New Orlando City SC executive vice president of soccer operations Luiz Muzzi wants Orlando City supporters to know there’s a plan in place.
The Lions are getting younger. The club is looking to add another big name, as well as some defenders. He wants supporters to know last season’s “disaster” is firmly in the past.
“We have this vision and now we’re going to have to find way to implement the vision,” he said to Pro Soccer USA before the start of matches at the MLS Combine in Orlando City Stadium.
“It’s not something that’s going to be overnight. There’s some points that I bring with me. I like the team to be a team of fighters. A team. You know, not one player here, one player there and all that. I think we’re putting together a very nice group of players that will get along and will understand the concept of the team.
“I think that we need to have guys who are hungry, who want to be here. Want to own the team. Feel like, ‘This is my team, this is me. I’m not just here because next year I’m going to go somewhere else.’”
When asked what Orlando City’s biggest need is in terms of players, the first position Muzzi brought up was centerback. Offseason deals have left Orlando City in need of defenders, in general.
“We need to get a very good centerback, I think,” Muzzi said.
He added, “I think we’re going to need to work on some attacking pieces as well, especially on the flanks. Add some speed, add some youth.”
The rumor mill has swirled around Orlando City since the offseason began. The Lions have made a few acquisitions during the offseason and Muzzi said more are coming.
“I think we’re still going to add, maybe, possibly a veteran, good, recognizable name that can add not only the field, but also off the field and help everybody out,” Muzzi said. “With that, I think we should be good.”
Muzzi also addressed the transfer of star midfielder Yoshimar Yotún, who was sold to Liga MX side Cruz Azul for, according to league sources, $4 million.
“The guy had an offer from a club, Cruz Azul. A big club and he wanted to go. The money was much better there, but it got to a point where we said, ‘We’ll pay you that much. Do you want to stay?’… ‘No. I want to go.’ When it gets to that, it’s like, imagine if you don’t want to work at your job anymore, right? And you’re forced to go every day. You’re not going to be happy. You’re not going to be productive.”
He said the club got a good replacement in Ecuadorian midfielder Jhegson Sebastián Méndez.
Muzzi also mentioned the structure that needs to be in place for Orlando City.
“I’m still trying to get my feet wet,” he said with a laugh. “Trying to understand things. I’m going to go one step at a time.”
He said it’s a “big thing” for Orlando City to start using younger players.
“My background has always been working with the young guys, not only at Dallas — because you know Dallas is known for all those Homegrowns and young players and all that — but even before that, I worked in different academies and all that.
“I believe those guys will give you more. Not to say that veterans will not. You always need veterans. Those guys who are going to lead the way and show the young guys what they need to do, but I think that overall, we need to get younger.”
Muzzi said he’s excited forward Benji Michel signed a Homegrown deal with Orlando City.
“We need to be known for Homegrowns,” Muzzi said.
“I mean, come on, this is Central Florida. There’s so much talent here, right? The fact that we have only five Homegrowns … come on. We need to work on that.”
Orlando City is coming off a dismal season. The Lions switched coaches midway through the year and finished the season 8-22-4 (28 points).
“It’s something that I told the staff, too,” he said. “One of the things we’ve got to do is we’re going to look at the past just to get things better. We’re not going to look at the past to kind of complain. If we’re going to look back, let’s look back to see what things we’re going to have to change and what we’re going to need to improve and all that.
“What I’m going to ask fans is give us a chance. Give us a chance because it’s not only me, you’ve got a whole staff who is kind of new. They were here for four months, five months at the end of the season. They came in with something that was already in place. They didn’t have a chance to implement things that they wanted to. So, give us a chance. Hopefully you’re going to like what you see.”