MLS newcomers Orlando ban fans after violence erupts in derby clash


Orlando City Soccer Club have cracked down hard on their so-called supporters who ran riot in a USL Pro vs. NASL clash with Florida neighbors the Tampa Bay Rowdies last Sunday.

Four men were arrested, two for disorderly intoxication and two for battery on a law enforcement officers, as Orlando’s fans repeatedly tried to intimidate and entice members of the Rowdies supporters group, Ralph’s Mob, into starting fights during the I-4 Championship game which Orlando won 3-2. The fans in questions jumped barriers to get at Tampa Bay fans at Al Lang Field, while small fires were also started as flares and fireworks were let off. See pictures of some of the fighting, here.

Police have since released the names of those involved as Stephen Marva, 24, shoved a police officer as he tried to start a fight, then Charles Tolman, 30, hit a police officer with a flag. Jimmy Galvez, 28, and Jared Ambrose, 24 were charged with disorderly intoxication. Marva, Tolman, Galvez and Ambrose have been banned from all future Orlando City games pending the outcome of their court cases.

In an open letter to fans, which you can read in its entirety below, Orlando City’s joint-owner and Chairman Phil Rawlins spoke of how the “incidents reflected very poorly on the club” and then banned all current Supporters Groups (The Ruckus & Iron Lion Firm) until they sign a new “Code of Conduct” agreement with the club that adheres MLS fan rules.

Acts of hooliganism likes this should not be popping up anywhere in the world, let alone a soccer match in a civilized nation such as the USA. In other countries violence in the stands at soccer games, plus in and around the stadiums, is still a huge issue. Let’s hope this doesn’t spread to the U.S. as we all love the passion MLS and the lower leagues are creating, but there’s no place for scenes like this to play out.

Kudos to Orlando for nipping these despicable actions in the bud and not tolerating any of this nonsense. They have proved once again that even if a few of their fans let them down, Orlando will be a great addition to the MLS family from the next March onwards.

At last Sunday’s game in St. Petersburg a small portion of our fans were involved in a number of incidents that reflected very poorly on our Club and entire fanbase. The Club wants to make it abundantly clear that it will not tolerate any such behavior, will not be associated with fans who think this type of behavior is acceptable, and takes the situation extremely seriously.

Orlando City is proud of the reputation it has built in the community and will not allow a small number of fans involved in unsavory behavior to tarnish our organization. For these reasons the Club, following consultation with local law enforcement and Major League Soccer, has taken immediate action which includes (but is not limited to) the following steps:

  • The four fans arrested have been suspended from all future Orlando City games pending the outcome of legal proceedings;
  • Both current Supporter Groups – The Ruckus & Iron Lion Firm – have been indefinitely suspended pending their agreement to a new Fan Code of Conduct which follows MLS Supporter Group guidelines;
  • All privileges associated with being a Supporter Group (e.g., use of drums, flags, large banners, etc.) are temporarily suspended. The Club is in the process of implementing new guidelines to become a “Recognized Supporter Group” which will involve privileges (such as use of drums, flags, large banners, etc.) for those groups that comply in the future;
  • A copy of the new Fan Code of Conduct is being distributed to all fans.

We extend our apologies on behalf of our fans to the Rowdies organization for the events of last Sunday. The Club has also written a letter to the Tampa Bay Rowdies expressing the same.

In closing, as a Club, we have worked tirelessly over the last four seasons to be a model organization on and off the field. We are very proud of what we have accomplished with the support of our fans, partners, players and staff. We know that the vast majority of our supporters already fully comply with the Fan Code of Conduct, love the game of soccer, and are passionate fans of Orlando City. We will not allow our good name to be sullied by the actions of a few. We will, without hesitation, do everything we can to continue upholding the Club’s core values as we transition into Major League Soccer.

Andrija Novakovich: “It’s a good feeling” to earn USMNT call up

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As the U.S. Men’s National Team continues its transition towards qualifying for the 2022 World Cup, a new face has emerged for the Stars and Stripes ahead of its upcoming friendly against Paraguay.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Kekuta Manneh to roster ahead of Paraguay friendly ]

Striker Andrija Novakovich earned his first call up on Sunday when U.S. manager Dave Sarachan named the Telstar player in his squad, which will play the South American side on March 27 in Cary, North Carolina.

The 21-year-old forward has been nothing short of brilliant in his first season with the Dutch second-division club, scoring 18 league goals for Telstar — who sit fourth in the Eerste Divisie.

“It’s a good feeling to get the call-up and hopefully it will be a very good experience,” Novakovich said. “They [the U.S. national team] sent the club and myself an email saying that I was on the preliminary roster and we were just waiting, and then this week I got another email saying I was on the final roster.

“I called my Mum right away and she’s proud, she’s happy.

“I’m just there for the experience — of course I want to play, of course I want to get the opportunity and hopefully that will happen, It’s an honour to be called up and I’m very proud and very happy.”

Novakovich, a Wisconsin native, is currently on loan at Telstar from English Championship side Reading.

The young USMNT player moved to England back in 2014 to join Reading’s academy, despite originally planning on playing for Marquette University following high school.

Despite this being his first senior-team call up, Novakovich is familiar with the U.S. national team setup. Novakovich has previously represented the Under-17, U-18 and U-20 national teams.

Lionel Messi suggests 2018 will be his final World Cup

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Lionel Messi’s track record as a professional has encompassed just about every imaginable accolade, but one that has eluded he and his Argentina national teammates is winning the World Cup.

[ MORE: Kekuta Manneh added to USMNT squad ahead of Paraguay friendly ]

The Barcelona star has played a significant role for the Albiceleste since debuting for Argentina back in 2005, and even helped guide the South American power to the 2014 World Cup final, however, harsh criticism from local media could push Messi and many of his teammates towards not returning to the national team.

This wouldn’t be the first time Messi has contemplated international retirement, though.

Following the 2016 Copa America Centenario final — which resulted in a Chilean victory over Messi’s Argentina — the Blaugrana attacker announced his retirement from the Albiceleste. While he has since returned to the international scene, it appears Messi is once again considering a halt from representing Argentina.

“It’s just the feeling that this group of players has. It seems that having reached three straight finals didn’t mean anything,” Messi told La Cornisa TV. “Obviously, we depend on results and unfortunately, we reached three finals and we didn’t win them.

“A lot was said about us. The criticisms hurt back then. But the demand is going to be there for this group to get it done. We think that if we don’t do it, we are going to get a lot more [criticism] and we are not going to have another possibility.”

Argentina has fallen in three consecutive major finals dating back to 2014, including two Copa America competitions and the World Cup.

Messi says these shortcomings have weighed heavily on him, and that winning a World Cup is still the one goal that has left him hungry.

“I’ve cried many times for lost finals,” the Barca forward said. “I cried for not being able to fulfill the dream of our nation. My desire is the same as every Argentine, which is to lift the World Cup.”

He continued: “To win a World Cup is not easy. It doesn’t happen often. The last time we did things well but due to minor details we didn’t get it done. We are very enthusiastic and eager to lift the cup for our country. I hope God helps us and it happens.”

Messi has scored 61 international goals in his international career for Argentina, the most of any player from his native country.

Brazil to play Austria in final warmup game for World Cup

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VIENNA (AP) The Austrian soccer federation says Brazil will play its final warmup game for the World Cup against Austria on June 10, a week before the five-time world champions take on Switzerland in their Group E opener.

[ MORE: USMNT adds Kekuta Manneh to roster ahead of friendly ]

The match will be played in Vienna at Ernst Happel Stadium, the same venue where both teams last met in a 2014 friendly, which Brazil won 2-1.

Brazil has further build-up games against World Cup host Russia (March 23), world champion Germany (March 27) and Croatia (June 3) ahead of the June 14-July 15 tournament, where it also meets Costa Rica and Serbia in the group stage.

Austria failed to qualify for the World Cup but will also play friendlies against Russia on May 30 and Germany on June 2.

Fiorentina renames training ground for Davide Astori

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Fiorentina’s training ground has been renamed “Centro Sportivo Davide Astori” in honor of the club’s deceased captain.

[ MORE: Manneh added to USMNT squad ]

Davide Astori died in his team hotel room on March 4, shocking the Italian soccer world and triggering tributes around the world of soccer.

The respected Italian national team center back has had number retired by both Fiorentina and former club Cagliari.

Thousands packed a Florence piazza to salute the player en route to his funeral, and the club won its first match after his passing following vivid pre- and in-match tributes.