ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando City SC are close to revealing the location of their new USL team after narrowing their selection process down to a handful of sites.
It's the latest step as the Lions ramp up their plans for their own USL franchise, which was announced at the end of June. The team also announced the return of longtime stalwart Rob Valentino as assistant coach of the new team, whose name will also be revealed in the near future.
The possibility of adding a women’s team under the Orlando City brand is also under consideration as the team looks to expand its footprint in Central Florida.
Currently, the choice of location remains in the Greater Orlando metro area. Recent reports have indicated the city of DeLand (40 miles to the north) and Melbourne (70 miles east) are among the front-runners, but other possibilities remain.
Both DeLand and Melbourne would fit the club’s target model of being in City’s overall catchment area while adding to their fan base. Both teams would also be able to train together at the Lions’ extensive practice facility in nearby Seminole County.
On the coaching side, Valentino – who anchored the team’s back four during Orlando's time in USL PRO from 2011-14 – will return from a year with USL’s Arizona United to assist Anthony Pulis, son of West Bromwich Albion head coach Tony Pulis.
Pulis, 31, is thrilled to have the chance to parlay a well-traveled playing career into a chance to coach at the senior level straight away, and he is raring to go.
“These next two months will be the most challenging,” he said. “I am looking forward to everything involved but I will be really keen to get to the preseason and do what I feel I can do best, which is getting out there and coaching a team.
“I am currently spending hours going through video of various players. Ever since the team was announced, I’ve been getting recommendations from agents all over the world. Initially I get an idea of what these players can do and then I need to see if they fit our requirements. If they do tick the right boxes, I look at it further, going into their background and seeing if they might have the kind of character and team-bonding spirit we’re also looking for, as I know from my own USL experience how important that is.”
Pulis will have carte blanche to bring in a number of new faces, as well as taking some of the team’s younger MLS players who are only on the fringe of the first XI, plus a handful of Academy players.
“We should have several Academy graduates in our group,” Pulis confirmed. “We are not as far along as some MLS teams like LA, Seattle and Portland in Academy terms, but I have spent a good bit of time with all age levels this year and have a good idea of the talent at hand.
“I have told the U-18s I will be watching a good few of them in training, and, if they look like they can perform at the next level, I will have no qualms whatsoever about bringing them up. You don’t want to put any extra pressure on them just now, but there is definitely going to be an opportunity for some of them.”
Pulis will also have no hesitation in tapping into an extra source of inside knowledge at regular intervals as he takes his first full coaching steps after a 13-year playing career in England and the US.
“Yes, I talk to dad on the phone a lot,” he admitted. “I would be foolish not to draw on that level of knowledge, get ideas from him and bounce ideas off him. The same is true of having Adrian [Heath] here, so I have two experienced coaches close at hand.
“I am very lucky that Orlando has exposed me to everything at the club and allowed me to learn from it. I finished playing last year and have been helping out at training sessions with everyone from the U-12s to the first team. I just can’t wait to get going now.”