Dual role as Orlando City player-coach energizes Ian Fuller
Ian Fuller plays as a midfielder and is an assistant coach for Lions
One of Orlando City player-coach Ian Fuller's goals is to be a head coach in Major League Soccer. (Phelan M. Ebenhack, Special to the Sentinel)
With the Orlando City Soccer Club, he is both.
Fuller is a midfielder and assistant coach for the Lions (9-1-2), who will host the Harrisburg City Islanders at 7:30 Friday night at the Florida Citrus Bowl.
"When the opportunity arose in Charleston to become an assistant and player, I jumped at it," Fuller, 32, said of how he got his start in both roles in 2010. "My interest in wanting to be a coach [stood out], and my coach thought about whether I was a good leader and portrayed the right messages to the guys."
After a year of coaching and playing for the Charleston Battery, Fuller was given the same chance last year at Orlando City.
Lions head coach Adrian Heath spent six years as a player-coach with three clubs in England. His knowledge of the dual roles' demands, including staying fit enough to play, have made Fuller's job easier.
"The biggest bit of advice I gave him was, 'Be honest with the players, and pick and choose very carefully what you come back to tell me,' " Heath said. "I don't want to know what they do from Monday to Friday, within reason."
Fuller, who has two goals and one assist this season, admits he demands a lot from his teammates.
For a lot of Orlando City's younger players, that was a tough adjustment. But the distinction between friend and coach comes naturally to players who spend time with Fuller away from the field, such as defender Erik Ustruck.
Ustruck golfs and goes to dog races with Fuller.
"I've been around long enough where I can distinguish between the two and can draw a fine line between the two," Ustruck said. "When he's off the field, I know he's a good friend of mine, and when he's on the field, I respect him as a coach and also as a fellow teammate."
Following multiple injuries last year, Fuller said this may be his final season as a player. With a goal of eventually being a head coach in Major League Soccer, Fuller is getting closer to coaching full time.
That excites him.
"The carpenter loves every day because he gets to see what's being built with his hands," Fuller said. "It's similar in soccer. To see a player like [midfielder] Kevin Molino grow from the day he got here till now and will continue to grow is pretty impressive."