With two preseason games under his team's belt, Orlando City SC Head Coach Adrian Heath has gotten a look at most of his presumed starters for close to 90 minutes under game conditions. Only Brek Shea (international duty), Designated Player Bryan Rochez (late return from international duty) and still-not-officially-signed defender Paulo Andre remain, among those who figure to play significant minutes and have yet to play with the team.
After yesterday's 4-0 win over an FC Dallas side consisting mainly of young players, reserves and trialists, Heath said he was pleased with some of what he saw.
"I thought the last 15 minutes were quite good," he said. "We've obviously still got an awful long way to go. We're nowhere near as sharp as we'd like. We're not as good in possession. We're not as good out of possession at this moment in time. But that's what the preseason is for. It's to iron all those little problems out and hopefully when it comes around to show time, then we're ready."
Changing the Shape?
It's still too early to know what the Lions will look like when all their pieces of the puzzle are back and in place. But the Gaffer is trying to figure out where to put all the pieces, even if he can't see the full picture on the box.
"We played the same shape in a couple of games. We'll probably tinker with that a little bit at the weekend to see one or two people in different positions; maybe bring an extra midfield player in there as well," Heath said. "This is what this time of year is for, to try to work with the group and see what's best for the group. It's common knowledge I like playing 4-2-3-1. If 4-3-3 becomes the better shape and system, then we maybe look at that, because we have to work with what we've got. I'm not silly enough and stupid enough to think that's the only way to play football. We've got to get the best out of our group."
Paterson Looks the Part
One of the key battles of preseason may already be over. Rochez hasn't played for Orlando City yet and veteran striker Martin Paterson has looked hungry in his minutes so far.
"He likes to run in behind and he always looks dangerous," Heath offered after yesterday's win. "He always looks like he's going to score a goal. He was a little bit disappointed with his hold-up play today, which will get better. But it's early days for everybody."
We'll have a story up later today about the striker battle.
Finding the right shape is obviously important, as is building team chemistry. Heath's squad has started slowly in its first two games, which isn't unexpected. But as the first two games have progressed, the team has gotten better and a lot of team chemistry simply comes down to communication. When you have a group of players who speak disparate native tongues, it can be a big challenge.
"(On the field) I'm trying to speak in English, in Spanish, to some players in Portuguese, but on the field the soccer language is a better way to communicate," Kaká said after the game. "So every game, every training we can understand each other much better."
Mixing and Matching
One thing Heath tried yesterday was to split his central defender pairings to partner one veteran with a younger player in each group. Aurelien Collin played with Conor Donovan in the first half, and Gustavo paired with Tommy Redding after halftime.
"Trying different partnerships," Heath explained. "I think the one thing we can see is that Aurelien Collin's going to be a really good leader at the back line."
Oh Captain, My Captain
Kaká wore the captain's arm band in his first game with the club. Although the Brazilian didn't read too much into it when asked about the decision in postgame interviews, Heath said it was simply a logical choice.
"I think the fact that what he's done throughout his career and he's been a leader everywhere he's been, I don't see any reason why he wouldn't be the leader here for us," Heath said. "I know that, for our younger guys, he's going to be a great role model to follow. The one good thing about him is you know he's going to behave himself when he gets on the field."