Formation Of Orlando
Stoke City Director Phil Rawlins set out his intention to bring Major League Soccer to the city of Orlando within three to five years when he took the bold step of moving his organisation across from Austin in Texas to Florida.
Rawlins saw the potential of soccer in the sunshine state reaching the very top with the backing of a much larger supporter base.
The Austin Aztex organisation remained intact when it made the move across in 2010 with former City star Adrian Heath staying as manager, but it was soon apparent that Orlando would be able to attract more quality players.
Orlando Sports Holdings owns the club, of which Rawlins is the President and Brendan Flood from Championship club Burnley is also a board member.
A Flying Start
Orlando City’s preparation for the meeting with Stoke City sees them bidding to claim the USL PRO Regular Championship for the second successive season.
They had made their mark at this level in their first season by lifting the title and then even more importantly going on to win the end-of-season Play-Offs.
It was a dramatic finale with the game against the Harrisburg City Islanders ending in a 1-1 draw and the sides could not be separated after extra-time either.
It finished 2-2 at that stage, but then Orlando were crowned the 2011 USL PRO Champions after coming out on top 3-2 in the penalty shoot-out.
Orlando’s current position at the top of the USL PRO Championship is the result of having won 14 of their twenty matches this season so far, accumulating 47 points and scoring 40 goals.
Stoke City’s affiliation with Orlando City means there are a number of notable links between the two teams going into the game at the Citrus Bowl.
As well as Rawlins combining his roles as Director of the Potters with President and majority owner of Orlando, he has had former club favourite Adrian Heath as Head Coach, firstly with the Austin Aztex and now following the move to Florida.
The connection doesn’t end there because lining up for Orlando these days is manager Tony Pulis’ son Anthony who moved out to the States for the 2012 season where the 28-year-old midfielder has been a key figure in their success this season.
Another member of the Orlando squad is James O’Connor who had a successful seven-year spell at the Britannia Stadium between 1996 and 2003. In that time, he made 176 League appearances and won the Player of the Year Award in 2002-03.
Home Of Orlando City
The impressive 70,000-capacity Citrus Bowl is the home to Orlando City; a venue which has been used for the World Cup and Olympic Games.
As well as staging matches in the 1994 FIFA World Cup, it was used for Olympic football games in both the men’s and women’s competitions in 1996.
Two years ago, the natural grass surface was replaced with Astro Turf Gameday Grass 3D after the poor condition of the playing surface caused injuries.
Colours And Badge
Orlando City have adopted the nickname ‘Lions’ as a result of previous uses of that name, most notably when a club was called the Orlando Lions.
The club colours of red, purple and gold represent pride in the city and the team, and they are the same as those of Fiorentina, although there is no link.
The branding was developed by a company, Dixon Minear Design Marketing, which originally created the high-profile brand of Orlando Magic.
The club’s home colours this season have been one of their primary colours, all purple, while their away kit is predominantly another of them, all red.