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. 

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Orlando City Notes: Heath talks playoffs; Woszczynski gets nod as starting goalkeeper; updates on international players and injuries



By Mike Gramajo

SANFORD, Fla. — The last time Orlando City Soccer Club went into the USL PRO playoffs as regular season champions?

2012. A year head coach Adrian Heath will always remember simply because it resulted into a shocking first-round defeat for the Lions. Heath isn’t, or letting, the past dictate Saturday’s performance when Orlando City welcomes the Harrisburg City Islanders, but constantly pinpoints back to 2012 as a lesson in defeat. 

“We didn’t approach the game and we didn’t start well, but that’s what happens when you don’t prepare properly,” Heath said on the 2012 playoff loss. “All we can do is prepare properly. That’s the message we’ve been banging home. I expect no difference on Saturday.” 

Orlando City and Harrisburg split the season series even, with both sides each having a victory both times they met. Orlando City, who have been unbeaten at home all season, have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, which is something Heath said is key heading into the postseason. 

“We’ve worked hard to get home field advantage,” Heath said. “There’s no need to throw it away. I have much faith in this group that when we do play well, we have the tools to win the game. Now we want to win the game and go on the next stage of the playoffs. 

Here’s more notes regarding OCSC’s first-round playoff match on Saturday: 

Woszczynski receives nod to be starting goalkeeper against Harrisburg
After starting the last three matches for Orlando City, Heath looks to continue starting goalkeeper Carl Woszczynski in the playoffs.

“He [Woszczynski] will start the game on Saturday,” Heath confirmed with the OSJ. 

Despite only making four appearances this season, Woszczynski has allowed one goal while recording two shutouts behind his 10 saves in 2014. 

Ceren still on international duty, likely to miss first round
In the midst of the Copa CentroAmericana, Orlando City’s Darwin Ceren will miss Saturday’s encounter vs. Harrisburg after the El Salvador national team clinched a third place matchup against Panama. 

“I think Darwin is back next week,” said Heath. “We have an arrangement that he comes back next week. I’m pleased for him, I don’t stop anybody from going to the national team because I think it’s important.”

Despite Los Guanacos already earning a 2015 Gold Cup berth, Heath expects Ceren to be back after the first round, that’s if Orlando City makes it past Harrisburg City. 

Orlando City Injury updates
With a deadly attack that has scored a combined 56 goals (most all season) in the regular season, OCSC are entering the playoffs with all three of their available strikers injury-free. 

Dennis Chin, Giuseppe Gentile and Corey Hertzog all trained with the team on Thursday morning, leaving Heath plenty of options to work with come game day. 

Hertzog recently came back from a hamstring injury, while Chin also suffered earlier in season with his hamstring. Gentile, who’s been on form as of recent, might start up front against Harrisburg after previous games showed his partnership with Kevin Molino worked wonders in Orlando’s final third. 

The only player that may not see any action on Saturday is defender Rafael Ramos, who picked up a knock earlier this week and practiced apart from the team on Thursday. Heath told the OSJ that he’s ‘50/50’ while refusing to place a timetable on his return. 

Despite only playing four games this season, the former Benfica man is eligible for the USL PRO postseason given the five-games played rule applies only to players who are on loan from MLS teams. Therefore, midfielder Ian Christianson, on loan from New York Red Bulls, is ruled out for the remainder of the USL playoffs after only making three appearances for Orlando. 

Tyler Turner, who suffered a quad injury and pulled out of the United States U-20 men's national team, trained with the team on Thursday, and could be a game-time decision after missing the last two weeks of the regular season. 

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Molino claims treble in statistical race

(Courtesy of Orlando City)
By Mike Gramajo 

There’s no doubt Kevin Molino is lighting the way for Orlando City in their final USL PRO season. 

The Trinidad and Tobago international, who scored a single-season record 20 goals this season, was announced winner of three USL statistical awards, claiming the Golden Boot, Scoring Champion and Assist Champion on Tuesday. 

Orlando City’s first-ever MLS signing recorded nine assists for the Lions, while finishing the season with 49 points. Molino, who won the 2012 USL PRO Most Valuable Player, is no doubt in the running to claim league MVP for a second time in his career after guiding OCSC to a third regular season championship. 

Molino has 22 goals in all competitions, placing him as stop scorer in the American soccer pyramid (MLS, NASL, USL PRO). 

———

True or FALSE: Kevin Molino is the greatest Orlando City (USL) player of all time. 


Saturday, September 6, 2014

Kevin Molino caps scoring record at 20 goals, as Orlando City defeat Richmond Kickers

By Mike Gramajo

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Same guy, different game. 

Kevin Molino scored his 20th goal of the season, as Orlando City Soccer Club defeated the Richmond Kickers 1-0 on Saturday night at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, in front of 4,400 fans in attendance. 

“I honestly think he’s [Molino] one of the most talented footballers in America,” said Heath. “He’s demonstrated that he’s more than capable of moving to the next level. It’s been a great year at home. Winning becomes a habit, it’s not easy to do.”

The Trinidad and Tobago international scored in the 23rd minute after defender Luke Boden’s cross found the midfielder, who headed the ball past Richmond goalkeeper Ryan Taylor. 

OCSC outshot the Kickers 15-5, with the first half being the busiest halve for the Lions as they outshot Richmond 9-2 with Carl Woszczynski as the starting goalkeeper for Orlando for the second consecutive time at home. 

With the USL PRO regular season now over with, Orlando finishes in first place with 62 points (19-4-5), while also being Invictus at home. 

Orlando City now secures home-field advantage throughout the playoffs, starting their postseason run on Saturday, September 13 where they will either play the Rochester Rhinos or Harrisburg City Islanders. 

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Kaka scores pivotal game-winner, leads Sao Paulo to next round of Copa Sudamericana


By Mike Gramajo

Sao Paulo FC were down 2-1 on aggregate vs. Criciuma heading into Thursday’s second leg of the Copa Sudamericana, that all changed thanks to Kaka. 

The Orlando City loanee scored the game winner in the 40th minute after the Tricolor tied the aggregate score in the 32nd minute. Paulo Henrique Ganso played the ball to an open Kaka, as he slotted the ball into the net giving the home team the advantage to navigate to the next round. 

Overall, Kaka played 77 minutes for Sao Paulo as they prepare for an away league match at Sport Recife on Sunday. Sao Paulo are currently on a six-game unbeaten streak, sitting in second place in the Brazilian Serie A, seven points away from first-placed Cruzeiro. 

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Orlando City win USL PRO regular season

(Photo by Nigel Worrall)

By Mike Gramajo 

For the third time in four years, Orlando City Soccer Club are USL PRO regular season champions. 

OCSC clinched the title during a scoreless away match at Wilmington Hammerheads on Wednesday night, which navigated Orlando to 59 points (club record) in the standings with one game left to play before the playoffs. 

Orlando City host the Richmond Kickers on Saturday at the ESPN Wide World of Sports for their last game of the season. They will also honor former OCSC player Yordany ‘Gio’ Alvarez before the game after announcing his retirement from professional soccer. 

The Lions also have home advantage throughout the playoffs, which is expected to kick off on September 13. 

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Highlights: Orlando City (7-0) Dayton D.Lions

Kevin Molino hails ‘brother’ Yordany Alvarez

(Molino (center left) and Yordany Alvarez (right) earlier in the season)

By Mike Gramajo 

LAKE BUENA VISTA — Sunday night might have been another day at the office for Orlando City. A 7-0 victory behind a hat-trick from MLS signing Kevin Molino. 

But it was more than just a day at work. It was the start of one of many celebrations to come for Yordany Alvarez, who announced his retirement from soccer after citing medical reasons. 

“First and foremost, coming to the game with sad news of Yordany retiring, so my three goals was for him,” Molino told reporters after the game. “I’ve been playing with him for a couple years, great guy, great player. We have to win the league for Gio (Alvarez) who won’t be playing with us no more.

“He’s someone we love, one of my good friends. To see the way he has to retire is heart breaking. We want to continue to show him support. He’s not a teammate, he’s my brother. Yordany, we hang out together, we party together. It’s very emotional as I speak now to see Yordany not here with us. Seeing that No. 10 shirt, that desire and that passion and commitment he had for the club.” 

Despite only few games together this season, the friendship between both Molino and Alvarez dates back to Orlando City’s inaugural season in 2011. Although Alvarez finished that season as USL PRO Most Valuable Player, it was a relationship, mostly started by Heath, that began to form on and off the field. 

One Cuban and one Trinidadian formed a friendship that soon went different ways. Molino earned league MVP the following season and Alvarez went on to sign with MLS side Real Salt Lake. 

It seemed like it was destiny when it was announced that Alvarez would be returning not only to Orlando but to reunite with a ‘brother’ they shared one championship season together. 

“He’s been one of my favorite players since I’ve been in the (United) States,” said Heath on Alvarez. “For me to see him move on from here to go on to the MLS I was delighted, but I was even more delighted to get him back.” 

Although both Molino and Alvarez share one USL PRO championship together, no matter the outcome of Orlando City’s 2014 season, their friendship off the field will overweigh any trophy on the field. League glory, however, is in the hands of destiny. 

And if there’s one thing both players have in common, destiny has already appeared on and off the field. 

Molino scores hat-trick, Orlando City thrash Dayton Dutch Lions

(Courtesy of OCSC)
By Mike Gramajo

LAKE BUENA VISTA — There’s no stopping Kevin Molino - Not even the Dutch Lions. 

Molino recorded his second hat-trick of the season, as Orlando City SC defeated the Dayton Dutch Lions 7-0 on Sunday evening at the ESPN Wide World of Sports. 

“All the goals were important tonight,”said Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath. “The kid (Molino) is putting goals to his game now. The only thing lacking in his game is not scoring enough goals. He’s changed so much since he’s been with us, now he’s scoring goals.”

The Trinidad and Tobago international wasted no time in putting OCSC in front, scoring six minutes into the game after forward Giuseppe Gentile found the midfielder to strike the ball past Matt Williams. Gentile would get on the scoresheet to double the lead in the 37th minute before Molino scored his second moments later after a defensive error lead to Molino striking the ball from close range into the net. 

Heath opted to have a different lineup compared to his previous one last Thursday, which saw the Lions fall on the road. That wouldn’t matter, as a combo-play between Gentile and Molino found Austin da Luz to make it 4-0 in the 47th minute. Molino capped his hat-trick in the 57th minute after Gentile’s shot deflected off Dayton’s goalkeeper, finding Molino to strike past Williams. 

“We want to win the regular season,” added Heath. “We put ourselves in a good opportunity to win the regular season, which to me is really important.” 

Molino leads USL PRO in the Golden Boot with 19 goals (record), while Orlando City extending their unbeaten run at home to 16 games. OCSC will travel to Legion Stadium on Wednesday to rematch the Wilmington Hammerheads. 

Orlando City could clinch the regular season on Wednesday with a win over the Hammerheads before returning for their last match of the season when they host the Richmond Kickers on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET. 

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. 

— --

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, Darwin Ceren, Kaka (DP), Estrela

Forwards (0): 

Head Coach: Adrian Heath

General Manager: Paul McDonough 

-- —

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). 

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 YouTube.com/OrlandoCitySC.

— 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



By MIKE GRAMAJO

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).”

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Report: Orlando City & Kaka agree on deal

(Getty Images)

By Mike Gramajo

It finally looks like Orlando City SC and Ricardo Kaka have finally reached a deal. 

According to a report from the Orlando Sentinel, Kaka will arrive to Orlando on Monday afternoon, and will be presented as the club’s first designated player on Tuesday in front of fans in downtown Orlando during their World Cup watch party. 

The former AC Milan midfielder will, however, will be officially introduced as a Lion on Tuesday during a press conference. And despite Orlando City not seeing MLS action until 2015, Kaka will spend six month at Brazilian club Sao Paulo FC on-loan before reporting to Orlando for MLS preseason in January. 

Kaka is heralded with having a successful career, which includes a World Cup title in 2002, UEFA Champions League trophy in 2007 with Milan and lastly a Spanish League title with Real Madrid in 2012. 



Saturday, June 28, 2014

Orlando City cruise past LA Galaxy II



By Mike Gramajo

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Hertzog scores twice and Orlando City witness a Sweet 16 unbeaten streak come alive.  

Corey Hertzog bagged a brace while Kevin Molino sealed the deal, as Orlando City SC clinched a 3-0 victory over visiting LA Galaxy II on Saturday night at the ESPN Wide World of Sports in front of 5,029 fans. 

“We’ve been a working progress, and it’s getting better,” OCSC head coach Adrian Heath said. “We try to impose our style of play to our opposition. Overall, we were a good value to the scoreline and it should of been more.”

Luke Boden helped set up the opening goal in the 17th minute, finding Hertzog who slotted in a cross past Los Dos goalkeeper Cody Laurendi. The former NY Red Bull forward secured his brace before halftime after Kevin Molino found him unmarked from close range to double the lead. 

“The first goal was all Bodz (Luke Boden), so all credit to him,” said Hertzog. “Goals bring confidence and you’re a different player when you have a lot of confidence.” 

Molino, who went on to score his league-leading 11th goal, capped the match in the 60th minute after Brian Span’s shot deflected off the post, finding the Trinidad and Tobago international who buried the dead ball into the net. 

Orlando City go back on the road, visiting the Wilmington Hammerheads on Thursday. OCSC will then travel to St. Petersburg to play the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the second leg of the I-4 Derby on Sunday. 

Friday, June 27, 2014

Report: Kaka to return to Milan preseason

(Getty Images)
By Mike Gramajo

Orlando City Soccer Club will have to wait a little more longer to acquire the services of Brazilian superstar Ricardo Kaka.

According to a report from Goal.com, the midfielder confirmed that he plans to return to AC Milan for preseason training in early July, leaving speculation of him becoming OCSC’s first-ever designated player in doubt. 

“I am not out of Milan,” the former Real Madrid player told an audience at an event. “The only thing that is certain and official is that on July 9, I have to present myself at Milan.”

Orlando City confirmed earlier this month that they were in ‘advance discussions’ with Kaka about becoming a DP when Orlando joins Major League Soccer in 2015, while also going out on loan to Brazilian side Sao Paulo FC during the remainder of 2014. 

What do you think of this report? Do you think Kaka will eventually join Orlando City? Share your comments below. 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Preview: Orlando City vs. Dayton Dutch Lions

(Courtesy of Orlando City)
By Mike Gramajo

Orlando City SC could go 11 points clear in the USL PRO standings, and set a new club record of 15 matches unbeaten when they visit the Dayton Dutch Lions on Sunday at 3 p.m. (WATCH HERE). 

Orlando and Dayton have yet to meet this season, but last played in a 3-3 draw at Miami Valley (Ohio) on July 2013 which saw OCSC squander their one-goal lead toward the end of the match. 

And while OCSC are riding a 14 match unbeaten streak, within that run the Lions flow a five-game winning streak. Kevin Molino, who leads USL PRO in scoring with nine goals, hasn’t scored in his last three league matches, however, he did score a hat-trick during a 3-1 home victory over the Charlotte Eagles back in May. 

Forward Dennis Chin, who picked up a hamstring injury last month, has since returned to action, playing minimal minutes. Corey Hertzog will more than likely get the nod to start from Adrian Heath after finding his scoring touch after notching two goals in his last three games. 

Although the Dutch Lions aren’t having their best season to date, they do have one of the leagues top scorers in Aaron Schoendeld whose eight goals has him in the fourth spot for the Golden Boot. Dayton currently sit in 13th place in the standings with 11 points, while posting one victory in their last five matches. 

Despite playing last Friday in a 0-0 draw against Brazilian side Sao Paulo FC during an international friendly, Orlando City’s last competitive match resulted into a 5-2 defeat against MLS side Colorado Rapids during U.S. Open Cup play last Tuesday. 

What are some score predictions heading into Orlando’s road game? Comment below with your answers. 

Stay tuned with the OSJ and follow us on Twitter @OSJ_Soccer 

Friday, June 20, 2014

Adrian Heath talks Kaka arrival

(Courtesy of Orlando City)
By Mike Gramajo

While much credit can be attributed to owners Flavio Augusto da Silva and Phil Rawlins for luring Brazilian star Ricardo Kaka to Orlando City SC as their first Designated Player, the credit will soon be transported to the man who will be coaching the midfielder. 

That’s Adrian Heath. 

Within the last 48 hours, reports of Kaka signing with Orlando City have coincided with World Cup fever, and Heath for the first time answered questions from reporters about the soon-to-be announced signing. 

“We’re in advanced talks to sign Kaka. We’re all optimistic and really hopeful and probably see a little bit of what it’s like next year,” said Heath. “We’re talking about one of the world’s global names, one the best players in the last 20-30 years. We hope we get it done, we hope this time next year he’s running out in a purple shirt.” 

According to other reports that have surfaced in the last couple days, the former AC Milan ace is expected to go out on loan to Brazilian outfit Sao Paulo FC for the remainder of 2014 to remain fitness. Kaka would eventually join the Lions in January 2015 before the start of MLS preseason camp. 

Sao Paulo, which is Kaka’s boyhood club, ironically played Orlando City on Friday in a scoreless international friendly. 

Orlando battle Sao Paulo in scoreless draw

(Courtesy of Orlando City)
By Mike Gramajo 

Orlando City SC held off Brazilian powerhouse Sao Paulo to a scoreless draw on Friday night in front of an announced crowd of 5,029 at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex. 

“To have one of the biggest clubs in Brazil to come and play, it’s a great night for the club,” OCSC head coach Adrian Heath told reporters. “I thought we had some great passages of play. I’m really proud of their efforts, obviously we rolled our luck a little bit at times. Overall, I’m delighted with the effort our boys put in.” 

The Lions seemed to take a late-game lead, but were denied countless of times while Orlando goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo produced a man of the match performance for his shutout, which involved several pivotal saves. 

OCSC are back on the road when they visit the Dayton Dutch Lions during USL PRO play on Sunday. 

Stay tuned with the OSJ and follow us on Twitter @Mike_Gramajo

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Report: Kaka and Orlando City reach agreement

(Getty Images)
By Mike Gramajo 

Orlando City SC’s long pursuit of Brazilian star Ricardo Kaka looks to finally become a reality. 

ESPN’s Taylor Twellman tweeted on Thursday that Orlando City and Major League Soccer have reached an agreement with Kaka to become the Lions’ first Designated Player. 



Though OCSC don’t begin their inaugural MLS campaign until spring of 2015, Twellman also reported that the former AC Milan midfielder will join Brazilian side Sao Paulo FC, his boyhood club, on-loan until 2015. 

The Orlando Sentinel confirmed the report, stating that Kaka triggered his release clause from Milan after the Italian side failed to qualify to European competition next season. 

Orlando City host Sao Paulo on Friday during an international friendly at 8 p.m. ET. 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Orlando City gets thrashed at Colorado Rapids, crash out of U.S. Open Cup

(Photo Courtesy of Colorado Rapids)
By Mike Gramajo 

Deshorn Brown netted a hat-trick, as the Colorado Rapids routed Orlando City SC 5-2 on Tuesday night at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. 

Midfielder Adama Mbengue and defender Luke Boden were the only Lions that were able to get on the scoresheet. After Mbengue’s opener gave OCSC the lead in the 22nd minute, Brown equalized the match 10 minutes later. 

The Rapids would go on to score three unanswered goals, two from Brown which solidified his hat-trick, and Nick LaBrocca got on the scoresheet before halftime. 

Boden’s goal in the 71st minute looked to inspire a comeback, but Dillon Powers’ goal in the 74th minute capped the match for the MLS side. 

Orlando City return to the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex on Friday, when they play host to Brazilian powerhouse Sao Paulo FC at 7:30 in an international friendly. 

OCSC go back on the road for USL PRO play the following Sunday when they visit the Dayton Dutch Lions. 

Thursday, June 12, 2014

Orlando City surge past Orange County Blues



By Jhamie Chin / OCSC Press Release 

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. – Orlando City SC extended its USL PRO unbeaten streak to 14 matches at ESPN Wide World of Sports on Wednesday night with a 4-1 win over the Orange County Blues, tying the Club’s all-time record for consecutive matches without a loss. After conceding late in the first half, City scored four unanswered goals to move nine points clear of LA Galaxy II at the top of the table.

“In the first half, we gave the ball away far too much in the midfield, and we needed to pick up our quality of play,” said Assistant Coach Ian Fuller after the match. “But the guys performed well in the second half, particularly in midfield and the final third.”

Orlando City and Orange County both had a slow start to the match in the first ten minutes, as the two sides attempted to adjust to the wet conditions, due to the torrential downpour that took place prior to kick-off.

In the 11th minute, Adama Mbengue nearly opened up the scoring with a low driven effort across the box that skipped just past the far-post. Just one minute later, Mbengue was once again involved when Kevin Molino connected with the Senegalese midfielder for a one-two inside the area, before blasting a powerful left-footed effort towards the near-post. Fortunately for the Blues, Molino, who has been in clinical form so far this season, uncharacteristically missed the frame.

The Trinidadian international missed the Lions’ previous league match, due to being called up by his home country but assimilated back into the team with ease. Molino was involved in almost every City attack in the first half, creating opportunities for not only himself but also his fellow Lions.

In the 13th minute, Molino weaved through the Orange County defense inside the box and laid the ball off for Corey Hertzog, but the striker’s effort was deflected away by the Orange County defense.

Moments later, in the 25th minute, Molino created space for himself and blasted a powerful effort from the edge of the area, forcing Goalkeeper Josh Ford to make a nervous save.

However, despite Orlando controlling the run of play, the Orange County Blues managed to provide the first goal of the match in the 39th minute, after capitalizing on the counter. After a City corner kick, Ford did well to quickly throw the ball to Sean Okoli at the half-line.

With only two City players in the defensive third, the powerful striker ventured on a 40 yard run before rolling the ball into space for Midfielder Jiovanni Santana, who placed his final effort past Gallardo to give the California based side the 1-0 lead.

Nevertheless, Orlando wouldn’t spend much time trailing as Striker Corey Hertzog leveled the score-line in stoppage time. Hertzog’s was able to force his way to the near post and get on the end of a driven cross from Ceren before re-directing it into the back of the net.

Adrian Heath’s half-time rally seemed to provide the spark needed for Lions, as Orlando scored within the first four minutes of the second half when Bryan Burke played a well-placed ball to da Luz, who was unmarked in the box. Da Luz’s header went directly between the goalkeeper’s legs, giving City a well-deserved 2-1 advantage.

In the 54th minute, da Luz was left unmarked once again but nodded his header wide of the target.

As the half progressed, City continued to put Ford under pressure and fire away at the Blues’ goal, resulting in two additional goals towards the end of the second 45. The two final goals of the match were provided by Brad Rusin, marking his first league goals in purple and white. In the 78thminute, Mbengue found Rusin on the back-post from a corner, and the imposing defender placed a comfortable header back across the goal.

Less than ten minutes later, Rusin’s found himself in a fortuitous position when Tyler Turner’s header from a corner found Rusin, who had an easy tap in from less than two yards away in the 87th minute.
City’s efficient attacking play slightly overshadowed the increased intensity on the defensive end, as Miguel Gallardo faced zero shots in the second half.

The 4-1 win moves the Lions unbeaten streak to 14, tying the Club’s all-time record for consecutive matches without a loss. City’s next two matches will take place outside of league play, as the Lions are set to travel to Colorado for its fourth round Open Cup match against MLS side Colorado Rapids on June 17, before returning back to Orlando to face Brazilian super-cub, Sao Paulo F.C. on June 20th.

Orlando’s next home match will take place against the LA Galaxy II on June 28. Kick off is set for 7:30 p.m. EST.