Strange as it may seem to those unaware, Stoke City’s forthcoming pre-season friendly against Orlando City makes more sense than it initially appears.
This is perhaps the only time you will ever read this sentence, but Stoke have got many connections to Orlando. No, really, stick with me on this one: while the two places are, let’s be nice here, a little bit different from each other (I think I got away with that), the two football clubs are pretty well intertwined with each other for a number of reasons.
Stoke director Phil Rawlins is also the owner and majority shareholder of Orlando, having seen the potential for football in the sunshine state and moved his business interests from Austin, Texas with the hope of securing MLS football for the USL Pro Championship side within the next five years.
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Not only that, but former Potters favourite Adrian Heath is head coach and Anthony Pulis, son of Stoke manager Tony, is on the books (and I’m sure he is there on merit, too).
If that gives a similar feeling of bewliderment to the news the other year that Swindon was to become twinned with Disney World, then at least it makes sense for Stoke to make the long trip to face Orlando and besides, if you’re in the area and fancy going, you get free admission to Legoland and Legoland Water Park if you buy a ticket for the match. And they say football fans are treated badly these days.
Stoke have been in America for the best part of a week now as they prepare for another season in the Premier League, with boss Pulis making no bones about the fact he sees the trip as a fitness exercise and nothing more.
The Welshman is running his players into the ground over in the heat and humidity of the States and it certainly showed in their previous pre-season outing, a 2-1 loss to Columbus Crew.
The defeat was hardly a shock, though, given that Pulis stated beforehand that the Stoke squad would undergo two training sessions before the match even kicked off. For Pulis, results and performances are inconsequential at this stage.
It may have you tempted by the 5/1 on Orlando offered by bwin, who make Stoke the 11/25 favourites, with the draw at 3/1.
Given that Pulis has had the players in for three sessions a day this week and will again train them before the match, odds-on about Stoke isn’t going to interest me, even though Orlando’s standard is not exactly too high.
That said, the Florida side won the 2011 USL Pro Championship and are leading this year’s table by 12 points. And with the club gearing up for the MLS, they are not going to be pushovers.
So knowing what I know about Pulis’ priorities on this trip, I’d advise a very small play on the Orlando/draw double chance at 29/10.
A full-throttle Stoke would obviously have too much for their American opponents, but Pulis isn’t bothered, so you’d be mad to back them at odds-on.
It certainly isn’t one to get your mortgage on, but that 29/20 is a reasonable enough shout.
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