On Thursday afternoon Orlando City officially launched their new USL side, Orlando City B, which will play at Eastern Florida State College’s Titan Soccer Complex in Melbourne. Earlier this year the Club announced that the head coach of the returning USL team will be former Lion Anthony Pulis.
While this is the first head coaching role for the 31-year-old Pulis, it’s been a long time coming. He is the son of successful Welsh manager Tony Pulis, who currently leads Premier League side West Bromwich Albion, and the young Pulis says coaching has always been a part of his future plans.
“It was always a path I wanted to go down,” Pulis said recently. “It happened a little bit earlier than I wanted it to if I’m completely honest, but I’m really pleased I made the decision because I think if I’d have gone somewhere else and carried on playing, I wouldn’t have had the opportunity that just came up now.”
MLS-owned USL sides often employ coaches that are familiar with the club and its playing style in order to develop players for the senior team. Orlando City is no different. Pulis came to Orlando from England in 2012 and played for Heath until the end of the 2014 season. Soon after that season, Pulis retired and was offered a coaching role.
Over his three years playing under Heath, he made quite an impression on the Lions’ boss. “He’s got a great understanding of the game,” Heath said about Pulis following his appointment. “He’s obviously got a very famous father who’s a coach and he obviously listens. He’s very close to his dad and is picking up a lot of things.”
As for Pulis’ plan for his new side, he has no doubt of its purpose. “It’s going to be a developmental side,” the new coach says. “It’s going to be a young team. But at the same time we want to win games and be competitive in that league. But if we’re going to produce players, which my job description is going to be to produce players that are ready to hopefully go and make the jump and play in the first team for Adrian, it's pointless for me to play them in a completely different way to the MLS team because then when they go with Adrian and he asks them to do something and they don't understand exactly what he wants them to do, that completely defeats the object of what we're trying to accomplish.”
“I’m going to try to coach them in exactly the same style of play as Adrian,” he continues. “That’s the whole point of it. That they understand the system and they know their roles within the system so hopefully if they do get bumped up, or promoted to the first team, then they know exactly what’s expected of them.”
It’s that kind of understanding of Heath and his system, as well as the purpose of this new team that makes Pulis the ideal choice to lead this expansion of Orlando City SC. Under Pulis’ guidance, the Club is now prepared to develop its own players for the MLS side, giving them a clear pathway from the academy to the senior team.