[Sanford, FL] On Tuesday night, the Orlando City Lions professional soccer team played the first of three games this week (which will actually make it four games in eight days). A tough stretch for any team.
The Tuesday night match-up was against the KC Athletics as part of the knockout Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament. The Open Cup is the oldest ongoing national soccer competition in the United States.
All U.S. Soccer Federation affiliated teams are eligible which is how the Orlando City Lions ended up playing the KC Athletics, an amateur adult club. In the next round, the Lions face top-flighters Sporting Kansas City of Major League Soccer (MLS).
It is also probably why the game was held out at the Seminole Soccer Complex in Sanford, 25 miles outside of Orlando. It was expected to be a bloodbath, and it was: 7-0.
“I thought it was a great win for the club,” said Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath.
It was the fourth win in a row for the Orlando City Lions – including two away wins in Antigua versus the Barracuda FC on May 11 and 13. The Lions remain undefeated, suffering only one draw this season (Richmond Kickers).
But that upcoming game against Sporting isn’t the only games against top teams this season – the Orlando City Lions announced before Tuesday’s game that they will again this year play a pair of friendlies against English Premier League sides: Stoke City (July 28) and Nottingham Forest (July 21).
In town for the big announcement, head coaches Tony Pulis of Stoke City and Steve Cotterill of Nottingham watched Orlando City destroy KC with Lions President Phil Rawlins.
Stoke City has roots in Orlando too – Anthony Pulis (Tony’s son) plays for Orlando City and Rawlins is a Stoke board member. Lions Head Coach heath also played for Stoke City for several years during his stellar professional soccer career.
A VIDEO REPORT FROM THE GAME AGAINST KC ATHLETICS:
“This is the second consecutive year that we have been able to attract two top class English teams to Central Florida,” said Rawlins.
“These games give our fans the chance to see international players like Peter Crouch and Wilson Palacios competing against their favorite players from Orlando, right here in the Citrus Bowl. This shows the drawing power of having a club like Orlando City based here in the region,” he said.
But for now, the focus remains on the remaining league games this week. On Thursday (tonight), the Lions face the LA Blues at the Florida Citrus Bowl, and due to the Lions’ unfamiliarity with their opponent, it could get very interesting. Or ugly. Or both.
The Blues have two recent additions to their squad that boast MLS experience, most notably Bright Dike, who is on loan from the Portland Timbers of the MLS. Also, former MLS forward of five years Maykel Galindo has been signed by LA.
“We’ve got a really difficult game on Thursday,” said Lions Head Coach Heath. “I think LA, come the end of the season, will be near the top of the table. I want to make sure we get a result.”
Thursday’s match is Military Appreciation Night for Orlando City. U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster (R-8/Winter Garden) will be swearing-in 300 new recruits from all five branches of the United States military. Armored vehicles will also be available for viewing.
On Saturday, Orlando City gears up for another home game, this time against the Charlotte Eagles, the team Orlando faced on the opening day of the season. City came out on top 2-0.
“Charlotte traditionally gives us problems,” said Heath. “We will be ready for a tough game.”
Besides the formidable opponent, the Lions will also be battling fatigue as that Saturday night contest will be their fourth game in eight days.
To get tickets for any of the Lions’ home games – including the friendlies against Stoke and Nottingham – call 1-855-ORL-CITY or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By: Mark Christopher/Sunshine Slate
Image: Orlando City Lions
Orlando City Lions