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A Conversation with Orlando City EVP of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi

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The club’s new technical side leader met with the press and talked about almost everything.

Austin David

Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi met with local media members at Orlando City Stadium during the MLS Combine today and discussed multiple topics across all aspects of the club’s technical side.

I’ve included some of his remarks here about the Orlando Pride’s hiring of Erik Ustruck as the NWSL side’s general manager. Additionally, when asked when a coach would officially be named for the Pride, he laughed with the weariness of someone who has been asked that question a lot and simply said, “it’s coming.”

As for his take on various topics on the men’s side, here’s what Muzzi had to say.

On Orlando City’s style of play:

“I’ve been discussing this with James (O’Connor). I think that James has a specific formation that he likes. We’d like to be a team – it can’t be possession just because of possession, it has to be possession with a goal. So if you have the ball for 20 minutes and you’re just putting it back and forth from right to left, you’re going to end up with 70% possession and you did nothing the whole game. So the style has to be one that we’re going to build up, but at the same time, explore counter attacks, be vertical, use speed. We’re probably going to bring some more speed to the team as well. But not (possession) to the detriment of creation. Formation-wise, we’re going to have a preferred formation but we want to have the ability to change maybe within a game, maybe depending on who we play, maybe depending on the schedule of the week – if we play three games in seven days.”

On his philosophy for the MLS SuperDraft:

“The answer is different depending on your actual pick. At number three, depending on what your specific need, that specific need may be available at 10 and it’s maybe a little bit of a stretch at three. I’m not saying this is the case. I’m saying that three, four, five, those are kind of – ‘What do we do with that?’ We’re exploring everything. We’re exploring best available. We’re exploring need, because we have needs that we’re going to have to go to the draft for those needs. Now are those needs available at 10 instead of three, four, or five? That’s the analysis that we’re going through right now. At three, I would say that you have to go with best available. You have a chance to get somebody who can really be a difference maker in the long run, not necessarily right away.”

On whether he’s satisfied with Orlando City’s goalkeeping situation:

“Yes, I am. We have three guys who are really good goalkeepers. Mason (Stajduhar) is back and fully healthy. I met Adam (Grinwis) training. That’s not to say that we wouldn’t be looking at a goalkeeper eventually but that’s not our top priority right now. We may end up getting somebody else. Right now we have three quality goalkeepers and if any one of the three has to play, I’m very comfortable with any one of the three.”

On Homegrown Players and the club’s academy:

“I have a background in working with academies not only here and Brazil. Yeah, we need to get more Homegrowns. We need to make those guys in the academy feel like they are Orlando City. I heard one or two guys from two or three years ago saying, ‘Ah, I don’t want to play for Orlando City,” after having been through the whole academy process. That cannot happen. That can’t happen unless you’re going to Europe and you have this great opportunity, and all that. But if you’re here and you’re saying you don’t want to come back, you should want to come back. Why? Because we should be able to provide something good here and we should be able to provide a path for those guys. I want to have this guy here for 10 years. The goal should be we get this guy in, he contributes, he plays, and then he goes to the next step. And then we get the next one coming in. I’m still trying to navigate my way and learn things about the academy and OCB.”

On Orlando native Santiago Patino, currently participating in the MLS Player Combine:

“If you ask me, he’s a Homegrown, no matter what. And he may end up going to, who knows, Salt Lake, Vancouver, whoever, but he’s a Homegrown to Orlando.”

On the team’s training facility which will be opening in Kissimmee:

“I see all the plans. I know what the idea is. I just want to make sure that everything is on track. The idea is to move in the middle of the year, but I just want to make sure everything is on track where it should be.

“Even if you go over to Europe, a lot of the big clubs don’t have this. They became local clubs and then they are in that little spot in the neighborhood and they don’t have that actual physical space to bring the academy and the second team in, so they end up moving away and being geographically separated. That’s a challenge. We’ve got to find a way to integrate. Would it be nice to have everybody in the same spot? Sure. It would be great. And I’m talking about Orlando City. I’m talking about the vertical integration – academy, second team, and first team. Now, we have the plan. How are we going to implement it? We have to find ways to implement it.”

On whether any of the SuperDraft picks will play for OCB and the point of OCB:

“Potentially. The fourth rounder who is pick number, I don’t know, 100 and something. Maybe that guy is not going to be better than what we have now. The point of OCB should be everybody playing for OCB needs to have potential to play for the first team. So there’s no point in having a 31-year-old playing for OCB because we want to be champions of USL League One. I don’t care if we win the title. It’s great to win titles. But at the end of the year, how many of those players are going to go to the first team? Is it three, or is it nobody? If we won the title and nobody went to the first team, that’s a failure. That’s how I see OCB. Now, I still need to get to know more.”

On how he views the club’s international partnerships:

“There’s different things they can do with that. The player piece is the obvious one, right? But then there’s a lot of things that you can do for coaches or even for the front office here. You can do best practices for sponsorship or things that they do in the media or anything like that. But, for me, of course we’re talking about players. And what are we talking about? Are we talking about bringing players? Are we talking about sending players? With the change of the schedule, I think sending players is going to be something that we need to look at. Because in November everybody’s done and now you have the whole month of November, the whole month of December…if preseason doesn’t change, I don’t want those guys to be three months or two and a half months doing nothing. So we need to get younger. Those young guys need to train. Hey, we have partners. Let’s send someone to Atletico Paranaense. Let’s send somebody to Benfica. And at the same time, those teams have B teams. Is there a young guy that we can bring in? I don’t want to bring in the 35-year-old goalkeeper who wants to get to know Mickey (Mouse). Let’s bring the young guy who is on the second team. The second team in Germany plays in Regionalliga, which is the fourth division there. They have the age restrictions and all that. Can a guy like that, that’s not going to have a chance to go to Wolfsburg’s first team right away, come here and help here? It’s not going to be just because we’re partners. The guy has to fit in and has to help. Otherwise it’s not really a partnership.”

On how much player scouting information has been exchanged with Orlando City’s partner clubs:

“Right now, I don’t know but I would hope that there’s been some exchanges. Because if not, then that will start now. And if there’s nothing, then there’s no partnership there. It’s just a name. Sometimes those partnerships happen like that, it’s just a name.”