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Orlando City parts ways with club GM Niki Budalić

In an interview with Pro Soccer USA, Niki Budalić said he felt Orlando City was moving in a positive direction.

Orlando City SC has officially parted with with General Manager Niki Budalić, but club officials don’t expect to be without a general manager for long. 

A club spokesperson confirmed to Pro Soccer USA Budalić will be replaced and the process to bring in a new general manager is expected to move quickly. 

That new GM has work to do. An Orlando Pride spokesperson confirmed the new GM will oversee the hiring of a head coach for Orlando’s NWSL side. The Pride have been without a head coach since the club and former head coach Tom Sermanni mutually agreed to part ways at the end of the season. 

Budalić has overseen roster moves in recent years and was in charge of the process that resulted in hiring Orlando City SC’s new director of scouting, Ricardo Moreira. Budalic faced harsh criticism from supporters after Orlando City’s dismal (8-22-4, 28 points) season, the worst in the club’s MLS history. 

The club underwent a massive roster overhaul prior to the 2018 season. The season started with promise, and the Lions went on a club-record six-match win streak before crashing back to Earth. Jason Kreis was fired midseason as the team’s head coach and the Lions won just two of their final 25 games. 

During the time winger Justin Meram, a key addition in the offseason, was traded back to Columbus Crew SC after a rough six months with Orlando City. Midfielder Sacha Kljestan, another key addition, said big changes need to be made in order for the Lions to be successful. 

“What I would say is we understand their perspective,” Budalić said during an October interview with Pro Soccer USA.

“We understand the passion they have for this club and this team. We understand the urgency. We understand the demand to improve. I know that James has been a really good leader in trying to establish that demand of expectations. That’s cascading through the organization, as well, in soccer operations. We are working hard to change the situation and we feel confident we’ll get it right.”

The deadline for Orlando City to announce roster option decisions is Monday. A club spokesperson confirmed decisions regarding contract options were made by Budalić and head coach James O’Connor. O’Connor will oversee player decisions while the club works to bring on a new general manager. 

“I would like to thank Niki for these past three seasons with us and wish him the best in his future endeavors,” Orlando City CEO Alex Leitão said in a statement released by the club. “We start a new year with many projects to look forward to, including strengthening our soccer operations department for the MLS and NWSL teams, opening a new training complex, as well as kicking off the season with a revamped Academy structure and OCB sitting at the top of the player development pyramid in the USL League One.

“We welcome all 2019 has to offer with open arms and look forward to a great year with our staff, players and supporters.”

Budalic had been involved in club operations during the offseason. He attended business convention SoccerEX in Miami 10 days ago with CEO Alex Leitao and other Orlando City executives. While there, he served as the club’s representative and announced its new partnership with VfL Wolfsburg.

“I want to thank Alex and Majority Owner Flavio Augusto da Silva for the opportunity to work in this organization these past three years, and wish the Club all the best in the future,” Budalic said in a statement.

Budalić first joined the club in January 2016 as assistant general manager and was named general manager in December of that year. Before to joining Orlando City SC, Budalicć was the director of soccer operations for Premier Development League team Kitchener-Waterloo United FC and player agent with Beswicks sports.

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