Phil Rawlins

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. 

Open Letter From the ILF Leadership Team

Good evening!

As we get closer to our match vs the Jacksonville Armada we in the Iron Lion Firm wanted to back up Phil Rawlin's letter, which can be found here:

http://www.orlandocitysc.com/post/2016/02/10/open-letter-orlando-city-fans.

 

ILF has had it's ups and downs throughout the seasons. Last season was our best due to how well we worked with our front office. We as leadership of the ILF would like to continue the great working relationship we have with our front office. Let's please not jeopardize the hard work that has been laid down and how far we've come.

 

If you haven't read Phil's letter, please take the time to read it now and we will see you all Saturday!

Sincerely,  

The Iron Lion Firm leadership team  

 

 

The Armando Carneiro move and our official reaction

The Iron Lion Firm and The Ruckus are both supporter clubs that have been around from literally day one of existence of this club.  We both love this team and support OCSC through the good and bad.  As supporters however, we believe in accountability and as the most enthusiastic of supporters we will speak up when we see something go down that does not make sense or that we perceive to be damaging to the club.  We are not however blind to the complex realities of Major League Soccer and the difficult decisions that must be made as a pro sports franchise. 

When Orlando City let go of Tally Hall for contract reasons we were not happy.  Tally was a valued member of our club and an active member of our community.  Most of us however understood the salary cap realities facing the club and the hesitation associated with bringing back a keeper who had very real long term health concerns.  Tally Hall will be missed but any savvy supporter understands the logic behind this decision just like we understood why the club at one point let go footballers we considered to be the true pillars of this club like Miguel Gallardo, Rob Valentino and Jamie Watson.  Professional sports is a business in which the players who are our heroes on the pitch can come and go as quickly as the tide.   

What even the most savvy ILF officer or member could not understand was the decisions being made by our head soccer executive Armando Carneiro.  From the beginning we were perplexed as to why Carneiro was even hired by OCSC.  Armando had good pedigree in Europe as one of the old continents top talent creators leading Benfica for six years and developing countless top players in Portugal.  While he had a polished resume in Europe, we could not understand why Carneiro was essentially pushing Paul McDonough out of his role as GM to make room for a man that did not know how to speak English nor have a basic understanding of how Major League Soccer works.  

You see, developing players and spotting talent in the United States is MUCH different than Europe.  In Portugal, mega clubs like Benfica have millions of dollars in resources to bring in children and develop talent in their academies where preteen kids are fully immersed in the soccer academy at an early age.  Benfica has the ability to scout kids from across Portugal, Europe, Africa and if they have the talent, they are scouted into the Benfica Youth Academy at no cost to their families.  The model for developing players is much different in the United States where the pay for play model is still the norm.  The top 'academy' players for clubs like Orlando City are mostly sourced directly from the pay for play system where only kids whose parents can afford four figure yearly registration fees can participate.  That is one of the biggest challenges in the United States today and not just for Orlando City.  Not only should kids whose parents can afford to pay top dollar for proper training be exposed to top notch coaching and training.  Carneiro was not exposed to this reality just like Carneiro likely knew nothing about the complex salary cap realities of Major League Soccer.  

In Europe, clubs like Benfica are free to spend as much as they can afford with respect to player wages and transfer fees.  There are no salary cap considerations or complex rules like we have here in the U.S.  Major League Soccer might have one of the most complicated league structures on the planet.  Things like designated players, college drafts, homegrown players, generation Adidas, salary cap, etc are items Carneiro had never had to deal with.  Not only that, but he knew nothing about the American Footballer.  I would wager heavy amounts of money that I have seen typical American footballer like Justin Mapp play soccer 100x more than Armando Carneiro ever did.  As much as you may or may not have liked Paul McDonough, in him we had a man who knew U.S. Soccer and Major League Soccer.  We replaced him for an individual with a blank slate and no experience in how the sport is structured here.  

To say we were skeptical of Armando was an understatement.  That skepticism was further made evident when Paul McDonough officially left the club and with the with the mind blowing decisions to let go of long time assistant Coach Ian Fuller along with moving goalkeeper Coach Marcos Machado out of the first team.  It seemed as though the groundwork was being laid to eventually push out Adrian Heath as Head Coach.  Not only that but there appears to have been lots of dissatisfaction at the OCSC front office with layoffs and resignations occurring across the board in a variety of jobs.  The ILF was confused as to what was going on with our club.  We voiced our protest for these decisions through our social media platforms, this blog and through a protest we held along with The Ruckus demanding answers as to why such questionable decisions were being made.  

We are not arrogant enough to think we had any influence as to being the reason why Armando Carneiro resigned.  We don't know if he is just a quitter or if the complex realities on the ground of soccer here in the U.S. finally hit him.  We also wonder if there is the possibility that Flavio Da Silva realized that the hire of Armando was a mistake and that the decisions made were not for the greater good of our club?  I don't know the answer and this is still largely a mystery as even the top journalist in this city like Mike Bianchi can't get a straight answer as to what exactly happened.  

So now Phil Rawlins is tasked with the responsibility of being the interim General Manager.  It goes without saying, the ILF has a deep amount of respect and trust for Phil.  Phil Rawlins represents this club as much as anyone and was essentially our General Manager in the USL years of this franchise.  After being mostly a spokesman and community representative for Orlando City for the last year, we question if this will be a long term role for Phil or just an interim move.  

Mistakes happen.  Nobody is perfect.  Despite our countless successes as a young club, OCSC is also susceptible to making errors and we understand that.  While the hiring and firing of Armando Carneiro is still shrouded in mystery, it is safe to say that his hiring was a mistake which has now been corrected.  Respect to Flavio for recognizing our club was headed in the wrong direction.  We firmly believe that while Flavio is mostly a hands off owner, he stepped into this situation in understanding we were headed in the wrong direction as a club.  Much credit to him for that.  

So for now we are tired of this front office drama and hope it is over with.  We are looking forward to the full release of the 2016 schedule and the preseason.  OCSC has the framework to be a solid club on the pitch.  Cheers and go City.   

Neymar Deal Falls Through

Bad news for Orlando City fans throughout the planet.  The previously reported Neymar deal has fallen through.  The press conference scheduled for this Saturday at the Lake Eola Bowl to announce the transfer of Neymar to Orlando from Barcelona has been cancelled.  Neymar secretly flew into OIA on Monday, November 30th where he was picked up by team administrator and former OCSC stud Erik Ustruck to meet the front office, tour our facilities and make a quick publicity stop at Walt Disney World.

During the tour, Inchy and Neymar formally met for the first time.  It was reported to us by friend of the ILF and assistant coach for Orlando City Ian Fuller, that Adrian Heath hinted to Neymar he might have to play behind Cyle Larin at the start of the season.  Heath is high on Larin after his rookie of the year campaign and not willing to bench Cyle even for a world class footballer like Neymar.

The Brazilian international did not take well to this news as this compounded to his doubts of coming to America as he learned that the American tax code is more difficult to get around than he initially thought.  Neymar is not keen on paying the tax man just like his idol Willie Nelson.  

We have heard from anonymous sources within our front office that while disappointed, Phil Rawlins, Flavio Da Silva, Paul McDonough and Alex Wolf are happy with the prospects of Cyle Larin being our unquestioned number one striker going into 2016.  

Happy trails Neymar.  Best of luck with the Catalans in La Liga and the Champions League.  Should you ever choose to change your mind and earn your playing time behind Cyle Larin, you will have a home here in Orlando anytime.