With the sun out and players covered in dirt from practice, you would think it was midseason; the only thing to give it away was the crisp 60-degree weather. With the regular season just over a month away, Monday’s team practice, the first of the year, gave a glimpse into what’s to come for City fans in the 2016 season. This included local draft pick, Hadji Barry, new Goalkeeper Joe Bendik, and veteran Defender, Kevin Alston.
Hadji Barry, the 13th overall draft pick for Orlando City, is a local product from UCF. Originally from Guinea, the 23-year old Barry says coming to play with Orlando City has been like “living the dream.” Exuding confidence in his first practice with the team, Barry says he’s always seen himself playing for Orlando and being “part of the family.” Barry also came off as humble and appreciative, saying he will be working hard everyday, waiting for his opportunity. Like many players who come to play at the Citrus Bowl, Barry says, “the atmosphere is unbelievable and [he’s] excited to be apart of it.”
Making his way to the media, Joe Bendik looked as if he just played a full game. Covered in dirt and sweat, Bendik was making a strong statement to be the starting Goalkeeper for Orlando. Bendik said he is, “passionate and plays with a lot of heart.” His appearance seemed to match that statement. Coming into Orlando from Toronto, Bendik looks to make “a fresh start” here and with Orlando fans. Bendik was “blown away by the amount of people in the stands and how loud it was,” when he played at the Citrus Bowl as an opposing player. He says this Orlando team is special and the playoffs are an attainable goal. Bendik said he is excited to use the momentum from the end of last season and looks forward to competing and pushing each other.
Another offseason acquisition, Defender Kevin Alston, who spent seven years with New England says he’s, “ready for a change, grateful for this opportunity, and hungry.” Alston will no doubt bring in veteran experience to Orlando. “I’m ready to play my part…whatever my role is,” said Alston. He also noted the tradition here in Orlando and says they have “all the tools” to make it to the playoffs. “We have a goal and we’re going to work hard everyday.”