A few days ago I had the opportunity to talk about football and life in America with former Stoke City and now Orlando City player, Anthony Pulis.
TBR: Compared to playing in England and here in the States what are the major differences and similarities?
Anthony Pulis: The major difference is the climate and how it effects the game. The soccer season in the states goes through the summer while in England there is a break. The humidity and heat of the summer slow the pace of the game down, allows for more time on the ball. Players in America are also more athletic than players overseas. The age players can turn pro here is also different. I left school at the age of 15 to play, here players need to go through college and don’t end up becoming pro until around age 22.
The similarities are that it’s the same game. Same size pitch, two goals on each side. Teams here and there use the same formations, whether that be a 4-3-3 or whatever you like. Tactics are also very similar.
TBR: Your dad, Tony Pulis, managed you at Stoke during your spell there. How was playing for your father? Did it feel like you were being pushed more than other players?
AP: It was difficult playing under dad. First few weeks were the most difficult, you have to win over your fellow players more than the manager and coaches. So I just tried to keep my head down, work hard, and eventually I gained their respect when they saw I could play. It was a bit harder for me, because dad didn’t want to show any favoritism and have me in the team just because I was his son. I had to earn it.
TBR: It’s well known support for clubs both big and small overseas is huge, and here in the USA the MLS teams have started to gain a lot more support from their fanbases. Does it seem like the lower league teams here in the states have the same type of support as their MLS counterparts?
AP: Yeah, definitely. The Orlando fanbase gives great support. There were over 10,000 fans at the last two home matches. We have massive supporters groups that sit behind the goals and sing and chant all game long.
TBR: Orlando has been pushing for a MLS team for a while now, what makes this city a prime location for a team?
AP: There isn’t another major sports franchise in Orlando other than the Magic right now. Our attendance and fans make this a great place for a team. If they build the new stadium, which is planned to be in Downtown Orlando, it would be great. Our youth program is great too, we have lots of kids in the youth program and having the team be a major sports franchise in the city would have kids wanting to come to the games and telling their parents they want to come.
TBR: With Sporting Kansas City being your sister club how much do you think it has helped the promotion of Orlando City?
AP: It’s been a help and a hinderance. Obviously they have supplied us with some great players. Dom Dwyer came in on loan at the beginning of the season and was flying at the time, breaking all sorts of records, then he got called back and, let’s face it, we haven’t been the same team since. We also have other players that came in such as CJ Sapong, Kevin Ellis, and others. They were a great help, but CJ for example was with us for 3 or 4 games before being called back. So in that way it is both a help and a hinderance.