With Orlando City playing in D.C. Wednesday night, this week's Orlando City Coach's Show had a different feel. Head coach Adrian Heath was in the nation's capital, so he was only able to join the show for the first segment. But in his place, club president Phil Rawlins was present.
Heath said he was very pleased to get a point against the defending Eastern Conference champions. "It felt like a moral victory" Heath said while also stating that being on the other side would've felt like a defeat. Very pleased with the comeback which he labeled "magnificent", Heath said that it would've been easy for the players to give up having been outplayed during the first half. "It would've been easy not to push the envelope that much but they did."
Starting right back Rafael Ramos' maturity has been questioned this season after being sent off against the Columbus Crew following a defensive mistake. Heath said Ramos' maturity showed as he didn't let Friday night's mistake, which resulted in a New England goal, dictate the remainder of his night. "He got us going again," Heath says about Ramos' rebound.
Much was made about Heath's celebration after Aurelien Collin equalized late. Univision Deportes which aired the game, analyzed the jump during and after the game. As for Heath, he was quite "After the jump I probably injured myself again," Heath says about his celebration.
When asked about what was said during halftime after being outplayed in first half, Heath said "I have to be careful what I do say," meaning he wasn't pleased. He said the Lions gave the Revs too much respect in the first half. His notes to his team were that they must play quicker and get further into the opposing half.
Unlike the Toronto FC game, Heath said his team did well to follow the halftime instructions. "We like to put the away team under pressure," Heath said, "Ricketts didn't have a save to make apart from Rafa's mistake." More than anything he was pleased with the pressure they put on New England in the second half.
SECOND HALF POSSESSION
Orlando City dominated possession during the second half. Heath says they made a few subtle changes. Cristian Higuita, who came on at halftime for Amobi Okugo, had a positive impact. They also moved the ball quicker and got the ball into the box quicker. Heath said he was also pleased that striker Cyle Larin got more involved in the second half.
TOUGH STRETCH OF GAMES
The Lions are in the middle of a tough stretch of games with New England, D.C., and L.A. Heath says that they look at the next game first. He said that if the Lions can play anywhere near as well Wednesday night as they did last time against D.C., they can win the game. Overall it's a tough stretch and Heath said that, while this is a difficult period, it will get easier down the road.
Heath had to depart following the first segment leaving club president Phil Rawlins as the remaining guest on the show.
LA TICKET SALES
Rawlins said that sales for the upcoming game against L.A. Galaxy Sunday evening are very strong with over 32,000 tickets sold. It's already the second biggest crowd of the season at the Citrus Bowl behind the opening game which drew 62,500. The club tracks ticket sales daily and are expecting over 40,000 for Sunday affair.
So far this season Orlando City leads MLS in attendance. Even if you take the first game out, they are still second in the league only trailing the Seattle Sounders. Rawlins also said that the club will end up second or third in sponsorship sales. "There's a great feel about the club right now," Rawlins says.
One popular topic among fans this season has been a lack of available jerseys for sale. Rawlins said this isn't by design but they are just not able to keep them in stock. They sell out about as quickly as they arrive. While fans keep asking about where to purchase jerseys, Rawlins says the club has "got to direct them quickly" to where they can purchase one.
OPENING UPPER DECK
Rawlins said that Citrus Bowl seats open as demand increases. He said that for the upcoming game against the L.A. Galaxy, all 42,000 seats that fill the lower two levels are currently open.
POPULARITY OF ORLANDO CITY LOCALLY
When asked about why the club seems to be so popular locally, there were several factors. "We came into Orlando at the right time," Rawlins states. He said that the area was craving an identity that didn't have to do with theme parks and the Lions filled that role. He said there are a lot of soccer lover natives and soccer loving immigrants that were waiting for a team to support.
He also said that the team did a lot of the work themselves by playing an entertaining style consisting of a lot of goals. That created belief in the club and they built on that. He was also quick to mention that club's marketing department and the great job they've done. But in the end, Rawlins says the club is "blessed with a tremendous set of supporters." It's something both he and Heath consistently say they're surprised about. "They're some of the best supporters in the country."
ORLANDO CITY MAGNETS
Host of the show, Tom Traxler, said that it seems like "you're not cool if you don't have an Orlando City magnet," mentioning that he has his routinely stolen off his car. Rawlins said that he was surprised by their popularity as the club has distributed over 110,000 to date. They far exceeded their initial budget which Rawlins described as now "budgeting on the fly" due to their popularity.
Orlando City announced today that they've teamed up with 442 Sports to provide fans with a new magazine. This high quality program will have 84 pages of profiles and stats making it a great keepsake for fans. While the $10 item will be available at games, you can also subscribe to have the magazine shipped to you by visiting www.orlandocitysc.com/lionsroar.
CLUB ECONOMIC IMPACT
One thing the club has stressed over the past few years is its economic impact. Rawlins said that the impact is already being seen. The club's first game this season drew over 10,000 fans from outside of Florida. He also said that downtown bars fill up for away games meaning that even when the team's not home, there is an economic impact. "We have an impact any time we play," Rawlins states, "It's something we promised we'd do and we're thrilled we've delivered on that promise."
Since the club broke ground on a new stadium, there has been a lot of work done. Most of it can't be seen as its underground work preparing the land for the erection of the stadium. It's been a long process filling in the pond and testing the site for toxins.
As for the $30 million the club is waiting for from the state, Rawlins again stated his disappointment on the Florida House of Representatives leaving their session early. He said that the money, which is "actually a loan", was in the 2014 budget and is "there and set aside" for the club. He said that the politicians have "dodged their responsibilities" making the stadium funding a political football being kicked around Tallahassee.
PLANS IF STATE FUNDING FAILS
The state legislature will meet in a special session from June 1 to June 30 as they failed to balance the budget during their last meeting. Rawlins said he's still "very confident" about the session. He reiterated that stadium was ranked first in a group of sports projects based on economic impact and that "everybody know we have good business case" as it pertains to deserving the funding.
EXCITEMENT ABOUT NEW STADIUM
Rawlins said that while he doesn't want to "wish the season away" in anticipation for the opening of the new stadium next season, it'll be great day for the community and for the fans. He said it will be a home that "we control, that we run" which will be a first for the club.
TOURISTS BUYING TICKETS
Selling tickets tourists is something that Rawlins said the club has focused on. 62 million people visited Central Florida last year and the club has worked very closely with the hotels to gain the benefit from the area's tourism. Rawlins said the club sells about 15% of each game's tickets to people from outside the area which proves their economic impact claim.
UNIQUE GOAL CELEBRATIONS
Portland has the chainsaw and Philadelphia has "DOOP" but one fans wanted to know if the club has anything planned for a unique goal celebration. Rawlins mentioned the confetti that flies following goals saying that "rituals develop over time" and that it's the fans working with the club that develops them.
FUTURE IMPACTED BY ATTENDANCE
When asked about how the strong attendance will impact the future, Rawlins said it's been tough to tell because the data is all over the place. In 2013 the club averaged 8,800 at the Citrus Bowl during league play and then drew over 20,000 for the championship game. At Disney last year, with a smaller stadium, the club averaged around 5,000 and then drew 62,500 for the first game this year. He said now is the time to sit back and really see where they are and averaging around 32,000 a game is good.
Rawlins said that general manager Paul McDonough and the club's scouting network are always looking for players but that it's not easy due to the roster restrictions of MLS such as salary cap and restrictions on foreign players. It's much more difficult than European team. But the club is always looking to add quality and, while there won't be any changes in the immediate future, they're not done making moves this season.
While asked to explain the salary cap, Rawlins made some interesting comments regarding the cap. While some MLS owners have been quick to silence any talk of a higher cap, as they want to keep expenditures low, Rawlins said he sees the salary cap increasing in the coming years. He said the strength of competition and the strength of rosters are improving. This statement was important because it showed that, unlike some owners in the league, Orlando City's front office is willing to spend large amounts of money to win if they are given the opportunity.
SIGNING PLAYERS FOR ORLANDO CITY
Rawlins said that he's been pleasantly surprised about how many players, both domestic and foreign, want to play for the club. He said its place that players want to be. "There is lots of interest in what we're doing as a football club," Rawlins says noting that they always look after their players. He said the players spread the word about how much they enjoy playing for the club which enhances the club's reputation.
Rawlins said that Kaká has been a tremendous asset to both the club and the league. He's been a great leader helping the younger players develop. He always wants to win and has been great ambassador for the club. Rawlins said that, while obviously Orlando City gains the most, the whole league has benefited from his arrival as opposing teams draw their biggest crowds when the Lions are in town.