Neal In Depth

In Depth | Lewis Neal’s Versatility a Huge Asset for Adrian Heath

Utility player Lewis Neal has a long history with the Lions.

When Orlando City debuted as a USL franchise in 2011, Neal scored the Club’s 1st goal in a friendly match against the Philadelphia Union. Neal found himself playing regularly that season, making a lasting impression on Lions’ Head Coach, Adrian Heath.

Later on in his career, the English midfielder was offered a contract to join Major League Soccer’s DC United in 2012—which proved to be a great transition for Neal, who played regularly for DC throughout the next three seasons.

Orlando City saw an opportunity to bring Neal back to Central Florida during the 2014 MLS expansion draft, and they did not hesitate to make the move, selecting him as the Club’s 9th overall pick.

“For us it was a great pick up. The fact that we had him before we knew what we were getting. He knows the system, been a great professional, has been a great role model in the dressing room with the younger guys, and more importantly, he can play three or four really good positions for us,” Heath stated after the expansion draft.  

While most players are solely responsible to learn and adapt to one particular position, Neal’s areas of expertise extend across the pitch—from left, right, central and defensive midfield positions.

“I try to play to the best of my ability,” asserted Neal. “Over the last five or six years I have been able to adapt to playing different positions…Your football knowledge and experience gets better and better each year. I’m always looking to improve, but it gets to a point where you can play one or two more positions and do your job for the team.”

Neal’s ability and desire to contribute to the team in as many ways as he can doesn’t go unnoticed by his teammates.

“He works really hard in training and in games,” praised goalkeeper Tally Hall.

“There have been multiple times in a game where the team needed a boost and needed to step up; Lewis led the charge, and that is really big. It is difficult sometimes the way the game goes and you always need a player like him on the field. He has continued to push us forward the entire year, and I expect these last two games that he will be leading the charge as well.”

His combination of leadership and ability makes him an easy name for Coach Heath to pencil on the team sheet.

“He understands the game,” commented Heath. “When you can play three or four positions, coaches will generally use you in three or four positions. Lewis is so intelligent, and that is the biggest thing. He gets the roles and responsibilities of virtually every role on the field.”

Neal’s work ethic, technical skill and soccer IQ make him ideally unique. When there is a circumstance that keeps another player out of a match, chances are Neal can fill that role.

That type of ability is desired by all clubs around the world. Fortunately for the Lions, they have that pivotal figure in Lewis Neal.

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