TONY PULIS praised the character and spirit of his players after ten man Stoke City withstood a tough test to record a victory over Orlando City on their USA tour.
As well as having to overcome the red card shown to Glenn Whelan, Pulis’ side also had to contend with the artificial pitch at the Citrus Bowl, the heat and humidity and the fact that both Cameron Jerome and Marc Wilson limped out of the game with knee injuries.
On top of that, Orlando City were clearly buoyant after clinching the USL PRO Regular Championship for the second successive season 24 hours before this encounter.
It was a Jonathan Walters volley shortly before half time which settled the game in the Potters’ favour but it needed Thomas Sorensen to be at his best on occasions.
The Danish international pulled off a number of fine saves, particularly in the closing stages when City were hampered the sending off and the injury setbacks.
“This was a tough test in many respects, even more so for the fact that we were down to ten men after Glenn’s red card, but the lads showed great character and a good attitude to come through it,” said Pulis after the 1-0 victory over the Lions on Saturday evening.
“It’s all about building up the players’ fitness at the moment and they certainly had to work extremely hard tonight to get a result, what with the condition of the pitch and the heat as well, so to be down to ten for so long made it even tougher for them.”
Pulis stressed that the Club would need to clarify the situation regarding Whelan’s red card, although he said he would be surprised if it led to further action.
The Republic of Ireland international was shown two yellow cards in quick succession, but City’s manager added: “It was a friendly match and it was outside the UK.
“I wouldn’t have thought it would result in him serving any sort of suspension, but we will have to check with the authorities to determine what the situation is now.
Pulis refused to criticise the match referee for being quick to brandish yellow cards, despite the competitive nature of the game, or for initially refusing City the chance to re-introduce players who had already been substituted following the injuries to Jerome and Wilson.
“I’m not going to criticise the official. Who wants to be a referee?” he commented. They get shouted at by supporters, players and even managers, so it’s no fun being one.
“I asked the referee to allow us send a player back on because we were already down to ten men and this was a friendly. There was a crowd out there who had turned up to see a contest, but we might as well have packed in if we went down to nine or possibly eight men.
“We’ve got one or two knocks, but the players will have a couple of days off now as we head up to Kansas and then we’ll start preparing for the final game of the tour.”
Pulis was impressed with what he had seen at Orlando City, not only in terms of the progress being made by the Club, but also due to the hospitality extended to them.
“It has been fantastic and it has shown us that the sooner Orlando City go into Major League Soccer the better,” insisted Pulis. “They certainly deserve it.
“I am sure that if Orlando gain entry into the MLS, the club will continue to move forward because the city is made for top-flight football.
“The city and the football club will thrive as a result, which is what has happened in Stoke since we were promoted to the Premier League.
“Let’s hope they get the support of the authorities to build a new stadium because that will surely enable them to achieve their big ambition.”