Monday, November 3, 2014

OSJ Spotlight: Orlando City’s Redding prepared to make most of MLS debut

Photo Courtesy of Orlando City 
By Mike Gramajo 

After turning down offers from big European clubs to join Orlando City Soccer Club as their first homegrown player signing, 17-year old defender Tommy Redding is looking to continue to develop his craft, knowing his Major League Soccer debut looms within four months.

Prior to signing a homegrown player contract with Orlando City — which saw him play one year in USL Pro — Redding rejected offers from German giants FC Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund. That ushered him toward a contributing role in Orlando’s final USL Pro regular season campaign.

“The biggest lesson for me as a first-year is you can’t turn off,” Redding told the OSJ. “There’s not a point in the game or your mind can just shut down. At my age you can get away from it, but professionally, you can’t get away with it, you always gotta be focus for the full 90 minutes.

“Everyone in the team taught me at least one or two things throughout the season. I just try to learn from everyone, and everyone in the team contributed into me learning something. At the beginning, I was scared to ask. I was a part of the team, but I wasn’t close to any of the guys, so it was intimidating, but as the season went by, I felt fine asking anyone.”

Redding signing his first professional contract (OSJ) 
The first-year professional began the season as a backup center back to teammates Rob Valentino and former Vancouver Whitecaps defender Brad Rusin, but eventually saw his playing time stretch as Orlando’s back line endured injuries throughout the season. When all was said and done, the Oviedo, Florida native saw his inaugural season as a professional soccer player finish with 14 games played and 1043 minutes tucked away.

However, the beginning wasn’t how he expected it to go. Towards the end of Orlando City’s preseason, Redding succumbed to a hamstring injury, which kept him out of action for nearly the first month into the USL season. It wasn’t until May 14 that saw Redding make his professional debut during U.S. Open Cup second round play when he came into the game during halftime. OCSC ultimately finished the game with an outstanding 4-1 victory over the visiting Ocala Stampede, but that was only the beginning for the Lions’ homegrown player.

“It was weird, it was long but it was short at the same time,” Redding said. “During the season it was long, but there are other points where it feels like it was short. I really enjoyed it, I think it was really a great first season for me, I think for the both of us [Tyler Turner]. I look back at myself from the beginning of the season to the end of the season, and I say ‘Wow what a difference it’s been for me’ I think he’s [Heath] such a great coach.

“The way he coaches is a little intimidating when you first get into it. But once you get used to it, and talk to him, you can talk to him about anything, he’s like a coach but also a mentor. What I like the most about him is he lets me play my soccer. I think my personal talent playing as a center back role is being able to come up and dribble out of the back, and a lot of coaches don’t feel comfortable with their center backs dribbling out of the back.

"I remember the Richmond game, and at halftime he was screaming at me, telling me ‘You have a talent to dribble around the back, so I need you to dribble through the back’ and for me that was shocking because I didn’t realize I could do it, and he pushed me and he told me to do it. I just think he’s the greatest coach I’ve had all my life.”

Following his professional debut, Redding began building momentum when he started and played the full 90 minutes during Orlando’s next league match. His partnership with United States U-18 Men’s National Team right-back Tyler Turner seemed to blossom from the moment Heath inserted the duo into the starting lineup throughout the 2014 USL Pro season, but a bond was forming with not only Turner, but the whole team in general.

“I’ve always played in teams and systems where it’s like a family,” added Redding. “When I signed my professional contract, I didn’t really believe that could happen since it was professional, that you can have the same type of feeling. As the season went on, I started realizing everyone here are like brothers and family.”

That family that Redding would echo after OCSC played their last USL Pro season, however, would take a turn toward heartbreak when he realized key players, especially those that played with him in the back line, wouldn’t be making the jump to MLS. Redding told the OSJ it was an experience he felt came at the right time that helped him grow as not only an athlete, but a person.

With dreams of one day representing the United States in the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia being a far reality, another opportunity Redding said he wouldn’t turn down would be playing in the summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in 2016 with the U.S. U-23 Men’s National Team. However, he admitted that would only happen with the amount of work he puts in once the ball gets rolling in MLS.

“That’ll be really cool,” said Redding on the possibility of playing in Rio 2016. “As long as I keep working as hard as I can I have strong chance. When you have a good season anywhere as a young player, that’s a call up, it gives you an extra thing to give coach’s to look at.” 

Redding has begun his offseason training with Orlando City despite the club not having a complete squad. Redding mentioned shortly after OCSC were knocked out of the playoffs in September that he has thought about going overseas to train before Orlando City begin their preseason.

“There has been clubs [expressed interest], and I would like to go overseas in this offseason to get some training,” said Redding. “European and American clubs have expressed interest in me to train overseas or domestically, I think that’ll be a good opportunity. It will go through all of us (general manager Paul McDonough and head coach Adrian Heath), we will all have a say with a plan to move forward. Throughout my whole life my dream has been to play soccer professionally in Europe. Hopefully before my career ends, I will be able to make that dream become a reality.”

Monday, October 27, 2014

Orlando City sign Boden and Heath to MLS deals


By Mike Gramajo

Orlando City’s roster progression into Major League Soccer continued on Monday after the club announced they signed defender Luke Boden and midfielder Harrison Heath to multi-year MLS deals. 

The terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

Boden, who played four years for Orlando City in USL PRO, was linked to an MLS deal soon after the 2014 USL season came to an end. With 7,456 minutes played under head coach Adrian Heath, Boden will join fellow defenders Tyler Turner and Tommy Redding as the club looks to lock more players in the upcoming MLS Expansion Draft, set for Dec. 10. The MLS SuperDraft is set for January 15. 

“We’re delighted that Harrison and Luke have decided to remain with the Club heading into MLS,” OCSC head coach Heath said in a statement. “Moving forward, both players will be great additions to the squad.”

Harrison Heath, son of coach Heath, joined the Lions during the second part of the 2014 USL PRO season. The 18-year old spent time in Norwich City’s Academy before signing his first professional deal with OCSC this past summer. 

Midfielder Adama Mbengue is slated to sign with Orlando City, but no timetable has been given when according to an Orlando City spokesman. 

Below is the updated Orlando City MLS roster: 

Monday, September 15, 2014

Pulis appointed OCYS academy coach

(Courtesy of Orlando City)
By Mike Gramajo

After announcing his retirement from professional soccer on Sunday via Twitter, former Orlando City midfielder Anthony Pulis will be joining Orlando City Youth Soccer effective immediately, the club announced on Monday. 

“I’m very grateful to Phil, Paul and Adrian for giving me this opportunity to work for such a fantastic organization as it transitions into MLS,” Pulis said in a statement. “It’s sad to finish playing, but I’ve always taken a keen interest in coaching and it’s something I’m passionate about. It’s a really exciting time to be a part of this club, and I can’t wait to get started.”

Pulis, 30, was an integral part of Orlando City since 2012, progressing himself to a veteran defensive midfielder in head coach Adrian Heath’s system. However, 2014 was plagued with injuries for the Englishmen, making a total of 12 appearances in league play. 

Before joining OCSC, the midfielder played 10 years in England most notably for clubs Stoke City, Bristol Rovers, and Southampton. 

Pulis, whose father is former Crystal Palace’s manager Tony Pulis, finished his Orlando City career with 44 appearances while scoring four times. 

Video: Orlando City bids farewell to USL PRO

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Orlando City projected starting XI versus Harrisburg City Islanders | USL PRO Playoffs

(Courtesy of Orlando City)
By Mike Gramajo 

A brand new season starts on Saturday night for Orlando City SC. OCSC now have three games to go before they can lift the USL PRO championship for the second consecutive time but nothing is guaranteed, especially when they welcome the Harrisburg City Islanders to the ESPN Wide World of Sports for first-round playoff action tonight (WATCH HERE). 

Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath has made it a norm throughout the regular season by running a 4-2-3-1 formation, and that isn’t expected to change on Saturday except for players filling in the positions. 

Darwin Ceren will miss Saturday’s match after still being on international duty with El Salvador, meaning the holding midfield position will more than likely go to a player who has been on form. Defender Rafael Ramos picked up a knock earlier this week at practice, and didn’t train with the team on their last training session on Thursday. 

Tyler Turner (quad) did, however, practice with the Lions and left Heath with the decision to come toward game time. 

One veteran player that will not suit up for OCSC is goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo. The veteran goalkeeper missed out on the last four games for Orlando City after Carl Woszczynski displayed a superb performance along with a plethora of saves that helped Orlando City navigate to a third USL PRO Commissioner's Cup. 

Below is the OSJ’s projected Starting XI for the Lions: 

Projected Starting Lineup vs. Harrisburg City Islanders 

Head Coach: Adrian Heath 
Formation: 4-2-3-1

---------------------Woszczynski ----------------

Burke ------- Valentino ------ Rusin ------- Boden

-------------------da Luz ------ Estrela ---------------

Span ---------------- Molino ------------- Mbengue 

  --------------------- Gentile --------------

-- ——

What do you make of the projected starting XI? Do you agree with it? Who do you see starting for Orlando City? Share your comments below. 


Friday, September 12, 2014

Report: Orlando City to send 8-10 players to affiliate in Louisville at conclusion of season



By Mike Gramajo

Louisville City’s roster hasn’t come to fruition just yet, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t looking at Orlando City’s current USL squad for future players. 

According to WFPL News out of Louisville, Kentucky, Louisville City FC president Wayne Estopinal revealed that his club may acquire 8-10 players from Orlando City’s current USL side once the 2014 USL PRO postseason comes to a close. 

Louisville City, who are expected to join USL PRO in 2015, will be Orlando City’s USL affiliate after the Lions were awarded a Major League Soccer franchise back in November 2013, and are expected to kickoff in MLS in six months. 

Former Orlando City player/coach James O’Connor is the head coach of Louisville City, who are expected to play their home games at a renovated Louisville Slugger Field 

Out of Orlando City’s current 2014 USL roster, six players are expected to make the move to MLS next year; Kevin Molino, Darwin Ceren, Tyler Turner, Tommy Redding, Rafael Ramos and Estrela. 

Adama Mbengue, Luke Boden, Rob Valentino and Bradford Rusin have been projected players to make the move to MLS with Orlando City, but have yet been offered a contract. 

What are your thoughts on this report? Who do you think follows Orlando City to MLS, and who is packing their bags to Louisville? Share your comments below.