Anthony Pulis took the next step in his coaching career a few weeks ago and Orlando City B has yet to tap his replacement for the 2018 USL season and beyond. With the vacancy, Jason Kreis and Niki Budalic have an opportunity to make their mark on player development with a new hire. But there are plenty of potential directions they could go in. Do they aim for someone with a background in player development, give an opportunity to a brand new face in the coaching game, or bring in a potential coach-in-waiting — à la Mike Petke’s brief stint with Real Monarchs?
Cassar spent six seasons at Jason Kreis’ right hand before becoming his successor when Kreis took charge of New York City FC. Real Salt Lake ended Cassar’s tenure earlier this season and replaced him with Petke. While Cassar failed in his first attempt at being an MLS head coach, OCB would provide a landing spot that could be best for all parties. Unlike Pulis, Cassar has extensive knowledge of how Kreis does things and could build a clearer bridge between OCB and the first team. While Cassar likely wouldn’t be a coach-in-waiting, it could be a chance for him to continue his head coaching in a familiar environment with fewer expectations and make a jump to an independent team similar to Pulis. While using OCB as a jumping-off point for coaches is not ideal in the long run, there is some merit to Cassar’s familiarity with the first-team staff.
If Orlando wants to continue the trend of growth from within, the club won’t have to look far. The former Orlando City defender hung up his cleats in 2016 to assist former teammate Pulis in OCB’s inaugural season. Valentino is one of the few familiar faces left from the club’s USL days and has spent the last two years working with OCB and learning the coaching ropes. While Rob might be the least-proven option, Orlando City has done well over the years to give opportunities to former players that deserve it. Rob has been part of the team that has put Pierre Da Silva, Tony Rocha, Mikey Ambrose, and Leonardo Pereira into the first team, so the transition would be a smooth one. If the front office is pleased with how Pulis conducted business for the last two years, Valentino is an obvious choice in a replacement.
Vasquez is a pipe dream but has all of the makings of a home run hire. The former dual Mexican and American international has experience along the touchline as the head coach at Chivas USA as well as an assistant at the Los Angeles Galaxy, Bayern Munich, and for Jürgen Klinsmann’s USMNT. If you’re looking for familiarity with the rest of the staff, he’s got that as well. Vasquez was brought in as head coach and director of operations for Real Salt Lake’s vaunted Arizona academy while Kreis was still in Salt Lake City. Vasquez blends head coaching experience with development and could tick all of the boxes for OCB’s ideal gaffer. It would be difficult to pull Vasquez away from his duty as the head of RSL’s academy, but with the club abandoning Phoenix for a new facility back in Utah, perhaps now is an opportune moment to convince Vasquez to try his hand at something new. Who knows, with Orlando also in need of a new academy director, perhaps there’s a deal to be struck.
Whichever route the Orlando City brass decides to pursue, they all have their positives and their negatives.