[USL PRO: Week 1]With one eye on its title defense and another on its MLS launch next season, Orlando City kicks off the 2014 USL PRO season Saturday at the Charleston Battery. In the other opener, Galaxy II, which hosts the Orange County Blues, is the wave of the future, the first MLS-operated second team to debut in USL PRO. For a look at Orlando City, Charleston, LA Galaxy II and Orange County.
USL PRO, Week 1 Schedule:
Saturday, March 22
Charleston vs. Orlando City
LA Galaxy II vs. Orange County
Streaming: USL PRO YouTube | NSCAATV
Orlando City went unbeaten in four games against MLS teams at the Disney Pro Classic at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, where it will play in 2014 while the Florida Citrus Bowl is being renovated. (Orlando City will move into its new downtown stadium in 2016.)
“It’s highly important for us to start off the season with a strong performance,” said Orlando City coach Adrian Heath said the upcoming match with the Battery. “Charleston always give us a good battle and I don’t expect anything less this time around, but we’ll be up for it.”
Charleston Battery 2014:
Ugandan midfielder Michael Azira has moved on to the Seattle Sounders, but a core of players return for the Battery, which finished third in the 2013 regular-season standings with a 13-6-7 record. First-team all-league Colin Falvey anchors the backline, and top scorer Dane Kelly (11 goals) leads the attack. Maikel Chang, Odisnel Cooper and Heviel Cordoves, who all defected from Cuba while in Canada for a World Cup qualifier in 2012, are all back for a second season. The core of the team will consist of eight players with ties to the Vancouver Whitecaps, including former UConn striker Mamadou Diouf and Jamaican youth international Andre Lewis, who were taken in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft, and former No. 1 draft pick at the StubHub Center Track and Field Stadium.
COACH:Michael Anhaeuser. STADIUM: Blackbaud Stadium (capacity: 5,100).
MLS PARTNER:Vancouver Whitecaps.MLS LOAN PLAYERS: Aminu Abdallah, Mamadou Diouf, Andre Lewis, Omar Salgado.
LA Galaxy II 2014:
Veteran MLS coach Curt Onalfo, a Galaxy assistant, will lead Galaxy II in its debut season. Galaxy II will give plenty of playing time to players like forward Jack McBean, who played just nine games in his first three MLS seasons and is still only 19. Other Homegrown players who should see action include Oscar Sorto, Bradford Jamieson IV and Raul Mendiola. Galaxy II will fill out its roster with other Galaxy first-team players not in the first 18, plus current academy players like Adonis Amaya and Elijah Martin. FrenchmanLaurent Courtois will serve as player-assistant coach. Daniel Steres, a second-team all-league defender from Wilmington, has also joined the team.
COACH:Curt Onalfo.STADIUM: StubHub Center Track and Field Stadium (capacity: 8,000).
MLS PARENT CLUB:LA Galaxy. MLS LOAN PLAYERS: Rafael Garcia, Bradford Jamieson IV, Jack McBean, Raul Mendiola, Charlie Rugg, Oscar Sorto.
Orlando City 2014:
Kevin Molino, who has played for Orlando City in all three USL PRO seasons, was the first MLS signing for the 2015 season. Cuban Yordany Alvarez (Real Salt Lake) and Salvadoran Darwin Ceren(Juventud Independiente) were signed through 2015, while other newcomers include Corey Hertzog and Brad Rusin (both Vancouver Whitecaps), Austin Da Luz (Carolina RailHawks), plus U.S. U-18s Tommy Redding and Tyler Turner.
COACH:Adrian Heath. STADIUM: ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex (capacity: 5,300).
MLS PARTNER:Sporting KC.MLS LOAN PLAYER: Mikey Lopez.
Orange County Blues:
The Blues return for a fourth season, but owner Ali Mansourihas moved the team to Orange County (hence the name change), where it will play at UC Irvine's Anteater Stadium. The Blues have signed former Chivas USA backup keeperPatrick McLain and forward Gibson Bardsley, who was a second-team all-league pick with the Dayton Dutch Lions in 2013 after leading the team in goals (9) and assists (7). Of their top three scorers from last season's team that finished 11-7-8 and took sixth place in the regular-season standings, only Chris Cortez (9 goals) returns. Matthew Fondy signed with Chivas USA and George Davis IV joined the Richmond Kickers. Top assist man Rodrigo Lopez moved up north to USL PRO expansion club Sacramento Republic FC.
COACH:Dariush Yazdani.STADIUM: Anteater Stadium (capacity: 2,500).