The huge smile on Coach Adrian Heath's face as he addressed the standing-room only media conference let you know exactly what he felt about the official start of preseason and the next step in the Orlando City journey. (Hint: he's very excited)
After leading the inaugural MLS training session that morning, and getting to run the rule over a few of his players for the very first time, I am not surprised. The morning training session was a culmination of four years of hard work by Heath and the front office and now he is going to get his reward: coaching a young group of high caliber players in Orlando's first season in MLS.
"Obviously I am delighted to be here," said Heath. "It has been a great four years since we have been in Orlando. For me, really culminating in today. As I have said before, a lot of people of thought it was a bit of a pipe dream that we were going to bring MLS to Orlando. But not only have we done it, but judging by the response, it's been very well received."
So how did that first session feel? Well for the coach, who is entering into his 37th preseason, he felt a range of emotions -- nervous, excited, and, above all, thrilled to be doing what he loves to do, even though he took it easy on his new charges on day one.
"We have not really done anything explosive today, nothing really dynamic," Heath said. "Everybody's being working at maybe 70%, but the fact that the Brazilian tour hasn't gone ahead actually has been a blessing in disguise for me -- maybe not for the financial people in the club, but certainly for me -- it gives me more time to work with the players, which is going to be something really important to us moving forward."
Heath highlighted that the coming weeks will be about getting all of the players up to the same level of fitness, and getting them to work together as a team. The coach explained that this extra time together will also be beneficial for the team as the players get to know one another and their new manager.
Adrian Heath sometimes yells. (photo by Orlando City SC)
"It's trying at times," said Heath. "We have a few guys who can't speak a word of English. We have guys who can speak English who still don't understand me for my accent. Kaka speaks about five languages, I think, so he's okay. Football is the world's language and with my limited bit of Spanish and with the players who can speak to two or three languages, we'll get by."
However, if that doesn't work?
"Generally, the louder you shout normally gets the message across as well," said the coach. "Certain swear words that are the same in anybody's language."
Heath went on to say that preseason games will be important to help players to know their roles and responsibilities, with or without the ball, but that the first preseason games will be "experimental" in tactics, and as preseason progresses he will start to sort out his starting XI.
When asked whether or not the team could get to the MLS playoffs, Heath highlighted that there have been past successes, and Kaka saying Orlando could win the MLS Supercup in the first season increases expectations, but that no one puts more pressure on themselves than him. He reiterated the OCSC party line that the club is "not here to make up the numbers."
When questioned about the young age of his squad, Heath pointed out that many of his younger guys are hungry and trying to make a name for themselves in the game and that Orlando City has the types of players surrounding them that can help pull them along.
"The fact that we've got so many (young players) that play for their national team, I think bodes well for us," Heath said. "And I think also that the experienced players that we've got within the group, Kaka and Aurelien Collin and Amobi Okugu, and as i say, we are hoping to bring another one or two to add to that. I think we've got a good mixture.
"You know, these guys are physically capable of playing at this level and mentally they might not think they are, but my job is to make them, convince them that they can cope at this level. And I've always been of the mind that if you're good enough, you're old enough and i think that a few of these will prove that."
Overall, Heath's Media Day remarks were very positive about his new squad and its chances of MLS success this season. And when you review the fact that this was based upon only two hours of preseason training, the outlook is good for Orlando City SC.