Orlando City began hosting the Canadian Men’s National Team this week, as it prepares to take on Panama in an international friendly.
The MLS expansion club has undertaken the mission of making Orlando the “soccer capital of the South” per City Founder and President Phil Rawlins. That means more than just creating a competitive MLS team. It also includes bringing in high quality teams from around the world, such as the four teams from Brazil and Germany competing in January’s Florida Cup, as well as this week’s hosting of Team Canada.
The Canadians spent Wednesday out at Sylvan Lake Park in Seminole County, training for the Nov. 18 match against Panama in Central America. The weeklong training sessions began Sunday.
“We are delighted to host the Canadian Men’s National Team at our facilities here in Central Florida,” said Orlando City Founder and President Phil Rawlins. “As part of our partnership with Seminole County we promised to attract world class teams for training, further benefitting our local economy. Orlando City hosting the Canadian National Team training camp is further proof of the positive impact Major League Soccer is bringing to Seminole County.”
In August, Seminole County voted unanimously 5-0 in support of an agreement which secured Sylvan Lake Park as Orlando City’s newest training facility. In return, City agreed to build four new soccer fields for community use in Seminole County and create several new community soccer programs.
The Canadians seemed to like Orlando City’s practice grounds.
“For us it’s the appropriate place to do the majority of the camps because it’s a platform to fly to other countries, the weather is marvelous, and the city is very nice. So for us, it’s an excellent place,” said Canada Head Coach Benito Floro.
“The facilities are good and the pitches are good,” said Montreal Impact defender Karl Ouimette. “The temperature is obviously great, maybe it will be hot in the summer, but I think that it’s (Orlando City) going to be a good team to play.”
Orlando City has hosted multiple high-profile international clubs in Seminole County before, such as English Premier League side Stoke City, MLS Clubs D.C. United and Montreal Impact, Brazilian powerhouse Fluminense F.C., and recently the U.S. U-14 Girl’s National Team.
Some of Canada’s players had trained at Orlando facilities before, including Toronto FC star forward Dwayne De Rosario.
“A lot of teams that I’ve been on come here during the preseason, and the reason why is because they have great facilities and I think so far everything looks good,” De Rosario said.” I think there’s a buzz around the city about the team, and I’m just waiting for my purple sand.”
[Photo courtesy of Orlando City SC]