Tuesday night's Orlando City Coach's Show with Adrian Heath reviewed Sunday's draw with the San Jose Earthquakes, previewed Saturday's upcoming match with the Columbus Crew, as well as other issues surrounding the club.
San Jose Recap
Adrian Heath was not thrilled with only gathering one point from Sunday's game in San Jose but conceded that the point is a decent result. After going down to ten men with Brek Shea being sent off in the 51st minute, Heath said that "you would take a point."
He said that in the first half he was very disappointed feeling that the team played down to their competition. It was something he let the team know about during his halftime talk. He said the team "let the game meander along," and that they should've been on the front foot a bit more.
Overall Heath said the team defended really well for being a man down. He said that everyone worked really hard in the second half after what was a "very comfortable" first half. However, after the way the team played the last few games, Heath said overall he was disappointed in the performance.
Brek Shea's Red Card
Heath said he felt that Shea didn't deserve the red card he received early in the second half. However, the league told teams prior to the season that if a player's feet come completely off the ground they will be sent off. While Heath said it could've been yellow, he was surprised to see red.
San Jose's Reaction
When Rafael Ramos was sent off in Columbus, the Crew players and staff pressured the referee to show red. Nobody on the Earthquakes did this Sunday. However, Heath said that head coach Dominic Kinnear jumping off the bench may have influenced the final decision to show red.
Heath has said several times this season that teams want to see referee consistency from game to game. He made that point again Tuesday night calling referee consistency "the most important thing."
Heath said he was pleased that finally the Lions are seeing several players on their way back. Midfielders Lewis Neal and Carlos Rivas are now back to full training along with forward Pedro Ribeiro. Meanwhile, defender Aurelien Collin is on his way back. Heath said that Rivas has missed 50 days of training this season and needs consistent playing time to continue improving as a player.
Play of Back Five
Heath said that he's been very happy with the back five (four defenders and goalkeeper). He said that Tally's presence has given everyone a lift as a reassuring presence. He very undemonstrative but is a great communicator for defenders. He's great at directing traffic in the box.
Heath also said that he's been very happy with center backs Seb Hines and Sean St. Ledger. He said they've been excellent in their last few games. They've taken their opportunity very well making it tough for him to make any changes. Also their play has given the team the opportunity to take their time with Aurelien Collin's return.
Heath said that St. Ledger particularly has been very vocal in the back which helps. "Every day on the training ground he never shuts up," Heath quipped.
Winning Against the West
Despite the fact that MLS' Western Conference is considered much tougher than the East, Orlando City has been much better against them. Heath said that these wins will breed confidence in the team going into the next two games which are very important games against the East.
Darwin Ceren's Penalty
A deciding point in the game was when central defensive midfielder Darwin Ceren committed a foul in the box giving San Jose a penalty. Heath said that both Ceren and Cristian Higuita are "young and petulant" but you don't want to take away their aggressiveness. He emphasized that you have to be careful when you're in the box calling Ceren's challenge a "stupid effort." The referee had little choice on the call after giving Orlando City a penalty earlier.
Playing a man down means that a team must then play defensively, something they had to do weeks prior in Columbus. Heath said that he thought Kaká did that very well considering how attacking he generally is. He said it's a tough transition for a player to make.
The team handled this situation better than they did in Columbus. Following the Crew game where Rafael Ramos was sent off, the team talked about how they would handle that situation if it occurred again. They worked hard on how to handle it and that helped on Sunday.
Scoring by Penalty
Earthquakes striker Chris Wondolowski scored his 100th MLS goal on a penalty and Heath was asked if that makes a difference to a striker. Heath, who had a terrific scoring record in England, said it doesn't. He said as long as you score, it doesn't matter how. He also said that years from now nobody will care or even remember how the goal was scored.
Inaugural Season's 1/3-Mark
Heath said that it's strange because something that everyone's waited so long for is going by so quickly. After playing a third of the season, Heath said that "We are where we are in the league," and he still thinks the team can make the playoffs.
Heath said that when the next transfer window opens to expect some changes in the team. He said he'd like to add at least one defender, one midfielder, and one forward to add to the team's depth. Moves will likely depend on whether other teams want to trade and player health.
Cyle Larin and Martin Paterson
Heath said that there are questions with certain players which may require reinforcements later in the season. Cyle Larin has never played more than three or four months in a season so it's plausible that he could get tired later on in the season.
Martin Paterson has just come back from several small injuries which had kept him out throughout much of the early part of the season. Questions remain as to whether he will be able to remain fit.
Heath said that the team in the league that has surprised him most this season has been New York City FC. The other expansion side this season has struggled mightily, much more than Orlando City. NYCFC has only won once this season and is winless in their last ten games.
Houston's Slow Start
Heath said that he's not surprised by the slow start of the Houston Dynamo. After Dom Kinnear left for San Jose, he was replaced by Scottish manager Owen Coyle. Heath said they are a team in transition changing coaches, losing Tally Hall, and their leader Brad Davis is nearing the end of his career. He said that the same transition is hampering Real Salt Lake. New England, on the other hand, Heath said is the team to beat in his opinion as long as their three key players remain healthy.
After a third of the season, Heath said that teams are where they deserve to be. He feels that Orlando City are about as good as Toronto FC this season. The one exception right now is the Montreal Impact. They've played many fewer games than everyone else due to their CONCACAF Champions League run which postponed several early games. But Heath said that they will be very good at home and will do well this season.
Crowded Fixture Plans
With the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup underway, and Orlando City joining soon, there will be frequent games to deal with. Heath was asked how he plans to handle that. He said that he knew this month would be a busy one and you just have to hope to get as many people back as possible. One option would be to give some of the younger players some time during Open Cup games.
2015 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup
As he's said many times this season, Heath reiterated that the team will take the Open Cup very seriously. He said that some teams in the league treat it as some big English teams treat the League Cup where they don't play their first team players until the semifinal. Heath said that's hard for him to understand how the tournament all of the sudden becomes important later on.
Winning MLS Cup
Heath said that if the Lions make the playoffs, he believes they have enough talent to make a run for the championship. He said that his team will be a tough matchup for most teams and that any team can hit a hot streak in the playoffs. "Anything's possible," Heath stated.
Vice President of Communications Lenny Santiago was asked about how ticket sales are going for Saturday night's matchup at the Citrus Bowl against the Columbus Crew. Santiago said that so far they have sold 23 or 24 thousand tickets which is on par with most other games, if not a little ahead. He said the club expects another full-looking stadium.
Having mentioned the stadium, Santiago was asked about an update on the soccer-specific stadium due to open next year. Santiago said that while work continues on preparing the site, they are still waiting on the legislature to approve $30 million. The state legislature will meet for the month of June in Tallahassee to balance the budget at which time they are expected to approve the stadium.
Discussing Brek Shea with Jurgen Klinsmann
Heath was asked if he had spoken with Klinsmann about Brek Shea's recent switch from left back to left midfield, his natural position. Heath said he hadn't spoken with Klinsmann in five or six weeks when they spoke about his move to left back. He stated that "ultimately I'm going to do what's right for us rather than the U.S."
Biggest Surprises This Season
Heath said there have been both good and bad surprises this season. On the good side, he's been surprised with the reaction of the city and area to the team. He said that everyone around the country has been amazed by the support for the team and that other teams' coaches have spoken about it. He also is pleased with how the younger players have adapted to MLS. He said that Rafael Ramos could be the best right back in MLS and that Cyle Larin continues to show progress.
On the bad side Heath said that the team hasn't gotten all the points they deserve which has been disappointing. In the home games against D.C. United and the Vancouver Whitecaps the team deserved all three points but didn't get any.
Lessons on Dropped Points
Heath said that he hopes his players have learned lessons in games which have turned out disappointing. He said that if players aren't learning from their mistakes then it becomes a trend and changes have to be made.
Heath said he's been pleasantly surprised by both right back Ramos and Tyler Turner. He said that coming into the season they weren't sure if they could play at the MLS level but that both has proven their quality. Other managers have questioned him about Ramos who he called "absolutely fabulous." He also said that once Cristian Higuita settled in he is a big plus for the team. Heath stated that other young players are getting better just from being around the more experienced players.
Lessons Learned by Rafael Ramos
Heath said that Ramos has learned from his mistakes this season and gotten better. He said that playing in the first team is different than playing in the reserves or youth teams at SL Benfica, Ramos' former club. Heath that in the first team you get punished for your mistakes costing your team points.
Recovering from Travel
Something different about MLS to other leagues around the world is the strenuous travel schedule. Heath said that it certainly isn't easy mainly due to the time difference. Traveling to away games forces teams to lose days of training and gives the home team the advantage of additional training days.
Heath said that he unfortunately doesn't get to see much of the U-23 team due to his requirements with the first team. But he said that former Lions midfielder and current coach Anthony Pulis sees them plenty. As he works mainly with the first team during training, Pulis keeps the coaches updated on their progress. The U-23 team have played two games this season so far, dropping both.
Team Reflecting Heath's Personality
Heath said that ideally he would want to the team to reflect his personality and they're getting there. He said that they did mirror him in their games against the New England Revolution and Los Angeles Galaxy.
Heath said that his message to players prior to the Columbus game will be to carry on as they have. It will be a tough game against one of the best teams in the league. Also against a team that plays different than every other team in the league.
He said Columbus won't sit back but will bring the game to Orlando City much like the Lions do. They will bring their outside back into the attack which may make them vulnerable to counter attacks. It's something the team has spoken about and need to take advantage of.
Heath said that Columbus has many good players pointing out Kei Kamara, Federico Higuain, Ethan Finlay, and Justin Meram. He said that he believes that Finlay is one of the best midfielders in the league. He said the game will be an end-to-end battle producing many goals.
An important emphasis this weekend will be Columbus' number 10 Higuain. The veteran is great at finding holes and his teammates know where to find him. Heath said that Orlando City's holding midfielder must close him down because he will punish those who give him time and space.