It took some time, but Kevin Molino is finally showing Orlando City and Major League Soccer what he can do.
With all of the hype surrounding Molino heading into his first MLS season last year, an ACL injury early in the campaign was a massive blow to not only him, but to Orlando City, as well. But he has returned stronger and is back to playing at the level that made him Orlando City’s first MLS signing back in 2014.
Though the first 45 minutes of the Lions’ 2-2 draw at Columbus this past weekend wasn’t anything worth garnering praise, a goal and an assist in Orlando’s comeback effort was one of Molino’s best contributions to a game this season -- a campaign that has seen the 26-year-old post seven goals and seven assists through his first 19 games. Those are numbers that look rather impressive considering everything he’s gone through up to this point.
But while he’s contributing great numbers, Molino would be quick to tell you it’s not enough.
"For me, first and foremost, I didn’t have a great game [against Columbus]," Molino said before Tuesday’s training. "I expect a little bit more from me, and it’s just the mentality to keep going and keep pushing for great things. When I look at the game, I should have had a couple more goals, but I need to tighten up now, and that’s why I’m here on the training field to go back to the drawing board and keep working on the things that I need to work on, and keep strengthening my strengths."
Molino has spent the last six years playing under Adrian Heath, who brought the young Trinidad midfielder to Orlando. He is now facing a new challenge of playing under a new coach, Jason Kreis.
Under Heath, Molino won two USL MVP awards, set the USL record for goals in a season, and has taken on an important role for the Trinidad & Tobago national team.
"I wouldn’t say (I'm) disappointed, but it was a pleasure to work with Adrian Heath over the past couple of years," Molino said. "I have been with him six years, and be brought me from Trinidad from nothing to be part of a professional environment, so I have to be grateful and thankful for the opportunity Adrian gave me, and I know I’m looking forward to working with a new coach."
Collectively, Orlando City players have all shared the same views on the recent coaching change. While most were sad to see Heath go, the locker room has not lost the belief that the team can make the playoffs this season.
Sitting just three points below the red line with games in hand on just about every team above them, the Lions are very much in the playoff hunt, and adding Kreis to the mix can only help their chances.
"When you’re looking at the season, we’ve been through a very difficult time. In games, we start off slow and we came back 2-0 down," Molino said. "We have this fight about us, that never-die attitude, and when you look at the players and their commitment, and their desire to win, I see without a doubt we’re going to make the playoffs."
And with Molino putting in an All-Star worthy campaign, Orlando City has every reason to believe it can.