All good things must come to an end. After eight years of producing their own local broadcasts, Orlando City will be putting on their final telecast on Wednesday night as the Lions play Inter Miami on Fox 35+.
With the end of the local broadcasts thanks to the partnership between MLS and Apple TV+, it becomes a bittersweet moment for the voices behind the Lions’ broadcasts over the past few seasons.
Play-by-play man Evan Weston and analyst Miguel Gallardo have become the faces of the Lions’ TV crew over the past few seasons, while sideline reporter Gabrielle Amado joined the team in 2021.
Weston started with the club back in 2017 as their radio play-by-play man, a position that literally came out of nowhere. A week into the season their previous radio broadcaster, Adam Schick, had left to join Atlanta United and the Lions needed a new voice.
“I was in the middle of a Stetson softball game when I got a LinkedIn connection from Marcos Peres, the director of broadcasting at Orlando City,” Weston told the Orlando Soccer Journal. “Five minutes later, I get an email from him, basically asking me if I’ve ever thought about a career in soccer. I was in the fifth inning at the time so during the commercial break, I wrote back to him. ‘I am now. Give me 45 minutes to finish up this game and I’ll give you a call.'”
From there, Weston began calling all of Orlando City’s matches on the radio, while also dabbling with a number of Orlando City B games, which is where he first got to work with Lions legend Miguel Gallardo.
“He and I did an OCB game together in June of 2017 against the Rochester Rhinos in an empty Exploria,” Weston recalled. “It was a nothing game, we were horrible. But even then I could tell we were gonna have a little connection.”
That connection would eventually blossom into a partnership that would span four seasons of television after Weston was elevated to the main TV play-by-play role following the departure of the longtime voice of the Lions, Jeff Radcliffe. From that point, the on-air chemistry between the two continued to grow, becoming the tandem that Orlando fans would come to hear during every game.
“Evan’s interactions and mine were never scripted. It was always just organic,” Gallardo said, ” I think we built really nice chemistry with our differences. Because we are so different as human beings and what we’re into, what we like, I think we learned a ton from each other and we created a really good partnership and I think people grew to love that.”
Their first seasons of broadcasting, respectively, was a growth year for the two of them. Weston had never been a soccer guy prior. His previous experience with the sport was attending his sister’s youth games as an “unwilling prisoner” and calling a few odd college soccer matches at UCF and Stetson.
Once he began his tenure with the Lions, he threw himself headfirst into the sport. He watched every Orlando game from the previous season online, researched all the players and history of the team, and within a few weeks’ time, became obsessed with soccer.
On the other hand, Gallardo had been involved in soccer for decades before moving to broadcast. A legend in the Orlando City USL Pro days, the goalkeeper captained the club 80 times in his four-year tenure and is still idolized by many of the original fans from a decade ago.
Prior to his TV debut in 2017, he had just retired from playing outdoor soccer and was looking for a new opportunity, though working on broadcasting was not something that ever crossed his mind during his playing days.
Mixing Evan’s broadcasting ability with Miguel’s soccer knowledge in the early days was exactly what both of them needed to balance each other out and succeed, as they fed off the other and grew.
“I have learned so much from Miggy about soccer,” Weston said. “He is an unbelievably generous person with his time and his knowledge.”
With the duo’s teamwork continuing to grow and thrive, a third face was added into the mix to patrol the sidelines for the broadcast crew, former BeIN Sports reporter Gabby Amado.
Graduating from the same journalism program as Weston up in Syracuse, Amado took her talents to South Beach to begin her career, getting on with BeIN Sports for their European and South American Soccer coverage.
Following the 2020 season, the Lions were looking for a new sideline reporter after Jenny Chiu departed and Amado got the call to step into the role.
“It kind of felt like everything was coming full circle to me because I watched Nani play when I was younger,” said Amado. “He was kind of what made me fall in love with the game and being able to work at the club that he was at as my first opportunity domestically to play here in the U.S. and getting into MLS action was really surreal.”
The trio together have now called matches over the past two seasons, ultimately culminating in Wednesday’s regular season match in Miami.
Out of all three of their experiences, as they reflected back on their time broadcasting Lions games, the overarching theme was thanks and appreciation for everyone that helped along the way.
“There are so so many people to thank and acknowledge that have been with me over the years,” Weston said. “To have a real team here and that spirit, I would miss that for sure. That broadcast team that we put together here, in front of the camera and behind the scenes, that group where every week, we would go out there together and try to put the best show that we could.”
“I enjoyed every freaking second of it,” Gallardo said. “I never thought broadcasting would be something for me. Contrary to other people’s journeys, they’ve worked really hard during their lives to achieve something I got to do. It’s just a blessing. I never thought I would be doing that.”
“I’ve had the most amazing two years at Orlando City and I will always have this club in my heart,” Amado said. “I hope to always stay connected to it somehow, whether that’s working with the league or that’s continuing to work with the club or even if I was to move internationally, I would always be connected with the club somehow.”
As for the future, all three are looking into their own pathways. Weston has had conversations with Apple and MLS, but no decisions have been made as of yet. Gallardo and Amado are both continuing with their other jobs, Gallardo working with youth soccer organizations like South Orlando Soccer and Amado with LiveNOW from Fox as an early morning host, and both are keeping their options open for the future.
Whatever next year holds, for all three of the faces of the broadcast crew, it has been a memorable experience.
“I’ll just say a huge thank you to anyone who has tuned in or reached out or whether on Twitter or in person,” Weston said. “You guys, the fans, are why we do this. It’s why we have jobs, to bring the team to the fans when they can’t be in the building or when we’re on the road. Hopefully, you enjoyed what we had to offer and I know we certainly enjoyed spending any time that we got to spend with you. So an enormous thank you. It’s not goodbye. I’m not done, I promise. I’ve got a long road ahead of me, I’m sure.”
This is just just one stage, but Orlando City is always going to be where I got my start and it’s always going to be in my heart forever. I just have overwhelming gratitude for everybody who tuned in and reached out over the years. It’s been an absolute privilege to steward the team for the last six years.”