Orlando City's Phil Rawlins on interim soccer operations gig: "I am very happy to step in"

Phil Rawlins - Orlando City SC owner

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Following the sudden departure on Monday of Chief Soccer Officer Armando Carneiro, who was hired less than two months ago, Orlando City SC founder and President Phil Rawlins has stepped into the breach to direct the club's soccer operations. But he does not intend to serve as Orlando City’s long-term general manager. 

Instead, Rawlins says, after Carneiro left his post for "personal reasons," this is solely an interim measure. His role, he says, is to ensure the club's three teams – City, the USL’s Orlando City B, and the NWSL's Orlando Pride – retain their focus and direction heading into the 2016 after the second high-profile departure this month. GM Paul McDonough left on December 9 and assumed a similar role with expansion team Atlanta United a week later. 

    Rawlins has worked with head coach Adrian Heath since the club's days in the USL, and has remained hands-on ever since. In many ways, then, he is ideally suited to pick up the reins from Carneiro in the short term.

    “This is a role I am very accustomed to,” Rawlins said. “It’s something I have done for seven years in the USL and it is not in any way strange or new to me. I am very happy to step in for the intervening period, which will probably be for around three to six months.

    “The main part of the job is to head up the search for a new leader of the club’s soccer operations to take care of all three teams, and we will be casting our net very wide for that."

    The return to Europe of Carneiro, who came from Portuguese side Benfica, isn’t seen within the front office as any kind of setback, as he hadn’t been in place long enough to have a significant impact. So it will largely be business as usual for Rawlins, Heath, and the full coaching staff, which will be bolstered by the arrival of new goalkeeping coach Stewart Kerr on Jan. 1.

    The team’s roster moves will remain limited to adding complementary pieces for what is viewed as a sound squad. The side will be reinforced by the return of midfielder Kevin Molino from his ACL injury, as well as the addition of versatile defender Kevin Alston through the Re-Entry Draft, and goalkeeper Joe Bendik via trade with Toronto FC.

    “In terms of our MLS team, we don’t need major surgery and we don’t need to turn over a lot of the roster," Rawlins said, "so it’s a question of adding the few extra pieces that we need to add onto the largely successful debut year.”

    So what are those extra pieces? Rawlins hinted at the desire for a veteran striker to support 2015 AT&T Rookie of the Year Cyle Larin, additional midfield depth, and a possible center-back signing during the January transfer window or the SuperDraft. 

    “We are in good shape in salary cap terms,” Rawlins said, “and we are excited about the year ahead. Even though we didn’t reach our goal of making the playoffs in our first year, we were happy with the product we put on the field, and now it is just a question of enhancing that for 2016.”