Tuesday's Orlando City Coach's Show with Adrian Heath started off with a somber discussion of the news of the death of Florida Institute of Technology (FIT) women's soccer coach Fitzgerald "Fidgi" Haig's death Thursday of a heart attack. The 47-year-old native of Haiti had won a national championship at FIT as a player and had spent the past 10 years coaching the women's team. Heath reiterated what many have said the past week about the kindness of the man and the enormous impact he had on the growth of soccer in central Florida.
Heath said the Lions started Saturday night's game against the Columbus Crew "very sloppily" giving the Crew two or three chances which luckily they didn't convert. He said the team didn't start well and particularly struggled in clearing their lines. After watching the game twice, he did feel like Orlando City were the better team for 20-25 minutes during the first half. Heath felt the team could come back from the first goal if they could manage to hold the Crew scoreless for the remainder of the first half. But after the second goal it became "damage limitation."
Ramos Red Card
Heath said that Ramos' red card was very much of his immaturity. Ramos had been involved in a collision which Heath says probably should've been a foul but the "very emotional" player didn't handle the situation well. "What happened after, you basically just can't do. The way he went in he could've had a 5-6 game ban."
Heath argues that if you had gone to the ref and apologized for the incident, he may have gotten away with just a yellow. However, the fact that he ran away and ignored the incident, the referee had no choice to but show him red.
After Red Card
Ramos' sending off changed the game. Now down a man, Heath decided to change formation to a 4-4-1 which he maintains was working well. Heath says that the plan was to take the time to let the Crew feel comfortable with the game and that "at some stage nearly always have chance." However, after Columbus' second goal by Justin Meram, it became an uphill battle. Prior to that goal, the team had been "starting to play our own game," even down a man and Heath felt they could've gotten something from the game. But after the second goal it seemed hopeless. "From there I wanted the game to be over as soon as possible."
Despite the 3-0 defeat, all wasn't negative. Heath said there are always things you can take away from these types of defeats. For this team, it was a test of character as some players still believed they could get something out of the game. Heath was very pleased with how they kept playing for the full 90 minutes.
Some of the bright spots include Kevin Molino, who Heath points out as having an "excellent game." He was also very pleased with Darwin Ceren's performance, saying he "did some really good things." An away trip to Columbus was always going to be a tall order and, down to 10 men, it was a nearly impossible task but the team showed commitment. Heath pointed out that these results happen and it's how you respond to those results that matter.
Season Tickets Sold Out
With Vice President of Communications Lenny Santiago on hand, they announced that the club had succeeded in selling 14,000 season tickets. It was a milestone set a while back for the club and places them as one of four MLS clubs to have a waiting list. Santiago congratulated Vice President of Ticket Sales Chris Gallagher and his sales team and said this proves that the fans are committed to the team.
Another fact Santiago pointed out was that the club currently leads the league in attendance. And even without the opening day attendance of 62,358, the club sits second only behind the Seattle Sounders. Even opponents have higher attendance numbers when the Lions go on the road.
Heath says the club has been really well received when he talks to coaches around MLS, calling Orlando City a "breath of fresh air" for the league. He made sure to thank the 50-60 supporters who traveled to Columbus for Saturday night's game, calling the support "nothing short of amazing" and saying that it means a lot. He also promised that "over the next couple of months we'll give you plenty to shout about."
The most unsung player this season has probably been central defender Seb Hines. Heath called him "terrifically important" and said he's a great kid in the dressing room and very popular with the rest of the guys. He brings great experience to a young club and Heath maintains that the best is yet to come.
He also pointed out Amboi Okugo as an unsung player who does the dirty work, something Heath says is very important in a team. "It takes all sorts to make a team. You have 11 artists you wouldn't get very far. You have 11 laborers, not very enjoyable to watch. Put them all together somewhere, a mixture of everything, and you can make a team." The most important thing for these hard working, unsung players is to realize that's why they're in the team and that it's the coach's job to make sure they realize that.
Brek Shea at Left Midfield?
During the fan question segment of the show, Heath was asked about left back Brek Shea playing left midfielder, where he has spent the majority of his career. "Not really," Heath said about moving Shea. While the team has had injury problems with Lewis Neal and Carlos Rivas at the position, he likes Shea playing on the back line. However, if there is no other choice, Heath pointed out that he could put him in the midfield.
When asked about people wanting to change formations, Heath stated that before (in the 4-2-3-1) there weren't enough forwards and now (in the 4-3-3) there are too many. You can't please everybody. However, Heath stated that his preferred formation is still the 4-2-3-1 and that if everyone is healthy they would return to it. He also pointed out that the formation isn't as important as everyone knowing their role and good formation can easily change throughout the game.
When asked about why he likes the 4-2-3-1 formation, Heath said that he can adjust the style during the game depending on the offensive or defensive needs. But the most important thing is that "we can get more players in the middle of the field where the ball is spent." He added that the ability to move players forward or backward is important because soccer is "a numbers game."
With several injured Orlando City players, Heath was asked about two specific ones in Sidney Rivera and Tally Hall. Rivera has been loaned to Louisville City FC but is in Orlando working on his recovery. Heath said Tuesday was the first day he'd been back on the training pitch in three weeks and he expects him to be ready to play in about 10 days.
Tally Hall is still working on his recovery after tearing his ACL late last season. Heath said Hall has joined training sessions and it's only a matter of time before he's back to full training. He been working hard with goalkeeping coach Marcos Machado and should be back in the next week or two.
Looking Ahead to Toronto FC
This coming Sunday night Orlando City will welcome Toronto FC to the Citrus Bowl. Heath said the players are excited about getting back home after playing the last two matches on the road. He said that he is fully aware of the need to give the home fans something to cheer about and that the team constantly talks about turning the Citrus Bowl into a fortress.
The key for Toronto FC Sunday night will likely be Italian midfielder/striker Sebastian Giovinco. As the most dangerous member of the Reds, Heath says that if they give him space around the 18, he will cause problems.
However, it's not just Giovinco that the Lions will be concerned about. Heath also points out Michael Bradley, Benoît Cheyrou, and Jozy Alitdore as players to keep an eye on. While he says they might have to be patient, he's confident the Lions can get a result out of the game.
Heath is very aware of the need to get a home result after dropping the last two games in the closing minutes. "I don't care if it comes off someone's backside and we win 1-0," Heath proclaimed. Toronto FC will be coming in under pressure after losing four straight, so Heath expects they'll play their most experienced team of guys who know how to perform under pressure.
Champions League Final
Finishing off the broadcast, the panel discussed the Montreal Impact on the eve of their first leg meeting with Club America in the CONCACAF Champions League Final. Heath stated that everybody in MLS is behind Montreal, informing the audience that he sent a message to the team and expected that other managers have as well. "Anything that shows the league in a good light is positive," Heath noted. He also urged Orlando City fans to watch the match, as it is a "great advert" for soccer in this region.
For Orlando City, Heath hopes that his team will soon take part in the regional tournament. For the Lions, that path might be carved by the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. Heath stated that, while some MLS clubs ignore the tournament, Orlando City won't and that the club's directors talk about taking the tournament seriously as well.
You can catch the Orlando City Coach's Show with Adrian Heath each Tuesday night on Real Radio 104.1. If you miss the show, they are posted afterward on the Real Radio website at realradio.fm.