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Orlando City’s Promotion of Niki Budalic Puts Drama from Armando Carneiro Hiring to Rest

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Assistant General Manager Niki Budalic’s promotion to general manager has finally ended the yearlong fiasco.

When Orlando City’s board of directors made the decision to hire Armando Carneiro away from SL Benfica to become the club’s chief soccer officer, it set in motion a series of events that seemingly had the young club in a tailspin. But, a year later, the club’s decision to promote Niki Budalic from assistant general manager to general manager sees the Lions heading in the right direction.

During Orlando City’s final USL season in 2014, the club was already getting started on setting up its roster for its inaugural MLS season. Part of that was bringing in the right people to put the team together. To take on this enormous task of putting together a roster from scratch, the club looked to former college assistant coach and MLS agent Paul McDonough, making him general manager. Over the ensuing months, McDonough put together what would become Orlando City’s first MLS roster.

On Nov. 3, 2015, following Orlando City’s inaugural season — which saw the club fail to achieve its stated goal of making the playoffs — the club hired Carneiro. Placing Carneiro in this position immediately put McDonough’s future at the club in question. Sure enough, just over a month later, it was announced that McDonough was leaving the club. Just a week later, he became the director of soccer operations at the newest expansion team, Atlanta United.

Just under two months after Carneiro was brought in, the Portuguese import left the club. In a matter of weeks, the Lions had lost two general managers.

Following the departures, the role of general manager fell to club founder and President Phil Rawlins. However, Rawlins was an owner and not a general manager. While Head Coach Adrian Heath would have a large say in all transactions, Rawlins brought in Budalic, a 37-year-old Canadian former professional player to assist. While Budalic didn’t have the type of experience that a lot of Orlando City fans probably hoped for, he was somebody that could eventually become general manager and be fully devoted to that job.

Last week, as was expected, Orlando City announced that Budalic would be promoted to the role of general manager. The promotion is a big step for Orlando City in leaving behind the disaster that took place following the club’s inaugural season. Now, the club has a devoted general manager who can focus solely on the job of building the squad while Rawlins goes back to focusing on his duties as president.

The attempt to bring in Carneiro resulted in Orlando City losing two general managers in just about two months. The ensuing chaos seemed to be disastrous for the club. While Rawlins took over as general manager, it was always known that this was a temporary arrangement and that the general manager carousel would not officially be over until a permanent general manager was found. The promotion of Budalic finally puts an end to the issue and, after over a year of uncertainty, the Lions can finally move on.