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Adrian Heath Says Orlando City Is Experiencing Typical Expansion Pains

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Orlando City's struggles in MLS are nothing new, and should be expected, says Head Coach Adrian Heath on team's slow start in the league.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Rome wasn't built in a day -- and neither was Orlando City.

The Lions' second season in MLS has been anything but a bounce-back campaign to this point after missing out on the playoffs last year. With a 2-1 win over the Montreal Impact on Saturday night, the club was able to jump back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture with its third win of 2016 in 11 games.

For a team with a motto of "Defy Expectations," meeting the expectations set by the front office and its fans have been tough to achieve.

Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath understands things haven't been great, but is also aware that building a championship caliber club in MLS takes time.

"I said to someone the other day, we're a year and a little bit in -- [Montreal]'s taken four years to put together. It doesn't come over night," Heath said after Saturday night's match. "People have to understand that, and you're gradually adding pieces as you go along, and it makes the team what you want it to be.

"We aren't going to be that team in one season and 11 games -- it's impossible, the way the structure of the league is in the U.S."

Orlando City joined the league with a plan that was pretty evident from the beginning: build a roster with a foundation to not only compete in Year 1, but also for many more years to come. And whether or not the results show that progress, the process is real, and we're seeing a club that's taken a couple of steps forward from last season -- not big steps, but steps.

But, without a doubt, there's still plenty of work to be done, and this team is nowhere close to being a finished product.

"It's difficult as a manager, because you all think he's saying that because he wants more time," Heath said. "The bottom line is: you show me a team that in just over a year is a finished article in MLS -- it's never happened. And with all due respect, it's never gonna happen here. We have to stay true to the plan that we set out at the beginning, and keep making it better and adding pieces."

And the club has done that, moving players in and out constantly since joining the league. A large chunk of their opening day expansion roster is gone, there's a handful of new faces in the lineup this year, and we're starting to see who's got the potential to stick around as a key contributor, and what position might need to be tweaked next.

Building a roster is tough and, as Heath alluded to, building a winning roster in MLS is especially tough.

Franchises like Seattle and Vancouver have fielded good rosters in recent years, but both clubs have yet to hoist an MLS Cup. Toronto FC, one of the richest spending teams since joining the league in 2007, didn't make the playoffs for their first time until last season.

MLS is a tough league to be good in, and Heath and the club know that to be true.

"The pressure that we have, and I have, as a coach, is the fact that this place is going like that everywhere off the field -- new field, new stadium, new training ground, and we have to try and keep pace with that," Heath said. "But at times it's difficult, because at times we're still behind a lot of clubs."

The process isn't all too fun, but the final product will be worth it in the end.