Orlando City

Draft Day: Orlando City edition

It's the morning of the NFL draft and I'm hyped up on Wawa coffee. As I'm riding the Sunrail to work, I thought what better way to kill the time than mocking up a draft board for Orlando City. 

 

1st round: Cyle Larin, ST, Connecticut

This was a tough decision and our committee stayed up through the night going over tape and numbers. We wanted to go defense in the 1st round as defense wins championships but Cyle Larin was simply too good of a prospect to pass up on. Good football IQ, knows how to score and can score for fun at times, always in the right place at the right time. Some might question this kids work ethic but at the end of the day, we drafted him to score goals. 

2nd round: Joe Bendik, GK,  Clemson

We were lucky that Joe Bendik fell to us honestly as we had him high on our draft board. Bendik will be the center piece of our defense and we hope to build around him in the upcoming rounds. Good hands and really bosses his area of the field, his 40 time was not impressive at the Combine which may have turned away some teams but we like him anyways. 

3rd round:Jonathan Spector, CB, St. Viator HS 

As attacking options started flying off the board, we almost went with an attacking threat here to compliment Larin but we decided to stick with building a line in front of Bendik. Many younger CB's were taken at this point in the draft but we weren't turned away by Spector's age. A great footballing IQ, Spector reads the game well and is not afraid of a tough challenge. Maybe not the fastest guy in the draft at his position but paired with a quicker CB will allow him to flourish. 

4th round: Will Johnson, CDM/RB, Canada

An absolute steal in the 4th round. Will Johnson fell this late in the draft due to an average combine but was projected to go late 1st to early 2nd round in some mock drafts. Johnson has a high motor and is a do it all for you kind of player and typically those players combines are never that impressive. Capable of playing all over the field, Johnson is a great locker room presence and is a necessity for any team with championship ambitions. 

5th round: Carlos Rivas, Winger, Colombia

We decided to shift gears and work on the offensive side of the ball. Viewed as having one of the highest ceilings in this draft, Rivas was available in the 5th round due to some questions about his consistency and off field issues at a Junior Colombian Burger establishment back in 2015. Rivas has the upside however that could make him an absolute gem in 5th round. 

6th round: Cristian Higuita, CDM, Colombia

After getting a winger in the 5th, the obvious choice was to get another attacking threat but we really liked the value of Higuita in the 6th round. A very scrappy player with a lot of upside, Higuita was only available this late in the draft due to his tendency of being card friendly. He is a gifted midfielder and with the right coaching can be one of the better defensive mid's in the MLS.

7th round: Matias Perez Garcia, Attacking Mid, Argentina

I tell you what, I really like this guy. Not blessed with all the measurements you look for in a professional athlete but this guy knows how to play the game. Getting MPG in the last round of the draft was a blessing and we think he can be an important part of our side.

 

This concludes the 2017 Orlando City draft, we'll see you again next year!

Vamos Orlando!  

 

 

Orlando City v. Philadelphia Union Match Preview

Your boy is back and I'm here with a match day preview for you ladies and gents! It's been awhile I'll admit, I spent the majority of the off season catching up on sleep, eating an unhealthy amount of mozzarella sticks and looking at old pictures of Lewis Neal. Anyways, the season on paper has gotten off to a perfect start. 3 points against NYCFC, a letter from Third Rail asking for an apology, smoke in the stadium, what else could you ask for? Last weekends postponement of the match against New England was a huge let down especially for those that traveled but nevertheless we'll start the 2017 season off with two home matches in a row. With that all said, I bring you my match preview for this upcoming Saturday's match between Orlando City and the Philadelphia "We really play in Chester" Union.

Injuries:

Remember when I said the season started perfect on paper? Well that's cause we're now without Kaka for 6 weeks, Carlos Rivas for an undetermined amount of time and Seb Hines for 6 weeks. Yes, Kaka will be 35 in April and his legs are basically shot at this point but the threat of Kaka on the pitch is better than not having him at all. We're probably looking at the end of April before we see our captain playing again. The Rivas injury news is a bummer because word has been going around that this could be his breakout season where he puts it all together. I never wish injury on any player or opponent so I'll simply wish Hines a speedy recovery and hope he can at least be a reliable rotational player when he returns.

Background:

I hate to say it but Orlando City has had it's struggles against the Union in the past. In their last 5 meetings, Orlando has compiled a 1-2-2 record including a loss late in the 2015 season ending OCSC's playoff chances and a late free kick by Philly last May to rob OCSC of all 3 points.

Bendik/Blake Faceoff:

It's a match up between the best goalkeeper in MLS and some guy named Andre Blake. Now that it looks like Joe might have a solid line in front of him, his numbers will show how much of a class MLS goalkeeper he really is. This time last year I gave Bendik a lot crap for silly mistakes but as the season progressed he not only owned up to his mistakes but corrected them and now will be a Lion for the foreseeable future with his new three year contract. Saturday could be a low scoring affair with two of the best goalkeepers in MLS.

Prediction:

A Saturday evening match in Orlando City's new stadium? That place is going to be next level LIT. I'm excited to see if the likes of Spector, Toia and Will Johnson can put in brilliant shifts like they did against NYCFC and if Barnes can take on the roll of filling Kaka's boots while he's out. I fully expect a close match but with Orlando City being well rested after last weekends postponement, I can see the Lions taking this one 2-1.

Vamos Orlando! 

 

 

Be like Phil. Not like Rich.

How is it that after a mere six seasons of professional soccer being in Central Florida that Orlando City Soccer Club owns the heart and soul of this community? The astronomical growth of the sport in this city is partially due to macro trends across the United States which point to the growth of professional soccer as a whole. The true secret ingredient to the success of the Lions is Phil Rawlins. In this your day of resignation as President of the club and your end of involvement from day to day operations, we thank you for having changed our community for better on most every level.

OCSC came to Orlando at a time when the only professional sports side in town was the Orlando Magic. The Lions were rightfully met with skepticism from The City Beautiful as countless other minor league teams had met their quick extinction in the 407 as exampled by the Florida Blazers, Orlando Renegades, Orlando Thunder, Orlando Rage, Florida Tuskers, Orlando Lions, Orlando Sharks, Orlando Seals, Orlando Rays and of course the Orlando Miracle. There was little to no reason to believe that the ‘Orlando City Lions’ would be any different. 

                                                                    OCSC 2011

                                                                    OCSC 2011

The spearhead to the instant success OCSC had in Orlando back in 2011 was Phil Rawlins. Mr. Rawlins was a breath of fresh air in Orlando.  Phil truly cared about the fans who supported his modest club. That first season many of us who were season ticket holders, both supporter section enthusiasts who belonged to the Iron Lion Firm or Ruckus and regular fans who sat throughout the stadium, knew Phil Rawlins personally. He was easy to find before, during and after games. Rawlins made fans feel appreciated with his humble approach, sincerity and affectionate mannerisms.   Rawlins was a straight shooter who spoke his mind and shared the same passion for the sport as we did as supporters. Phil loved talking footie and while this was a business, it was also his love.   

In the forthcoming seasons Rawlins remained a steady hand who you could always bank on shaking hands with fans before matches during tailgates, working with Iron Lion Firm and Ruckus officers as he met with us personally to see what the club could do to help in our operations without ever wanting or asking us to violate our independence as a supporter group which allowed us continued growth. Phil would routinely be seen those first few seasons in the supporters section of matches chanting songs of support for the team with the supporters all the while from time to time turning a blind eye to our benign tomfoolery as the occasional smoke bomb would be lit off in the south end of the Citrus Bowl. Phil was proactive in creating events where the supporters could interact directly with Coach Adrian Heath and leadership at the Front Office. Rawlins communicated as clearly as he could, or better yet as he was allowed to based on outside variables with the fans. When we faced challenges from Walt Disney World and the Wide World of Sports facility in our fourth season which led to heated times between the supporter groups and the front office, Phil sincerely tried to bridge the gap between us in achieving our mutual goals. With Rawlins, while we might not have seen eye to eye every time, we always knew that with him we could assume positive intent.

Phil and Kay very early on made it a point to serve our community even with the limited resources of essentially being a startup business. The work the Rawlins family has done with the Orlando City Foundation as well as numerous other projects too many to mention in a blog article is eye brow raising. Kay Rawlins is active in our city throughout the entire year making it her job to improve and make better the community that has given so much to her family. The community sees this.  It does not go unnoticed and further strengthens the bond between OCSC and city. 

Compare this to Rich DeVos, the owner/president of the Orlando Magic.  DeVos is the antithesis of Phil Rawlins. In the Orlando Magic, our community has a basketball team that while has given Central Florida a fair share of special memories and put Orlando on the map from a sporting perspective, is a professional sports club with zero soul whose owner in Rich Devos many of us feel total apathy and are lethargic about. The few who do feel strongly about Mr. DeVos in Orlando tend to have a negative impression of him. 

                                 Rich Devos

                                 Rich Devos

The Orlando Magic are the epitome of the American pro sports machine which only care about television deals, playing in super arenas which cater to premium seating, special access to clubs (The Mercedes Lounge) inside the facility which give their highest paying patrons luxury in stadium amenities and box seats a plenty where they can charge premium prices.  Not only did the Orlando Magic make us as residents fork up millions of dollars to pay for the building of this arena under threat of abandoning Orlando for another market should they not get their way as is now routine among billionaires to hold cities hostage in getting their greedy way, Rich DeVos than made Buddy Dyer look foolish by also negotiating control of the arenas advertising rights for ALL events in the ‘Amway Center’ despite already having had the stadium built at the tax payers expense and having negotiated a sweetheart rent deal with the City. Think about that for a minute; the Orlando Magic control primary advertising rights for ALL events at the Amway including concerts and sporting events that have nothing to do with the Magic. That man thru his sports team controls primary advertising rights for all Arena events inside the arena City of Orlando residents and our tourist tax dollars help built. Rich DeVos bent over our community, put no lube on his shaft and fucked the city of Orlando over.  

In Rich DeVos we have an individual who is a Michigan man through and through who still makes his residence up there. DeVos has never cared about our city outside of making a profit and using our tax dollars to build his team a new money making arena. Rich frankly cares much more about funding his ultra-right wing political causes which include promoting anti-abortion and anti-gay marriage legislation, the latter in particular most of us here in Orlando find wildly offensive. DeVos has made millions and millions taking from this community every chance he has gotten which as a consequence has never allowed the team to capture the hearts of Orlando residents. As a result, the Orlando Magic has no soul. They are devoid and passion. The Amway Center has no character. Fans don’t have that connection with the blue as they do with the purple.    

As the writer of this piece, I can assure you I am no idealistic romantic. I see Phil for who he is. Phil Rawlins like Rich Devos is a capitalist and a businessman whose goal is to make a monetary profit. Rawlins came to Orlando not because he loves Central Florida. Rawlins came to Orlando because he felt this was the market he could grow his minor league soccer club from Austin Texas to someday be a part of Major League Soccer. Phil is an intelligent man and had the vision to see the coming explosion in popularity of soccer in the United States. He thought Orlando was the market he could best exploit this growth and build a soccer club which would be known around the globe, achieve the pinnacle of American Soccer by playing in MLS and of course make a strong profit. Phil succeeded and met all his goals.  He did business the right way. Mr. Rawlins did not cut corners and built real relationships throughout Orlando from the politicians to the random ILF member struggling to make ends meet making $9 an hour who spent his limited leisure funds in coming to the stadium to support his soccer club. There is a real connection between the fans and the club for all the aforementioned reasons described in this article. So much so that many of us take ownership of Orlando City Soccer Club as we love what the team represents. Orlando City is the antithesis of the Orlando Magic. That right there is the key to his success and the success of Orlando City Soccer Club. 

Today Phil Rawlins resigned from his role as club President and involvement in day to day operations. As a die-hard supporter of OCSC, I saw this moment coming a mile away. After the changes made in the off season last year, it was clear our club was headed in a different strategic direction on every level from where Phil had led us. Flavio and his new leadership team believed the team should be managed differently now that we were in MLS. Time will prove them right or maybe will prove them wrong. 

 

I challenge Alex Leitao and Flavio Da Silva to not ignore what made Phil so successful.  Follow his lead. You are now the care takers of this beautiful soccer club we are now all emotional stakeholders in.

 

Yes, Orlando City had early success in USL on the pitch. Those USL trophies however were not the reason why OCSC continuously led the league in attendance or were near the very top.  We did not attract the attention of MLS and Don Garber because Miguel Gallardo was the second coming of Iker Casillas or because Inchy was more comedic in the coaches’ box at times than Jose Mourinho. Led by Phil Rawlins, what got Flavio involved in OCSC and what got us in MLS is that deep bond Phil built with this community. Despite his capitalistic end goal, Rawlins came to genuinely love Orlando.  It showed with his actions. Please take Phil’ example to heart. Don’t follow the lead of Rich DeVos who just takes from our community while giving to causes that don't represent the values of The City Beautiful. I challenge you to respect us as fans and respect our City.  In turn you have our unconditional support. In the good and especially the bad. 


-CAA
 

Orlando City signs goalkeeper Iker Casillas

Early Friday morning OCSC announced through various media outlets that they have signed Spanish international goalkeeper Iker Casillas from Portuguese side FC Porto.  Casillas, who had another year remaining with an option for a third on his Porto contract, will join the Lions when the summer transfer window opens on July 4th.

Casillas seen here during Friday morning's announcement

Casillas seen here during Friday morning's announcement

Orlando City president and minority owner Phil Rawlins was stated in the club's press release, "To describe the Casillas acquisition as massive is certainly an understatement.  This is an exciting time and the competition between Joe [Bendik] and Casillas will be something to behold for sure."

Competition is a term one may use loosely as the former Real Madrid keeper has had an illustrious career which has seen him win numerous honors with Real Madrid including five La Liga titles and three UEFA Champions League titles amongst his club accolades, as well as leading Spain to their first ever World Cup title in 2010.

With keeper a slight concern at season's opening, it appears as though it may wind up our club's biggest strength during an important juncture this season.  More to come as it is reported. 

ILF Mailbag

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Each day here at theironlionfirm.com offices we receive numerous comments and questions into our mailbox. So we figured we'd answer some of those questions in a new series we're calling "ILF Mailbag". Onto the questions!

Please stop with the fake posts. They are not funny. I ran my car into a light pole when I read the Neymar news only to later find out it wasn't true. Please be respectful and only report true things.

- Eric, Madrid

Eric, thanks for reading the blog! First off, you probably shouldn't be on your phone while driving. Doesn't seem very safe. That may be more your fault than it is ours.  

Second of all, we fully believe in the information we receive from our sources. Neymar was in serious talks to join Orlando City but negotiations fell through. It happens sometimes. But that won't stop us from reporting on the news as we get it. As the great Michael Scott once said, quoting the legendary Wayne Gretzky "You miss 100% of the shots you don't take".  

Who do you think has the best hair on the club? 

 - Bryan, Orlando 

With the recent departure of Estrella this one is tough to call. There are many worthy candidates. You have the flowing blond locks of Brek Shea. Or the clean, close look Kevin Molino has been spotted sporting recently. But for our money you can't beat the wonderful hairstyle of the Mastermind and Crafter himself, head coach Adrian Heath. No matter how heated Inchy gets at the referees his hair always seems to stay in place. Kudos to his hairstylist!

What do you guys think of the signing of Antonio Nocerino?  

 - Piper, Windemere, Florida 

While you can find out what we think Nocerino's signing will mean for central Florida here, we'll break down what it could mean for the club itself. Nocerino brings a world of experience with him and should link up with his former AC Milan teammate Kaka very nicely. We just hope his arrival won't stunt the growth of our young midfielders like Carlos Rivas and Cristian Higuita. 

I want to play for your club. I am great midfielder and score many goals. Please tell me how to sign up to play for your club.  

 - Yassine, Algeria 

Yassine, thank you for your interest in our club. We regret to inform you that we are all filled up at midfield after our recent signing of the man they call Derek "Long Legs" Sheiman. We will have tryouts for next year's squad in late December off the south coast of France. Hope to see you there.  

I love the passion and pride you guys have for Orlando City. You guys always kill it in the terraces. And this blog is absolutely hilarious and informative. Keep up the great work! How do I become a member of your illustrious club? 

 - Rob,  Chicago

Thank you so much for your kind words. We appreciate it and hope to continue to make you proud. Memberships are available online or at select tailgates this season. Please keep your eyes on our Twitter or Facebook pages as to when that will be. 

That wraps up the inaugural edition of the ILF mailbag. If you have any questions you want answered in the next edition of the mailbag email us at ironlionfirm@gmail.com or by using the contact button of this website. See you in the terraces!