Teams across the league have started to open their doors and have open training sessions for their fans. Orlando City is doing just that at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 9 at the Orlando Citrus Bowl -- allowing the team an early glimpse at the MLS side for the second straight spring.
These sessions for a player are more laid back and probably will be a recover training day. There are still some things we can learn from an open session and some things you should be on the lookout for.
The first thing you most likely will see is some small sided games. This is something that could be boring to watch, however, it could tell a lot about how this team is structured. Keep an eye on is who is in each group. Most times, players pick the groups and we can see who is melding well with some of the new players and where they fit in. If coaches are making the groups it might be foreshadowing for who will be in the back four, as the play of the back line is built on consistency. Look to see who is playing with Aurélien Collin. This could be an indicator of who they are looking at to complete the back line. Nothing on the field is random and there are takeaways from any exercise.
Most likely the keepers will be doing side work before they come together for finishing drills. As a former goalkeeper, I am excited to watch Joe Bendik and how he is looking. In the goalkeeper exercises, are the keepers holding saves and are they concentrating on technique? Not much is known about the goalkeeper situation and we won't know until the season opener, but this will be our first up-front look at the position battle between Bendik and Earl Edwards Jr. The other thing I am intrigued to watch is how Bendik fits into this team. It's tough to be the new guy after a fan favorite leaves. His interactions with his teammates and the crowd will be interesting. Finally, let's not forget about Edwards Jr. and how he is playing and whether or not he is ready to take the next step. During the finishing exercises, which are more to the advantage of the strikers than the keepers, I'd like to see some game-saving stops from the goalkeeper group.
Special moments are moments in the training where a player tries something new or tries something creative that they might not necessarily try in a match. We have heard from Head Coach Adrian Heath that Carlos Rivas has great training sessions. I want to see some moments like that during the opening training. I want to see Rivas taking on two or three players, beating them, and then scoring in the upper corner, or Kaká threading a pass between defenders to Kevin Molino for a goal. We can see these special moments only in training sessions sometimes, due to the laid back nature. Mostly, I just don't want to see Rivas hit balls 40 yards over the goal.
Kevin Molino and Brek Shea
The next thing to look at is Kevin Molino and his return to form. We will find out if he is a 100 percent and whether he still has the pace. We should see him making cuts, checking to balls, and shooting on goal. This team desperately needs the 2014 Kevin Molino in the lineup for this team to be successful. Brek was shaken up towards the end of the season and we will see his return as well. We all hope that he can return to form as well because the Shea we saw in game one against New York City FC is the Brek Shea this team needs. Keep an eye on him in the small sided games and see if he is active, and on the finishing exercises on how he sends balls into the penalty area.
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Open training sessions can be laid back and entertaining. There is no way to say for sure what the starting lineup will be for Orlando City at this time. However, we will get our first glimpse of how the team is melding and there may be some small clues on how this team will come together as they make their run for 2016 MLS Cup.