Through the first month of the season, Orlando City is looking pretty good in the Eastern Conference standings. Before the month of March ends, the Lions will have been the only team in the east to remain undefeated. With two draws and a road win this past week, Orlando seems to be in good position heading into the upcoming international break.
Although statistically the Lions may be looking good, Head Coach Adrian Heath feels that there is a lot more to be desired from his team.
"We can be better and we will be better," Heath said after practice on Monday. "We'll have to be better. I watched the games over the weekend and I think the east is a lot stronger than it was this time last year, so we're going to have to really, in the next few weeks, up the level of our intensity of play and basically play a little bit better."
The 1-0 win at Yankee Stadium this past Friday came without the team's captain, Kaká, for the third straight game to begin the year. He's expected back for the team's next game on April 3 against the defending MLS Cup champion Portland Timbers.
Without the captain, the team's ball movement and retention have been a bit under scrutiny, something that Heath also addressed at training. "I think our ball retention, which is something that we've worked on, has been really really good," Heath said. "Most games we out-possess the opposition, and we got out-possessed this week quite comfortably, and I think we turned the ball over too quickly, and that's something we'll have to get better at."
While there are still many improvements to be made and issues to be resolved, there are bright spots all around this team, especially youngster Tommy Redding. Against NYCFC, he put in a Man of the Match performance, shutting down the dangerous Blues attack force, specifically Spaniard David Villa.
"Tommy's position is there for him to lose. He certainly won't lose it after that performance last week," Heath said of his young defender. "Some of the things we spoke about after the Chicago game, I thought he took on board and he won't play against anybody with better movement than David Villa. There might be the odd quicker player in the league, but certainly not the smartest. He's one of the smartest player's you'll find and I thought Tommy did some really excellent stuff, stuff that we've mentioned after the Chicago game."
Considering that Redding's role has changed from a few weeks ago, when he was thought most likely to be going to Melbourne to play with OCB, the surge that the U.S. youth international has had has been quite impressive and hopefully will continue. Redding is currently with the U.S. U-20 team in Texas for the Dallas Cup, in which the national youth side will play different youth club teams from around the world. Heath said of the experience for Redding, "Hopefully they don't kill him next week with a game every other day with the national team and he comes back fresh and ready to play."
The Lions will now have all of this coming week and almost all of next week to prepare for the Timbers game on Sunday, April 3.