Orlando City officials will announce later this morning that the team will play host to the oldest club in the Premier League, Stoke City F.C. and 2-time former European Cup winners Nottingham Forest in July in a pair of friendlies at the Citrus Bowl. Both matches will be on Saturdays, which should help attendance, with Nottingham Forest on July 21st and Stoke City on July 28th.
2012 marks the second season that two Football Association teams from England are making the trip to "the city beautiful" to take on Orlando City who currently sit atop the USL PRO standings. Last year the Lions hosted Premier League sides Newcastle United and the Bolton Wanderers, with the Newcastle match drawing just under 11,000 to the Citrus Bowl.
We had reported two months ago that it looked like Stoke was a lock to play in Orlando this summer, the team had said they would be setting up training camp in the area and Orlando City's president, Phil Rawlins, is also on the board of directors at Stoke. Nottingham Forest was a bit of a surprise as a lot of people had assumed Swansea City would add another match to their tour and come down to Orlando. However, an article last week on a Forest supporters site quoted the coach as saying that they were going to play a match against Orlando and hopefully a second match against the Charleston Battery. Both teams will set up shop in town for two weeks as part of their tours, with Stoke having friendlies at Columbus and Kansas City in addition to Orlando.
So what do you need to know about Stoke City before the match? As mentioned, they are the oldest team in the (Barclays) Premier League in England, with the team being founded in 1863 in the town of Stoke-on-Trent. They are known as "the Potters" to their fans and they are been in top flight English football since 2008. Last season the Potters stumbled a bit from previous years and finished 14th in the standings, but look to rebuild for next season. Manager Tony Pulis, father of Orlando City midfielder Anthony Pulis, is looking at some off-season transfers to match-up with his current list of starters. Perhaps my favorite player, even though it pains me to say this, is Peter Crouch, he is 6'-7" but plays like he's 6'-20". He played his first season at Stoke last with less than expected results after his transfer from Tottenham. His height makes him nearly impossible to mark on corner and free kicks, where headers account for the bulk of his scoring. The Potters must recent honors came two seasons ago when they were runners-up to Manchester City in the FA Cup Final and last season when they made the Europa League Round of 32.
How about Nottingham Forest, isn't that where Robin Hood lives. You moron. Forest, as they are known by their fans, are former back-to-back winners of the European Cup, the precursor to UEFA Champions League, winning in 1979 and 1980. They have won the First, Second, and Third divisions of English football, the League Cup and FA Cup multiple times and were founding members of the Premier League in 1992. How's that for some history? You may also know the team from the fact that former Real Salt Lake star, Robbie Findley, transferred there last season where he had 25 appearances and 3 goals. I like the fact that the Forest supporters sometimes sing "You've Lost that Loving Feeling" (by the Righteous Brothers, Top Gun Theme) when their team scores to taunt the other team.
So the big question is how does Orlando stack up against these teams? Last year Orlando beat Newcastle, 1-0 on a late goal from Kevin Molino; this season went on to finish 5th in the Premier League and earn a spot in the Europa League next season; an impressive win for the team. Stoke will be a tough match-up, especially if they play the bulk of their first team players, that would be a very difficult win if the Lions could pull it off. As for Nottingham, Orlando matches up very well, and with the Lions attacking style of play they should cause trouble for Forest's backline. In my book I see an even split, 1 win and 1 loss in these matches. The bottom line is that both of these teams offer an exciting style of play and should make for great matches to watch. With both being on weekends perhaps the attendance record can be broken again this season!