Just 11 days removed from their first-ever game at Silver Spurs Arena, the Orlando SeaWolves Tuesday officially named the man that will lead them into Major Arena Soccer League play, and his staff.
Tom Traxler is a familiar face and voice in the Central Florida professional and amateur soccer scene. He has appeared on Orlando City television and radio broadcasts since 2012, founded and owns United World Soccer in the Florida Mall and has spent the last 12 years as head coach of the Winter Park High boys soccer the past 12 seasons.
His familiarity and coaching background are two of the many facets of Traxler’s repertoire that sparked SeaWolves General Manager Chris Kokalis’ interest when the two first met and something that stuck with him as his coaching search began.
“We put out a nationwide search for a head coaching candidate and I narrowed it down to probably six candidates that really fit what I was looking for, as far as someone to work with the guys on a daily basis,” Kokalis said. “One thing I like about Tom that’s unique is that he may not be the most qualified candidate as far as indoor experience, but his desire and his willingness to become a better coach is there.”
Traxler said the journey to become coach began with one phone call when Kokalis first moved his MASL team from Cedar Rapids, Iowa to Orlando.
“Chris and I met through a mutual friend of ours,” he said. “He wanted to pick my brain on bringing a professional franchise to Orlando. We started a dialogue and that dialogue just built and built over time and finally we started talking about coaching and philosophy and the indoor game.
“Indoor is something that I’ve watched and grew up with since the mid 80’s, so Chris and I started talking about that and coaching philosophy, then one thing led to another and I got a call one day and he asked me, ‘did I want to be the head coach of the Orlando SeaWolves?’”
It was an easy question to answer, Traxler said, when he looked at the “exciting roster of players”.
“There’s some with great indoor experience, some with no indoor experience, but those without indoor experience are smart and they’re technical. After I thought about it and consulted with some close friends and family members, I decided it was something I wanted to do.”
Two other members of staff were announced Tuesday: Assistant Coach Piotr Sliwa and Performance Coach Charles “C.J.” Gonsalves. Sliwa, who has extensive playing experience in the MASL with the St. Louis Ambush and Florida Tropics, had already been signed as a goalkeeper in May, and is someone Traxler said he expects to “lean heavily on.”
“Piotr will be an unbelievable resource for me,” Traxler said, “Good goalkeeper, vastly experienced in MASL. I’ll be working very closely with him in training sessions, development, as a sounding board and as someone to challenge me. The last thing I want is people around me that just agree with me and nod their head. Nobody’s the smartest guy in the room.”
Traxler’s first test comes Nov. 10, when the SeaWolves host the Brazilian National Mini-Football Team at 7 p.m. The MASL season kicks off on Nov. 30 when Orlando hosts St. Louis on Nov. 30 at 7:35 p.m.