ORLANDO, Fla. – In 16 months, Orlando City SC must deliver. Not just in the stands and in the community, but on the field as Major League Soccer’s 21st franchise.
With that in mind, club president Phil Rawlins confirmed to MLSsoccer.com on Tuesday that Orlando City will begin the search for another soccer mind to aid head coach Adrian Heath in the construction of an MLS roster in time for opening day in 2015.
“We’ve talked to Adrian about that at length and both of us agree that we really want to bring in a general manager, technical director type,” Rawlins said. “Someone who understands the league, someone who understands international football as well and someone who can really help us be competitive right out of the gate.”
That individual will also be a part of the chase for the high-profile Designated Player that both Rawlins and majority owner Flávio Augusto da Silva said is in the club’s 2015 business plan. He’ll also help preside over the transition from USL PRO to MLS, with Rawlins saying on Wednesday that there is no limit to the number of playersthey can bring with them to the first division from their 2014 roster.
He also said there is a good chance Orlando would add their a few academy players to the first team as well.
With that in mind, 2014 is likely to serve as a long-term tryout for their current roster as well as any potential additions between now and next spring.
“We’ll use it as something of an experimental year,” Rawlins said. “We’ll want to bring players in, try them out, see if they can make the journey with us to the major leagues, which we hope that they will. But at the same time, we’re always about competing. We’re always about winning. We’ve created a winning formula over the last three years so I know we’ll be out for a championship as much as we’ll be about trying players out for MLS.”
Orlando City’s 2013 USL PRO title was, in part, fueled by Sporting KC players such as Dom Dwyer, C.J. Sapong and Christian Duke, among others, who arrived on loan as part of the club’s affiliate agreement. Dwyer, in particular, was a revelation, scoring 15 goals in 13 games with the club.
The clubs entered into a two-year partnership before the 2013 season, and Rawlins said that in light of Tuesday’s announcement both sides will revisit that agreement later this week as plans for the 2014 season begin to materialize.
“Two years made sense because we wanted to get to know each other and work through the relationship. We were both going to make mistakes in year one and get things wrong, so it made sense to have two years at this,” he said.
“I’ll be talking to Robb [Heineman] and Peter [Vermes] at the end of the week and Adrian and I will be on a conference call with them. We fully expect that if [Kansas City] want to move forward with the relationship, then we’ll see it in place for 2014.”
No matter what happens next season, the affiliation will certainly go by the wayside in 2015 when Orlando City enter MLS. Their USL PRO side is likely to stick around, however, as the club takes lessons learned from its partnership with Sporting and creates it’s own third-division subsidiary.
“As it relates to USL PRO, great league and it just getting better and better and stronger and stronger each year. We’re delighted were playing in it again in 2014,” Rawlins said. “They’ve been great friends to us. We’ll certainly look to move our franchise somewhere where we can have a relationship just as we’ve done with Sporting KC. Too early to say where that is right now, but we’ll certainly look to do that.”