The Orlando SeaWolves have signed former Orlando City midfielder Lewis Neal to a contract for the 2019-2020 MASL season. Along with Luke Boden, Jonny Mendoza, and Tyler Turner, Neal was one of four former Orlando City players to suit up for the SeaWolves in their first season. Mendoza is the only other former Lion still with the MASL club.
Neal, 38, was a member of the SeaWolves’ inaugural team as a part-time player, appearing in 15 games during the 2018-2019 season, scoring four goals and adding two assists for six points, with two penalty minutes and one blue card.
The former USL and MLS Lion appeared in 21 games during Orlando City’s first season in the USL back in 2011, scoring four goals. He played in 21 more games for the Lions in the team’s first MLS season in 2015, then made 49 combined appearances during the 2016 and 2017 seasons for Orlando City B, scoring five more goals.
Neal held many roles with Orlando City SC over the years. In addition to playing at the USL and MLS levels, he also served as part of the club’s broadcast team, as an academy coach, as a scout, and as a player/assistant with OCB. He recently announced on social media that the club had let him go.
Neal is deeply connected to soccer in Orlando. He scored the first goal in Orlando City history, finding the net in a preseason friendly against the Philadelphia Union at the Citrus Bowl back in 2011. His penalty in the 115th minute of the championship final at the Citrus Bowl in 2011 forced the game into the penalty kick shootout, and the Lions eventually prevailed. He scored two U.S. Open Cup goals for OCSC.
Neal scored in his MASL debut last season in a 5-4 penalty shootout loss to the St. Louis Ambush at Silver Spurs Arena on Nov. 30, 2018. His goal tied the game at 3-3 in the third quarter.
With several SeaWolves dealing with visa issues just a day before the team kicks off its 2019-2020 season, Neal’s signing will provide some much-needed depth. He may prove to once again be a part-time player with the team, but at least for now it’s nice to see the original Lion continuing his playing days in Orlando.