The Columbus Crew may have held San Jose scoreless on their visit to Ohio Saturday evening, but the Earthquakes were not completely shutout over the weekend. Just a shade under a thousand miles due south from Crew Stadium, forward Matt Luzunaris was finding the back of the net for his new club Orlando City SC in a pair of matches at the Citrus Bowl.
On loan to the USL Professional Division side for the remainder of their summer schedule, Luzunaris has made an immediate impact with the Lions, having scored a goal in each of his two appearances. His first tally came in a 2-1 regular season victory against the visiting Rochester Rhinos, when the striker sparked the Lions comeback from a one goal deficit with a 38th minute header. Just one night later, in an international friendly with EPL side Bolton Wanderers, Luzunaris scored the only goal for Orlando City in a 3-1 loss to U.S. international Stu Holden’s club team.
Orlando City SC competes in the third tier of the American professional soccer pyramid, and is enjoying a successful inaugural season in Central Florida. The Lions started out as the Austin Aztex in 2008, but were relocated and subsequently sold to local investors in the Orlando market. The team is currently pacing the USL PRO standings with 42 points from 21 matches and a commanding 9 point lead in the American Division.
With Luzunaris earning few minutes to impress the Earthquakes coaching staff through the first half of is rookie MLS season, the decision to send him on loan to Orlando City should benefit both parties. Having attended the University of Central Florida in Orlando, his return is also a homecoming for the 22-year old striker. After playing at UCF in 2007, Luzunaris embarked for a professional career in Europe, before returning stateside earlier this year to sign with MLS and San Jose.
The Lions have four games remaining on their schedule, including another international friendly with visiting Newcastle United of the EPL, to close out their regular season. While Luzunaris will be available for all four matches, his eligibility for the postseason is still to be determined. With the Earthquakes scheduled to play just twice in the MLS Reserve League over that time, the chance to get the rookie striker more playing time with Orlando City makes sense.
(Photo crop: Cassie Armstrong, orlandosentinel.com)