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Once A Lion- Always A Lion: An Interview With Scott Sutter

I want to preface this post with gratitude. I am very grateful to Scott Sutter, his wife, Claudia, and their son, Lio, for showing kindness and allowing me to interview Scott during their vacation. I am thankful for Scott taking time out of his day, vacation, and life as a father to take 20 minutes to speak to me over the phone this week.

Scott Sutter is a former professional soccer player. He mainly played Right-Back, but he also made appearances at Left-Back and Right-Midfielder. Sutter played for four English academies until he moved to Switzerland to finish his academic career at Grasshopper. Sutter played at the Senior level in Switzerland from 2003 until 2017. In March 2017, Sutter moved to Orlando City- where he played until the end of the 2018 season. Sutter finished his career off in Vancouver in 2019. At the international level, Sutter represented the Switzerland National Football Team on two occasions.

On May 13, 2020, Sutter announced his retirement from professional soccer. Since August 2020, Sutter has been a volunteer Assistant Coach at the University of Virginia.

Q- Prior to your time at Orlando, you played in Switzerland. How were you introduced to Orlando and what were your first impressions of the club?


Sutter- "So I played in Switzerland for a long time, but I was always a big fan of America. I came here a bunch of times on vacation ever since I was 21 years old. I came here when I was younger with my parents and did the whole Disney thing. I got my first taste when I was 10 and 11- we actually came two years in a row. I loved it- and, even still now, I have great memories from it because it was one of the first vacations I could really remember in detail. It was just a kid’s dream come true. I had always been a big fan of the States, and I had always wanted to play in the MLS. I wanted to live in America. I came close a couple of times when a couple other clubs had shown interest, but it didn’t pan out. It wasn’t the right time for me, and then Orlando came on my radar, or I came on their radar. Initially about three months before I signed for Orlando City, Orlando pulled out of what I thought we were going to go ahead with. I was devastated that we didn’t go ahead with it. I was crushed. I really wanted to go. It was the right time in my career to make a move, and it was Orlando. I couldn’t wait to experience this Florida life. Especially moving from Europe, where it’s often cold, I wanted to live somewhere where it was shorts and t-shirts all year round. So when Orlando came, and it ended up working out, I was buzzing about it. It was Adrian Winter (Winter played for Orlando City from 2015 to 2016) who reached out and called me and asked me, 'Hey, do you fancy going to Orlando?' and I was like, 'Absolutely'. So, he kind of put me in touch with them as well, so I had a good foundation for making the move to Orlando."


Q- How was the MLS perceived in Switzerland?



Sutter- "I think the MLS has got a bit of a tough reputation in European football. Due in part to a lot of the older players, like these superstars, coming here, it has been called a 'retirement league'. So that is how a lot of people perceive it. A lot of people in Switzerland and England ask me 'What is the level like?' and I was really impressed with how good the level was. I say 'Look you might think this is a retirement league, but it’s definitely not. On the defensive end, tactically Europe is ahead, but the MLS has the flair and style; plus these insane, full stadiums are better than a lot of the stadiums better leagues in Europe have.'"


Q- What was it like to play with a Ballon D’or winner like Kaka?



Sutter- "That’s one of the questions I got asked all the time. I was asked that in Orlando, and before I moved to Orlando in Switzerland when I was waiting for my Visa to clear, and that shows how big of a player he was. But, he is so humble and such a nice guy and he was a hardworking professional when he played. It was awesome when you travel with him and you see the impact he had around the league. Every stadium we played in, every hotel we checked into, and every airport we had to go to, he was huge. It was impressive to work day in and day out with him, but he was just a normal guy. Everything he has achieved in the game is incredible. But, the fact that he stayed so humble - that speaks volumes for him as a person and his personality."


Q- Prior to this, I talked about you to other Orlando City fans, and I asked them what their favorite memory of you was. I’m guessing you know what they are gonna say?



Sutter- "It would probably be my goal against Atlanta."



(Continued)- That’s exactly it



Sutter- "That’s one of my favorite memories as well. Just because it’s probably the best goal I ever scored. A lot of my goals were headers, so it was nice to have an outside-the-box half-volley. It sticks out in my head, especially because it was against rivals, so it’s nice it sticks out in their minds too."


Q- In 2018, you scored 3 goals in 4 games. Did you have any thoughts or conversations about going up to Center-Forward?



Sutter- "Yeah, it was like I was on fire. I had a good run there, and it felt like I couldn’t miss. Two of them were really cool because one was a Stoppage Time equalizer and the other a Stoppage Time winner. It was cool because both were right in front of our fans at home. I remember the game after, I think we played Kansas City, I said to the Assistant Coach 'If I score again, I’m retiring. I’m not peaking this'. For a Right-back to do that, I mean guys are signing DP contracts from the Mexican league that don’t have those 'stats'."


Q- With the growth of ESports, what was it like to see yourself in video games?



Sutter- "It was great. I’m not a big gamer, but I occasionally play Fifa against my friends around the house. I was a big Football Manager and Championship Manager, fan growing up. I was in that when I was 18, and I was still playing those games, so that was a great feeling for me. Then they were getting better at making the games, they started giving me my two wristbands and my haircut, or my Nike-Nike boots, that’s when they kicked it up a notch."


Q- What was more difficult, the academy process, or actually being a professional player?



Sutter- "It’s a very difficult question to answer. It’s very close. In the academy, the easy side is you don’t think much about it. You are young. You’re stupid. You have these dreams. You don’t really know what’s at stake. When you’re a professional, you know there is no margin for error. You have so much more competition. I think the younger players who play their first games within the pandemic have an easier break because the fans aren’t in the stadiums. The pressure is a fraction of what it could be if you play an away game with a crowd of 40,000 people. I would probably say being a professional is harder because of the uncertainty and how quickly things can change."


Q- What was it like to wear the Orlando kit for the first time?



Sutter- "My first game was an away game in Columbus, so we wore our white kits. I really wanted to start the season with a home game so I could wear the purple. I love purple, and I love the logo. I love the lion. My wife and I are big fans of lions. So, it was really cool to play for Orlando."


Q- What is your favorite memory from your time at Orlando City?



Sutter- "Just playing the home games. I loved walking out to it. Especially the first season I was there, there was a lot of euphoria around the club. We had a new stadium. It was full. Just playing there was awesome. The pitch was perfect, and the fans were behind us no matter what. Every home game - I absolutely loved it."


Q- How big of a difference is it between playing and coaching?



Sutter- "It is very different. It is good at the moment since I am working as a volunteer assistant at the University (of Virginia). It is great for me to learn and not really have the pressure of being a coach. It’s a learning experience for me, without the pressure. It’s very different, and I am still learning at the same time. So, I look forward to how that progresses with getting my coaching badges. Hopefully at some point, I will get to coach at Orlando City."

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