Tuesday night's Orlando City Coach's Show with Adrian Heath featured discussion about Sunday night's 2-0 loss against Toronto FC. It was the club's second consecutive loss, following a 3-0 defeat at Columbus a week prior.
Toronto FC Game
Sunday night's poor performance was surprising to Heath, who expected more out of his team. "I didn't see the performance coming," Heath said. He went on to say that, despite losses to D.C. United and the Vancouver Whitecaps, the Lions have controlled each home game. But he never felt that his team was in control of this match.
Overall, Heath says that Sunday's performance was the worst performance of the season. "The supporters have been incredible," Heath said of the unwavering support from the fans, and that the team wanted to bring those fans their first three home points this season.
After a good week of training, Heath felt confident coming into the game. The team spoke about how Toronto would be looking to catch them on the break but it didn't sink in. "We didn't really listen to what we spoke about before the game," Heath said.
"At the end of the day, we didn't play well." Heath says that in the middle of the park, "two or three players probably had their worst game of the season." Three games earlier, D.C. United employed the same strategy, but the team was able to overcome it by moving the ball quickly through the midfield.
Going into the game, the Lions knew Toronto would fill the middle of the field, leaving space on the wing for Tyler Turner and Brek Shea. Despite this, the Lions failed to get the ball to them in space. "We put those areas on the magnetic board" in the dressing room. Heath summarized by saying his team "played into their strength."
Overall, Heath said of the performance, "We made poor choices all evening." Heath says the team tried to force play through the middle, playing into their strengths. Brek Shea had 25 to 30 yards to work with, but they never got the ball to him.
Heath was disappointed that they got caught on quick restarts multiple times during the game, stating that on the break they could have gotten two or three more. Despite talking about that at halftime, the team still wasn't prepared for it.
However, with that game over and several important games upcoming Heath says that "we have to put that to bed and move on and move forward."
Heath says it's been frustrating losing games, but that you can't hold onto them. You have to take what's given to you and move on. "I want to look forward to what is in front of us."
When asked about the young Colombian forward/winger Carlos Rivas, Heath said it's been a tough start as the 20-year-old has had a stop-start season thus far. Due to several injuries, his season hasn't really started yet. Heath still is happy to have the player and thinks he can still give the team an explosive impact when healthy. "The fact that we nicked him before some big clubs in Europe speaks of what we were trying to do."
Rivas is just one of many young players in the team this season and Heath talked about the tough transition for young players adjusting to the professional game. It's a lot to take for young kids to move away from home where you don't know anyone and don't know the language. As for the club's first round draft pick Cyle Larin, "the difference between a 22-year-old college players and MLS is night and day."
Loans to Louisville
One of the options Orlando City has is to send players on loan to Louisville City FC, the club's USL affiliate. The plan was originally to send players to Louisville but injuries have nullified that option. When the show's host and Orlando City radio color commentator Tom Traxler jokingly asked Heath if they were close to putting in former Lion and current assistant coach Ian Fuller when the team had only three subs in Montreal, Heath replied "we were never that close."
A player that's been sorely missed is 27-year-old striker Martin Paterson. The Northern Ireland international was originally going to be the starter, giving the other young strikers an opportunity to grow into the position, but injuries have delayed his arrival. Heath said he's been very frustrated and that Pato has had "little niggling injuries" rather than larger ones, keeping him out for several months. "It's always been enough to keep him away."
Of Paterson's on-field potential, Heath is excited at the prospect of adding the veteran to the lineup. Heath mentioned seeing him play internationally against Russia where he was the best player on the field. "We've got to be patient and wait," Heath says about Paterson's injury woes. "We certainly need him."
A major problem for Orlando City this season has been corners. Historically, the Lions have been quite successful converting corners, but that's changed in their inaugural MLS season. Heath says sometimes it's the delivery that's the problem and sometimes it's the runs in the box, but it's the worst it's been in his five years in Orlando, labeling it "pretty disappointing."
Much of that disappointment comes from the fact that Kaká is often the deliverer of the corners, which are usually well taken. But when he puts in a good ball, "we're invariably in the wrong position." On Friday, the team worked for 20-30 minutes specifically on where each player should be, but when the game came around, they weren't in the right positions.
Bringing the Players Back
Despite the recent struggles, Heath is pleased with where the team currently sits. He says that everyone needs to remember that "we're still an expansion team," but still in a playoff position. It's not easy bringing in 23 new players, and Heath says that in three months' time, if they're still having the same problems, then people can complain.
Even though Sunday's performance was bad, Heath says that the word to describe the season thus far is "satisfactory." "Sunday was bad. How many more have been bad?" Heath reiterates that it's important to move on from the disappointment because the next three or four games are very important, with the next three league games coming against some of the league's top teams in New England Revolution, D.C. United, and LA Galaxy.
One of the positives this season is the continuation of the club's commitment to serving the community. "We probably do more than anyone in the league" Heath says. Most of the players are doing 70 to 80 hours of community service.
A question via Twitter from someone identifying themselves as "DC" asked about former Lion and cult hero Dennis Chin. "Chinny was fantastic for us in USL," Heath says of the original Lion. He said the coaches spoke with him while he was in Orlando but that he had reached the level of what he was willing to give to get better. "I love Dennis to bits," Heath says, "same with Rob Valentino and Miguel Gallardo. They were exceptional for this club."
Players Pressing Too Hard For a Home Win
Having yet to win at home or score a goal from open play, Heath was asked if the players were pressing too hard to provide for the home support. "Sometimes," Heath admits. He said last week is an example of that, and it's something they've spoken about. Sometimes they just need to be more patient.
Frustration of Older Players in Young Squad
Heath was asked if some of the older players get frustrated with the younger players who are still developing. "You sometimes get that." But Heath says that you have to have a mixture of both veterans and young players or you'll be rebuilding again in two years.
The plan is that everyone moves up. The club would like to have a squad that can remain around for a while but, while some players will leave, it's important to have players already around to take those vacant positions.
Timing of Runs
When issue brought up during the show was the frequent offside calls against striker Cyle Larin. While Heath said Larin does appear offside too often, "sometimes being offside some of the time isn't a bad thing to make defenders think you always offside." As an example, Heath uses former AC Milan and Italy striker Filippo Inzaghi, who former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson once described as "born offside." But that's not what Cyle is attempting to do.
Everton 1984 FA Cup Song
In a lighter moment, a fan played Everton FC's 1984 FA Cup song featuring Heath, which has recently been spreading around Orlando City fans. Heath was willing to sing part of the song before mentioning proudly that the song reached number four in the charts in the UK.
Playing a Friendly Now
On whether playing a friendly at this moment in time was a good idea, Heath said it's actually a good time. Some guys need some rest, such as Brek Shea, who has been juggling both club and international duty. It's also a good opportunity to get some players who haven't played much an opportunity to get on the field. Heath mentioned Conor Donovan, Tommy Redding, Tyler Turner, Harrison Heath, and Estrela as players fans can expect to see Saturday night against Ponte Preta.
Current Expectations of Players
When asked of his expectations of his players, having played eight games now, Heath said that those expectations haven't changed. Heath still has no doubt his team can make the playoffs, which has always been the aim. Heath says his side was better than Vancouver, which leads the west, better than D.C. which leads the east, and that the team is right on track, currently sitting in a playoff spot. They just need to bring in some players to get them over the line.
On Tuesday afternoon, news broke that the Florida House of Representatives adjourned three days early without balancing the budget, which would give the club the $30 million sales tax rebate needed to finish the new $115 million stadium in downtown Orlando. While Orlando City's Vice President of Communications Lenny Santiago said they were very disappointed in the House's decision, the club is not giving up. They left important issues on the table which still need to be resolved, and the club will make sure the $30 million, which has already been added to the budget for the specific purpose of the stadium, is one of those issues.
The club is currently working on the next steps toward making sure they get the money they were promised a year ago. The state needs to have a balanced budget before July, so they will call a special session in June to do so. Santiago made it clear that the club would be returning to Tallahassee in June to push their agenda.
Why Water Turf?
Many fans have wondered why the Citrus Bowl turf is watered pregame as it doesn't grow. Heath said the watering of the turf makes the ball move quicker on the ground. That's something that helps a team like Orlando City which always attempts to play the ball on the ground.
Ponte Preta Friendly
This week's Coach's Show wrapped up with a discussion about the Ponte Preta friendly coming up this Saturday night. The friendly will be included as part of the season ticket package. It will be considered one of the three "bonus games," which are in addition to the 17 regular season games. Heath said it's exciting to have a team coming in that has "lots of history and lots of tradition." He said the fact that they play in the top league in Brazil means they are a quality opponent.
While this isn't a particularly important game for him, Heath said this will be the most important game of the season for several players that have lacked playing time. While some players such as Kaká and Aurélien Collin are out of town, this is a chance for several younger players to prove they deserve minutes in league games. Tickets for that game are still available.