Despite Toronto FC's 1-4-0 record, Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath and his Lions have a lot of respect for the Reds and won't be taking them lightly at the Citrus Bowl tonight.
Heath pointed out that Toronto's travel situation - the club has yet to play a home match this season due to stadium renovations at BMO Field - has contributed to the team's slow start and Orlando City will be wary of the Canadian club.
"I think that Greg Vanney's got a really good group of players together now," Heath said after the team's training session yesterday at Sylvan Lake Park. "Obviously it's difficult for him. Every game's on the road. People forget that. They look at the record."
The gaffer said players like USMNT regulars Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley, along with Designated Player Sebastian Giovinco and Brazilian wing Jackson could present problems for the Lions.
"I think tomorrow's going to be a really tough game for us. I really do," he said. "I think they're a very experienced team and I know what experienced players are like when they're backs are against the wall they normally come out fighting. They've got good pieces. I saw enough in that first game when they played Vancouver. They were fantastic in the second half. So we know it's going to be a tough game for us."
He Could Have Been on the Visiting Bench
Heath is facing a team that he could have been coaching, had he not opted to stay with Orlando City. Toronto FC offered Heath a top assistant coaching position on Paul Mariner's staff in 2012.
"One of the reasons I turned the (Toronto) opportunity down is because I thought this would happen here and it was a very difficult decision," he said. "I, like most people, think (Orlando City is) probably one of the best jobs in the MLS. Fantastic club; we've got great facilities; they invest in the team.
Turner Ready to Make the Most of His Chance
Orlando City's 19-year-old right back has been pressed into service twice this season, but last week's appearance was unplanned. When Rafael Ramos was dismissed after 34 minutes at Columbus, Turner was forced to jump in with little warning, preparation or warm-up.
"It's a bit difficult adjusting to the game speed," Turner said. "But, week in and week out what I want to do is play games. So when I got my chance to go in, I was just happy more than anything. I really wanted to assert myself in the game, which is kind of difficult with 10 men, but I tried to do my best."
Despite such a demoralizing result in Columbus last week, Turner said he and his teammates are well prepared to meet the Reds tonight.
"Everybody's energy was really good this week leading up to the Toronto game, so hopefully (tonight) we can go out with a lot of energy, buzzing around the field," he said. "I feel that energy in training every day so far. We're hoping to have a really good game and bounce back."
Turner seemed confident and ready for the challenge of taking on some of the best offensive players in MLS.
"They have a really good attack," he said. "They have Jozy Altidore, Giovinco, Michael Bradley - they have a good attacking trio right there in the triangle. I feel like they're a well-rounded team just like any other team in this league. No one's an easy game. Everyone gives you a competitive game."
For such a young player, Turner seemed more excited than nervous about facing such a talented group of players.
"I just hope for a chance this weekend coming up. Hopefully I can assert myself in the game."
Getting a Home Win is Vital
The Lions weren't expecting to still be seeking their first home victory in the fourth match at the Citrus Bowl during this inaugural MLS season. With a draw in the opener and a pair of heartbreaking 1-0 losses after the 90-minute mark against Vancouver and D.C. United, that's exactly the position Orlando finds itself in tonight.
"I know how important it is for us to get a result," Heath said. "As I've said before, we've been unlucky but that can't continue - (can't) keep saying ‘we've been unlucky.' We need to get three points on the board."
Turner says the team isn't feeling any more pressure despite waiting so long to get a victory in front of their supporters.
"It's not something we're worried about," said the Lions defender.
Heath said the team is mostly healthy entering Sunday night, aside from some long-term issues with Martin Paterson, Lewis Neal, Tony Cascio and Tally Hall. But good news is on the horizon for Paterson, who is working on regaining his fitness.
When asked about Paterson's absence from training this week, Heath noted that there has been no setback.
"He's felt his calf a wee bit but it's nothing too much," said the gaffer. "He's building his work up indoors and he's been getting away from here a little bit to freshen it up for him. There's nothing worse than coming to the same place every day and going through the same stuff. We're hoping in the next week or so he's going to be back."
Center Back Depth an Issue
With Conor Donovan and Tommy Redding off on international duty, and Sean St. Ledger coming off a hamstring issue that kept him out of the 18 last week, depth is a bit thin at central defense. Aurelien Collin and Seb Hines have formed a good pairing this season but it will be important that the two stay healthy and avoid undue disciplinary attention from referees.
Donovan and Redding are making the most of their time away. Donovan scored the tying goal in a 2-2 friendly draw with Qatar this past week and we found out Sunday that Redding is showing off some offense as well.
Got an assist today in our 6-0 win over Siroki Brijeg! Great momentum for us going into our friendlies this week! ⚽️— Tommy Redding (@Tommy_Redding29) April 25, 2015
So, should we expect a goal out of Collin or Hines tonight, or should we expect a goal from each?