TGIF! The first weekend of the new year is upon us, and by now, way too many of us have already dropped the ball on our New Year’s resolutions. Hopefully that’s not you. Personally, I would rather not go into detail on the progress of mine. Let’s just say, it’s not going too well.
Regardless, plenty of news involving Orlando City SC personnel, past and present, has surfaced so let’s jump right into it.
Orlando City Dedicates Section to Pulse Victims
As pictures of the new stadium continually surfaced to tease us all, one couldn’t help but notice rainbow-colored seats. On Thursday, Phil Rawlins led a private ceremony to unveil the 49 seats as a tribute to the 49 people that lost their lives at the Pulse nightclub in the largest mass shooting by a single gunman in modern U.S. history. Rawlins went on to say that the seats are easily visible to anyone who visits the stadium. To be exact, they are in the middle of Section 12, honoring the devastating night of June 12.
"We made a commitment on that day that, which is that we would commemorate, forever, in the new stadium a memory of the 49 victims that lost their lives that day. And today we're here to do that. We're here to commemorate and unveil the 49 rainbow seats that will sit permanently in Section 12 of our new stadium as a constant reminder of the senseless acts of June 12." Rawlins said at the dedication.
It truly is a touching tribute, and a perfect way to use the beautiful game to bring people together. As expected, it was a huge hit.
@OrlandoCitySC Thank you for remembering those beautiful humans we lost.— Alexandra Heath (@allielongheath) January 4, 2017
Goalkeeper Coach Stewart Kerr joins Vancouver
After just one season as the Lions goalkeeper coach, Stewart Kerr has jumped ship to join the Vancouver Whitecaps. Kerr joined the staff under Adrian Heath in December 2015 and played a huge role in Joe Bendik’s breakout season.
Kerr, formerly a goalkeeper for Celtic, Brighton, and Wigan Athletic, was forced to retire at just 26 due to a back injury. He began his coaching career in 2008 with stops at Airdrie United, Motherwell, and Toronto FC before joining Orlando.
While the impact of Kerr’s departure on Bendik is yet to be seen, his decision isn’t all that surprising. Kerr has family in Canada, and given the offer from Vancouver, it’s easy to see why he decided to accept.
“Stewart approached us and expressed his intentions to move closer to his family in Canada. He has been an important part of our technical staff, but we respect and understand his decision to put his family first,” General Manager Niki Budalic said in a press release.
Luke Boden Joining Rowdies
Luke Boden has found a new home — in Tampa Bay. The veteran left back that made the jump from USL to MLS with Orlando City will sign with the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the USL. Like Kerr, Boden elected to be close to his family despite interest from MLS clubs.
Boden came to Orlando after coming up through the youth ranks at Sheffield Wednesday in England. Several loan stints later, Boden made the decision to ply his trade in the U.S. The 28-year-old made 45 MLS appearances for the Lions in two years, starting in 43 of them.
Perhaps the best crossing fullback that has put on the purple shirt, Boden had his contract option declined after the 2016 season in which he saw significant less time on the field.
Cyle Larin Not Cleared to Play in Florida Cup All-Star Game
In Florida Cup’s third year, the tournament will include 14 clubs from seven different countries. The tournament plans to honor the victims of the Chapecoense team that lost their lives in a plane crash.
As part of the tournament, legends of the game along with well-known local players take the field for a 20-minute all-star exhibition. This year’s game is scheduled for Jan. 15 at UCF’s Brighthouse Networks Stadium.
In a turn of events, Orlando City will not clear Cyle Larin to play prior to annual medicals scheduled to take place during the last week of January. Larin was expected to be a part of the 22-man roster that will be released next week, and even featured in its promotional video. "The club's plan is to make him ready, fit, and healthy for our season," an Orlando City spokesman told the Orlando Sentinel.
Arena Calls Up 32 Players for January Camp
As expected, U.S. Soccer announced the players that new (old) head coach Bruce Arena has chosen to participate in this month’s camp that culminates in two friendlies against Serbia and Jamaica in San Diego and Chattanooga, respectively. January camp rarely resembles the full talent pool due to it being almost exclusively domestic-based players. Christian Pulisic is in the middle of a Champions League race, John Brooks and Fabian Johnson are seeing valuable minutes in the Bundesliga, and, understandably, their clubs aren’t interested in letting them go and risking injury elsewhere.
Arena’s 32-man roster exclusively features MLS talent representing 15 clubs. Unsurprisingly, Orlando City was one of those without representation. The players that will make their way into camp on Jan. 10 can be found in the linked article above.
A few names from the list jump out. Chris Wondolowski being named to the squad means that despite a new man in charge, it’s more of the same. It was Klinsmann’s unwavering loyalty to some players that put him in the line of fire from supporters. Wondolowski was definitely one of those players.
While Kekuta Manneh was always expected to make this list, he is currently in the process of completing his eligibility requirements to represent the United States and will be unable to participate in the friendlies at the end of camp.
Graham Zusi at right back sticks out like a sore thumb. Will the Zusi experiment provide better results than Brek Shea’s transition to left back? Let’s wait and see. Zusi’s club teammate, Benny Feilhaber, is back in the fold after falling completely out of favor under Klinsmann.
Phew, that was a lot. Hopefully you absorbed some of it and liked even a fraction of that. If not, I’ll try again next week. Until next time, have a great weekend!