Tuesday night's Orlando City Coach's Show with Adrian Heath brought discussion of Saturday night's 3-2 friendly win against Ponte Preta. They also spoke about Kevin Molino's injury and looked into upcoming games.
Heath said Saturday night's 3-2 win over Brazilian Serie A club Ponte Preta was a tremendous win. People talk about the team not having won at home, so this will improve the team's confidence. The most important things coming from the game were Brek Shea and Luke Boden playing alongside one another in a game for the first time and Bryan Rochez scoring. Heath said Rochez looked a lot more like the player they bought during the offseason.
Heath said there were a lot of pleasing things to take from the game. A major positive were the goals that came off of set pieces. After being disappointed in the set pieces against Toronto FC, Heath says that the delivery was very good and the players were where they were supposed to be. They also went after the ball aggressively, which resulted in goals.
While many people said nothing was at stake for this friendly, Heath declares that for the eight young players that saw their first playing time this season, everything was at stake. A former coach of his once said "every time you play, somebody's watching you". That was true for the young players Saturday night.
Heath also touched on Kevin Molino's injury, which is an ACL tear, keeping him out of action for the rest of the season. For the next few days, Molino will have to stay off his feet and let the swelling go down. Then he'll return to the doctor to see if there is any more damage.
There could be a silver lining for Molino's injury. Heath says that over the past two years, they've been trying to get Molino to work harder in the gym to become bigger, but that "Kevin wasn't exactly enamored with working in the gym." Now he'll have six months to work in the gym.
Goals Ending Both Halves
The show's host, Tom Traxler, asked Heath about the fact that the last play in both halves were goals and he'd never seen that before. Heath was surprised to see that too but said he was pleased with the whistle after the final goal which resulted in the victory. He said the game was a friendly only in name as Ponte Preta took the game very seriously. It was their first international friendly ever outside of Brazil.
What Players Proved Themselves
Heath said he was pleased with the play of goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr., and he showed why the club drafted him. He said he believes that Edwards has a great future in goal. The only down point for him was the penalty where he was called for tripping the forward. However, Heath said that he felt the forward was the one that made contact and Edwards did make amends by saving it.
Heath also spoke briefly about rookie center back Conor Donovan. After impressing in preseason, Donovan hasn't seen the field in competition until Saturday night. But as the game went on, Heath says Donovan grew better and better and ended up having a really strong game.
Signing New Players
With the current window for transfers closing May 12, Heath said he doesn't see the club signing anyone before that deadline. But going into the next window, he said the club is looking at a few players in different positions that could help the team.
How Does Ponte Preta Compare to MLS?
Heath said that the Ponte Preta players were physically more impressive than the MLS players that he's seen. He also said that "the guys that had pace, had real pace." The Brazilians had a great understanding of the game and he couldn't see an awful lot of weaknesses. Overall , Heath presumes Ponte Preta would be very competitive in MLS.
Brek and Bodz
The pair that many people are talking about are Brek Shea and Luke Boden. Despite playing most of the season at left back, Shea came into the game in front of Boden after the Molino injury. Heath said that wasn't originally the plan but that after Molino went down, they thought they'd try the pair together.
Heath felt the two worked really well together, which he somewhat expected because they both had played both positions before. As for the future, Heath said "if this is the path we decide to go down with the two of them, there's an awful lot of work to do, but there's an awful lot of promise with the two of them."
Takeaways from Saturday Night
After the first 20 minutes, Heath said he would've settled for a draw, but that the Lions got a "really good goal from a set piece that changed the game." Following halftime, the team changed its shape, putting players in their more comfortable positions. He said he was really pleased with the second half performance. He said the most pleasing thing is that they won the game which will leave the players with a good feeling.
Moving Forward Without Kevin Molino
With Kevin Molino out for the remainder of the season with an ACL tear, the team will have to go ahead without one of their most important players. Heath said that the friendly had nothing to do with it but that injuries are an "occupational hazard". He said the team must "put to bed" that he's out for the season and focus on that "when one door closes, another one opens for somebody else."
The injury will give Brek Shea the opportunity to move forward into his more comfortable position of left midfield and allow Luke Boden to enter the lineup. It will also Eric Avila, who had moved around this season, to settle in that right midfield position. Another option would be to bring in Carlos Rivas to play regularly rather than sparingly.
Heath said he hopes all players will be fit in a week to ten days so he'll have all options. And while everyone will be fit, there's no doubt that Molino will be missed as he gives the team a dimension that no one else can.
How Long Does It Take to Negotiate a Friendly?
Vice President of Communications Lenny Santiago was asked how long it takes to set up friendlies. He said generally you go down to negotiate with several clubs and find a place in the schedule that works for both teams. This week just happened to work for both Orlando City and Ponte Preta. The next friendly for Orlando City will be against English Premier League side West Bromwich Albion on July 15.
Adrian said that while some question the importance of these friendlies, they are important because the game is still growing in the United States. He said the club must be mindful that the game is still growing and that bringing big European teams to town helps the game and league grow further.
In addition to welcoming West Brom in July, the club will also welcome its manager Tony Pulis. A friend of Heath, Pulis is also the father or former Lion and current academy coach Anthony Pulis. Heath said that over the years he's gotten to know Pulis very well calling him a "great guy". He also mentioned that Pulis pulls a "Harry Houdini act every year with a different club, saving somebody from relegation."
Pulis' last visit was in 2012 when he brought Stoke City for a friendly. Heath said he likes coming here because, a part from having family here, he knows he'll get a competitive game and use good facilities.
Heath's Favorite Mexican Dish
The first fan question Tuesday night asked Heath what his favorite Mexican dish is. At first Heath jokingly said Dos Equis. His serious answer was that he enjoys beef tacos from Cocina 214 in Winter Park.
A more serious question was about striker Martin Paterson. The on loan striker was supposed to be the starter from the opening game but has struggled to get fully healthy. Heath said Paterson wouldn't be available for Friday night's game against the New England Revolution but that he will hopefully be involved in full training next week.
Promotion and Relegation in America
Heath was asked about the always controversial promotion/relegation question. He said "I don't see it anytime soon" when asked if we could see the system in America. He said that the game is still in the building process in this country and that it would be up for the commissioners of the leagues to make that decision.
USL to MLS Learning Curve
When asked about the learning curve between USL and MLS, Heath said that teams in MLS are bigger, stronger, and quicker than in USL. He also said that with more money and bigger rosters, the teams have more depth. In the USL, you have 11, 12, or 13 players and then a big drop in talent. But in MLS, Heath said everyone's strong.
What Do You Like About Orlando
Heath said he likes waking up in the morning with a blue sky which is rarely the case in England. He also said he specifically loves the Orlando City supporters and the support the team gets from the community. He said they never cease to amaze him.
Does the Molino Injury Affect Future Friendlies
Heath said that while many might question hosting future friendlies with Molino getting injured in, what was to him, a meaningless game, it's not just friendlies. Heath made clear that injuries can happen at any time, even in training. But it's important to continue to play friendlies because they're trying to grow the game and the club.
Long-term and Short-term Goals
Heath the short-term goal for the team is simply to make the playoffs. He said the long-term goal is to become the best team in North America. He said the long-term goal is one that is shared by everyone in the organization.
Club Competition vs High School Competition to Compete with Europe
Heath was asked whether we need more kids having club competition and less high school competition to compete with European clubs. Heath said we have to get kids into club academies at younger ages. The quicker they get them into the system the better. They also need to get kids from the inner cities into clubs who can't afford it. While MLS is making great strides in this, there is still work to be done. He said America needs to produce another Landon Donovan.
Short Soccer Shorts
Heath, known by some for wearing short shorts when he played, was asked if we'd ever see that style in the future. Heath said he doesn't see that happening. He said his style was reminiscent of basketball shorts of the past.
When asked if he had any superstitions, Heath said that he didn't have any. However, he did say that he would be willing to try anything to see the team winning again.
Brek Shea Playing Left Midfield
Many have been speculating that with the Molino injury, Brek Shea would move forward to left midfield and Luke Boden would start behind him at left back. Heath said that Shea has a great chance to start at left midfield Friday night against New England.
Louisville City FC
When Orlando City co-bought a team in USL and placed them in Louisville, they expected to place some younger players there on loan. Heath said that striker Sidney Rivera has returned to Louisville on loan but that, while they planned to send some players there, it's been difficult with injuries. At one point, he said they had 11 players either injured or gone on national duty referring to the game in Montreal earlier this season. He said that it's also been difficult on former Lions and current Louisville coach James O'Connor but that hopefully we'll see one or two more players going to Louisville on loan in the next few weeks.
Three Games in Nine Days
The Lions are preparing to play three games in the next nine days against the New England Revolution at home, at DC United, and returning home to face the Los Angeles Galaxy. Heath said that they'll take each game as it comes so right now they're just focusing on New England. He said they are the most in form team in the league and that game should show where the team "stacks up".
He does feel that the team will match up well with DC as they did earlier this season. He said the result of the New England game would determine how aggressive the team is against DC and LA.
Heath said he really wants the win the two home games which is what he would consider successful. He said the supporters deserve home results.