KISSIMMEE — Luiz Muzzi had a vision when he was hired as Orlando City’s executive vice president of soccer operations in 2018.
He wanted a facility where the club could integrate its academy players and the first team. A pipeline of sorts. His vision became a reality on Friday.
Orlando City unveiled its official training ground during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at Heritage Park in Osceola County.
The 20-acre facility features four soccer pitches, three natural grass and one artificial. Inside the facility, there is a training room that has hot tubs and a cryotherapy chamber and an anti-gravity treadmill.
There is a weight and fitness room with treadmills, squat racks and bicycles. A meal room allows players to get their nutrition after a training session.
The locker room mimics the home locker room at Exploria Stadium with the Lions’ crest in the middle of the room.
There is the Audi Performance Room, where new coach Óscar Pareja will be able to review film and layout tactics for the Lions’ next match.
And there is a players’ lounge with a foosball table, a pool table, a ping-pong table and two PlayStation 4s.
“Game changer,” is how CEO Alex Leitão described the facility. “You can ask the coaches and the players what a difference it makes.”
Muzzi said the facility has everything a player would want. It’s not just where first-team players can hone their skills.
The facility is where Orlando City B and the Orlando City development academy will also train. Orlando City B will be playing its home games at Osceola County Stadium, a 5,400 seat venue that used to be the Houston Astros’ spring-training ballpark.
It’s the first time the organization will be under the same pyramid at the same place.
“It’s something that we’ve been dreaming about for quite a while,” Muzzi said. “And the fact that we have this beautiful facility and everything that we asked for we have here. It’s just an unbelievable feeling. I can’t wait to get started.”
As MLS continues to grow and expand, teams are continuing to find ways to provide more for their players and coaches.
They want to be trendsetters and be on the cutting-edge when it comes to facilities. Muzzi said the new training ground and its amenities puts the Lions among the top-tier clubs in MLS when it comes to facilities.
“I think we are a step ahead,” he said. “A lot of clubs are making investments. MLS is growing overall. It’s not only us. The league is just growing to a level that if you looked at this 25 years ago when the league started, nobody would have imagined that we would be here today.”
Muzzi and the rest of the front-office staff will use the facility as an advantage when trying to lure new players. Muzzi said clubs who are playing in the Champions League in Europe or in Copa Libertadores in South America do not have what Orlando City now has in Kissimmee.
The Lions begin preseason training on Monday and the team is still searching for its first playoff appearance. No coach has lasted more than a year and a half at the helm.
But the facility provides a ton for Pareja to work with. And both Muzzi and Leitão recognize the urgency there is now for the club to turn its fortunes around.
“They have everything to be successful and to work hard to get to their final goal, our final goal, which is winning the title,” Muzzi said.
“Win,” Leitão said was the goal this season as he walked off following his interview.