STOKE CITY Director Phil Rawlins and the Club’s former star Adrian Heath will be hoping that Orlando City can land the USL PRO Regular Championship for the second successive season before they then play host to their beloved Potters on Saturday.
Orlando will take on Charleston Battery at the 70,000 capacity Citrus Bowl on Friday evening with the Regular Championship on the line, so the visit of Tony Pulis’ side 24 hours later could well be a double celebration if all goes according to plan.
For Rawlins and Heath, it would be a momentous time as they endeavour to fulfil their dream of bringing Major League Soccer to Orlando, where they took the bold step of moving their soccer organisation from Austin almost two years ago.
The build-up to the Charleston Battery game gave Pulis and his backroom team an insight into what is being created by the pair in the sunshine state, as they conducted a coaching clinic at the highly impressive Seminole Soccer Complex on Thursday.
Orlando City Youth Soccer has more than 2,000 youngsters between the ages of under-6 and under-18 and there was a big turnout for the coaching session.
“These are great times for Orlando City and this thriving youth set-up gives you an idea of what we are endeavouring to create from the bottom right up to the top,” commented Rawlins, who is the President and majority owner of the USL PRO club.
“The dream is to bring Major League Soccer here and to achieve sustained success, but it is all happening much quicker than even we anticipated.
“It would be wonderful if we could win the Regular Championship once again and it will obviously be a proud moment to have Stoke City here too.”
He added: “It’s wonderful for the kids in our youth set-up to have a Premier League manager conducting this session with his other coaches.
“They see Tony and the other members of the backroom team on the television every Saturday, so to have them here and to experience what a professional player goes through in training every day is a fantastic experience for all of them.”
Heath has been a key figure in the success which has been achieved as coach of Austin Aztex initially and then for the past two seasons at Orlando.
“It’s difficult for people back home to really appreciate just how big the game is over here,” enthused the former Potters striker. “Certainly, here at Orlando, I can only see it getting bigger, stronger and better in the years ahead.
“The kids here know all the Premier League stars as well as kids back in England because they see so much of it on television. Having the management team coaching them tonight and seeing Stoke play tomorrow will increase that popularity.”
He added: “Youth soccer has always been a thriving market in the USA; the difference now is that the high profile of the MLS, coupled with the exposure which the Premier League gets over here these days, means that they have dreams which they are striving for right at the very top and that is an inspiration to them.
“For Phil and myself, we are starting to see the realisation of our dream which all started up when we were out in Austin. It was a bold move to up sticks and move to Orlando, but we are now starting to get what we set out to do.
“We want to take this club into the MLS, be competitive when we get there and become one of the top clubs over here. That is the dream.”