Orlando City players returned to the team’s training grounds in Kissimmee to begin individual workouts on Wednesday.
After almost two months without training at Osceola Heritage Park, Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi told reporters on Thursday during a Zoom conference call that there’s still a long way ahead before the team can train together as a whole.
“I think the individual workouts, it’s great that we had that going right now,” said Muzzi. “It’s phase one, it’s the beginning and there’s still a long way ahead. Hopefully not that long but there’s a way ahead.”
Muzzi added: “And even though they’re voluntary, all the players went to the facility, all the players were very happy to have that opportunity and that chance to go back to the training field. Even with all the conditions and restrictions that we currently have in place, but it’s a great step forward.”
Currently, the league has a training moratorium running through May 15. Whether that will be extended or not remains unclear, according to Muzzi.
But Muzzi did add that it’s something Major League Soccer is working on and is relying on the few teams that have opened their training ground to share their experiences.
“I can’t tell you if it’s going to be May 15 or not,” said Muzzi. “Things are changing on a daily base not only on our world but overall. I mean every day you turn the TV on and you hear something new. So, I’m a very positive guy always has a positive liking. And I like to think that, you know, maybe I’m too focused on positive things but I feel like this is the way to go.”
Games likely without fans
Muzzi also shed some light on what the return-to-play will look like.
The 2020 MLS season is currently postponed until June 8, but even when league play resumes, it’s likely going to feature games without fans in the stadium.
“There’s going to be a process to get back to normal,” said Muzzi. “I think it’s likely that we’re going to have some games without fans, but I think the most important thing is that we need to be safe and playing games as soon as possible.”
“Once we get that going then, we’re going to eventually move back to having games at the stadium to normal games, but it’s going to be a process and I think it is likely that we’re going to have games without any fans.”
With the MLS first-team back in the training grounds at Osceola Heritage Park, questions were raised about how the club is managing hosting its USL and Academy teams under one roof.
Muzzi said the training ground in Kissimmee has enough space to field it’s three teams while taking precautionary measures to keep the players safe.
“That’s a big thing for us right, so the integration is every everybody in the same location under the same roof,” said Muzzi. “We’re going to be taking extra precautions and we’re going to have to change the way we do things to make sure that that’s not a problem, but yet the facility has four fields, has the stadium field. So we got enough fields and we got enough time in a day to make sure that everything works once everybody’s back.
“But the academy so you had some time to work things. But, yeah, we’re going to have to make things a little different. And it’s a good thing that we have enough space to make everything work.”
State of Academy Team
During the two months off, U.S. Soccer also made the decision to shutter the long-standing Development Academy, putting Orlando City’s boys and girls academies in a state of limbo.
That lasted only a few hours, once MLS announced their own academy system that would include former DA teams as well as non-MLS academies.
Orlando City’s DA teams will all participate in the new competition, one that Luiz Muzzi believes will be better than the former iteration, with a better path from the academy to the professional level.
“I think that that’s a great opportunity for the development of our youth,” Muzzi said, “I’ve always been big in that and we got Oscar in and we’ve got a whole coaching staff, including the academy, they’re all huge in on youth development. I think this is going to be, at the end of the day, a great opportunity for everybody. I think that we have a chance to make it in a way that it’s better for everybody involved.
“To be honest, I think that that development needs to be driven by the professional clubs, just like the way it is in the rest of the world,” he added. “This is a great chance to build something new and better, stronger that will provide players with a better opportunity to develop in a better way and be professional players.”
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