Orlando City held its annual Media Day today ahead of the club's final preseason friendly tomorrow against Esporte Clube Bahia at the Citrus Bowl. After a morning training session open to the media, there was a break for lunch and then the assembled media gathered to hear from President and Founder Phil Rawlins, Head Coach Adrian Heath, and team captain Kaká, before breaking into smaller groups to talk to individual players at the Lake Mary Marriott.
The following are the highlights from Rawlins, Heath and Kaká in the main press room:
- Rawlins noted that Antonio Nocerino has his paperwork in the works, his appointment with the U.S. embassy is scheduled and he is expected in Orlando next week by the middle of the week.
- Heath noted that Nocerino says he's been training at AC Milan's facilities every day and says he's in great shape. He believes the player is ready to go and would love to have him for tomorrow's friendly.
- Heath hinted that Nocerino won't take long to get ready to go into the lineup and said he may put together a "something with OCB" in the middle of the week to check out the new signing under game conditions.
- As expected, Rawlins confirmed that Nocerino is not a Designated Player, but instead was paid down below the max salary with Targeted Allocation Money.
- Heath said he expects Nocerino to be "a very good player for the team." He seemed genuinely excited to have the Italian to bolster the midfield and hinted that he could be played in multiple positions or the team could change shape at times after doing so sparingly last season. He said the team is much more comfortable doing it now.
- Rawlins said the final roster decisions will be made by the coaching staff and it will be decided which players will go to Orlando City B and which will stay with the senior club. Heath added that Tommy Redding and other guys who don't figure to be starting will be getting games at OCB and reiterated his earlier assertions that the addition of the USL side is one of the most important accomplishments for the future success of the club.
- Rawlins said the club is on track to be in compliance with MLS roster requirements by the deadline and that Orlando City will be compliant with international slot requirements.
- Rawlins noted that the club targeted three players in the SuperDraft and "got two of the three" in Richie Laryea and Hadji Barry. No mention was made of third-round pick Antonio Matarazzo or fourth-round pick Tobenna Uzo, who never seemed to get to Orlando and are not in the club's plans at all.
- Rawlins said that, as of yesterday, the club had sold more than 43,000 tickets for opening day against Real Salt Lake. Rawlins said he was "delighted" with the progress toward a second straight opening-day sellout and that he'd consider it quite a feat to get to 62,500 again, without the incentive of it being a historic inaugural game.
- The Purple Pride 5K entry numbers are up for a year ago, although Rawlins joked that he's more looking forward to the Pub Crawl on Kickoff Week.
- Heath said the team seems happy to have Kevin Molino back on the pitch and in the locker room and Kaká echoed those sentiments and lit up and became very animated when discussing the Trinidadian's return.
- Kaká said he wants to play closer to goal in 2016, where he can be of more help with scoring.
- The Brazilian said he feels good and trained very hard in the off-season. Not being on loan with Sao Paulo may have helped him and he is clearly putting pressure on himself to add more offense this season.
- Kaká noted that his preseason form is better than last year and he has been scoring more consistently during the 2016 preseason than he did a year ago.
- Not earth-shattering, but Kaká said the team's goal is to make the playoffs and once they accomplish that, they will set their sights on MLS Cup.
- Rawlins said the first piece of steel for the new stadium was placed in the ground today and that the structure is now going vertical. He said he expects great progress to be made over the next few months and sees no reason why the new stadium won't be ready well in advance of the 2017 opener.
- The club is holding a construction ceremony Monday at the building site to commemorate the beginning of steel framing going up.
- Heath said he expects a very tight game on Saturday against Esporte Clube Bahia, saying the Brazilian clubs the team has played have been very tough.