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Former Orlando City SC first team midfielder and 2015 Clubman of the Year Lewis Neal will return to the Club, signing a two-year contract for an extended role with the organization.
Effective immediately, Neal will join Orlando City B as a veteran leader for City’s young and talented players, become a member of the Academy coaching staff, and assume a broadcast role for television projects related to the Club.
“We have been talking with Lewis for several weeks about his continuing role with the Orlando City family and are delighted that he has chosen to stay with Orlando and further his career here,” said Founder and President Phil Rawlins. “Dating back to our time together at Stoke City, Lewis has always been a model professional. His approach and dedication to the game will serve as a fantastic example for our up and coming young players.”
Neal’s ties to the organization dates back to the start of his professional career, which began as a 19-year-old playing for his hometown team Stoke City – where Rawlins was a member of the board. After climbing through Stoke’s youth ranks, Neal made 70 first-team appearances in five seasons for the Potters, leading to an extensive career in the English leagues.
Following his time in England, Neal officially joined the Orlando City family when he transitioned stateside in 2011 to join Rawlins and Orlando City for its opening USL campaign.
Upon arrival, the Englishman was quick to mark his name in Club history, scoring the first-ever goal in the team’s inaugural season when he finished a stunning free-kick against the Philadelphia Union at the Orlando Citrus Bowl.
That same season, Neal was an integral part of the team’s highly successful campaign, which included a Regular Season Championship and a USL PRO Championship, leading to a contract offer from MLS side D.C. United.
In three seasons with D.C., Neal made 53 appearances, winning an Eastern Conference Championship in 2014. In addition, he scored the lone goal against Real Salt Lake in the 2013 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Championship, securing the team’s third Open Cup trophy.
With Orlando City officially joining MLS in 2015, Neal and the Club were re-united when head coach Adrian Heath selected the midfielder in the Expansion Draft. Neal featured consistently for Heath in the team’s opening MLS season, logging 1,509 minutes in 21 games played for the Lions. For his efforts on and off the field, he was named Clubman of the Year by his peers at the 2015 Orlando City Foundation Gala.