If it was up to them, the Orlando SeaWolves would be taking to the turf at the Silver Spurs Arena tonight. Yesterday. Now!
Alas, the team, its front office and Central Florida soccer fans will have to wait until Nov. 10, and Nov. 30 officially, to see the SeaWolves, a new member of the Major Arena Soccer League (MASL), play.
The team will host an exhibition against the Brazilian National Mini-Football Team on the 10th at 7 p.m., with the Colombian National team and Brazil’s Under-21 team as a 3:30 undercard.
The team will announce its coaching staff at an event at the Dave & Buster’s on International Drive Tuesday at 1 p.m. A training camp roster of players has been signed, and a handful were present at a fan meet and greet event Oct. 18 at the Silver Spurs Arena.
The guts of this team come from the Cedar Rapids Rampage, a franchise that Orlando General Manager Chris Kokalis was with last season before it ceased operations. He has signed forwards Gordy Gurson, Kenan Malicevic and Osvaldo Rojas, midfielder Victor France — a native Brazilian excited about playing his homeland in two weeks — goalie Rainer Hauss, defenders Yoshi Sandoval, Phibo Arriaga and Edwin Rojas from that roster.
“This is a new franchise with a lot of the same talent on the soccer side,” Kokalis said at the Fan Fest. “It was not a hard sell at all. The weather here is obviously amazing. We had a great run in Cedar Rapids (2015-18), but it’s a football community. To be in a soccer community, to see what Orlando City has built in this area, it’s huge for us.”
Then the roster takes on a local flavor. Lewis Neal, Tyler Turner, Luke Boden and Johnny Mendoza were part of Orlando City when it was a minor-league affiliate in the United Soccer League.
“I’m excited about this roster. I wish we could get going tomorrow,” Kokalis said. “There’s some frustration with the on-field (MLS) results in Orlando, I feel for them and I want them to succeed. With this roster, we won’t be that typical expansion team that takes a couple years to get going. I hand picked all of these guys myself.
“You can’t wait to get going, but on the business side still some loose ends to tie up, but it’s getting real. Players are reporting Nov. 1 and training camp is right around the corner. And some of the guys arrived early.”
Gurson is one of them; a Chicago native, he’s excited about being in Florida rather than the upper Midwest during the dead of winter.
“We just can’t wait to get together and get started. We’re ready,” he said during the Fan Fest. “I love it. I think this is going to be a great location for a new team. I hope I can help bring this team together into one family.”
He says fans will enjoy the fast pace of the indoor game, much like “hockey on turf” with its line-shift substitutions on the fly, man-advantage power play opportunities and goals by the handful, which he said the players coming directly from the outdoor game will have to get used to.
“It’s about mental toughness. In the indoor game you’re going to giving up goals, you accept it and keep your fast-paced,” Gurson said.
Orlando is France’s third MASL stop in less than a year — he was traded from the St. Louis Ambush, who the SeaWolves open the season against on Nov. 30, to Cedar Rapids midway through last season.
“I never imagined I’d be playing the indoor game years ago, but I love it,” he said. “For high-level players, it’s a good transition once you understand that it’s a different game.”
The MASL is the top level of indoor soccer in North America. Kokalis stresses that fact; that the SeaWolves aren’t part of a feeder system to another minor league.
“We play during a time when there’s a lull, when fans want to get their soccer fix,” he said. “We are affordable family fun. Tickets will start at $12. We put a good product on the field and a festive atmosphere in the stands, that takes care of itself. Then you make it affordable.”
The team will run beer specials and family packs, like four tickets, hot dogs and drinks for $50, and the like.
“There are people who see we’re an indoor league and say, ‘Prove it to us first.’ Well, Come see it and we’ll prove it.”