The first day of media access at preseason training has coincided with some off-the-field news. Orlando City announced today that Niki Budalić, a former midfielder from Canada turned front office man, has joined the club's front office as the assistant GM. Budalić will report directly to Phil Rawlins in his new role.
"I have known Niki for several years and am delighted that we have been able to recruit someone with his broad and diverse background in the game," said Rawlins in a club press release. "He has a good eye for a player, is a seasoned recruiter of talent and an experienced administrator. I am looking forward to him making an immediate positive impact on our soccer operations."
Budalić, 37, comes to Orlando City after a playing career that started in Canada and spanned almost a decade, with various clubs in North America and Europe, including Montreal Impact and Toronto Lynx and Norwegian side FK Haugesund. He played his collegiate soccer at James Madison University in the U.S.
Off the field, he worked as a soccer professional in scouting, recruitment, player representation, consulting, and coaching for both men's and women's soccer. He also has experience working with high profile clubs such as Newcastle United, Everton, West Ham United, River Plate, Independiente, and Pachuca.
The most interesting connection between Budalić and Orlando City is that he recently worked as the director of football for North America for Beswicks Sports, which is owned by one of the founding owners of Orlando City, Gary Mellor. Mellor has served on the board of directors for the club and his company represents some current players, such as Luke Boden, Harrison Heath, Seb Hines, and Pedro Ribeiro.
Mellor, a U.K. native from Stoke-on-Trent, has been managing director with Beswicks since 2010.
Most recently, Budalić served as the Director of Soccer Operations for Premier Development League (PDL) side Kitchener-Waterloo United FC, who won the 2015 National Championship.
"I'm excited to be joining Orlando City at such an important time in the Club's history," said Budalic in the club's release. "I look forward to working with Phil, Adrian and the entire technical staff as we identify, recruit and develop the best talent to further our club's success."
The club is still without a full-time GM after the inauspicious time with former Chief Soccer Officer Armando Carneiro, who resigned from the club for "personal reasons."
With Rawlins still serving as interim GM, this hire will take some pressure of the President, and help him manage the responsibilities he has with the club.