute when Molino’s close-range header drove past goalkeeper Nicholas Noble. 

Ceren capped the game in the 88th minute after a counter-attack lead to the El Salvadoran international to produce a moment of magic when he dribbled past the Harrisburg defensive line, slotting the ball past Noble for the goal. 

Orlando City will now go on a two-game road stretch where they will meet the Charlotte Eagles on August 20, before going into City Stadium to battle the Richmond Kickers three days later. 

Thursday, August 7, 2014

How's Orlando City's MLS squad looking like?

By Mike Gramajo

With less than 12 months to go until their Major League Soccer debut, Orlando City Soccer Club has one ball rolling when it comes to building their squad.

Last time we saw Orlando City make an MLS roster announcement, it was in early July when Ricardo Kaka was named the club’s first designated player. However, the former World Player of the Year will spend six months in his boyhood club in Brazil, Sao Paulo, before rejoining OCSC for MLS preseason camp in January 2015. 

The Lions most recently announced two more signings to its MLS squad. Per Orlando’s strategic agreement with Portugal side SL Benfica, OCSC acquired Rafael Ramos (19) and Valdomiro Lameira (18) on Thursday. Both players will join Orlando for the remainder of the USL PRO season before moving into MLS with the Lions. 

Below is the updated Orlando City MLS roster: 
Goalkeepers (0): 

Defenders (3): Tyler Turner, Tommy Redding, Rafael Ramos

Midfielders (5): Kevin Molino, Yordany Alvarez, Darwin Ceren, Ricardo Kaka (DP), Estrela

Forwards (0): 

Head Coach: Adrian Heath

General Manager: Paul McDonough 

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What do you think of the roster? Who from Orlando City's current USL team would you like to see make Orlando's MLS team? 

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).