Rafael Ramos’ second full season in MLS was nothing short of a frustration.
After signing a new four-year contract with Orlando City, the young defender struggled with his form early in the year before a hamstring injury popped up in late May and handcuffed him to the sideline for almost the remainder of the season.
After spending the majority of the off-season in his home country of Portugal, the 22-year-old is back in the Sunshine State healthy and ready to tackle the task ahead with his teammates this season.
Orlando City players reported to the Orlando Health Medical Center in downtown Orlando on Saturday morning for their preseason physicals before they take the field for the first day of training on Monday, three months to the day since the Lions ended their 2016 season with a 4-2 win over D.C. United.
“It will be quick now,” Ramos said of the long off-season to a small gathering of reporters. “We start training on Monday, and we’ll get back on the field — that’s the fun stuff. And then the work will begin.”
Ramos, who was given a clean bill of health from the club doctors, is excited heading into his third season in MLS.
“The doctor said I’m okay, and I’m feeling okay, so I’m really excited to be here again,” Ramos said. “I just came back at the end of the season last year and I felt great. I didn’t stop in the off-season. I kept working, and I’m feeling great now.”
Ramos was limited to just 12 games last season — and only one after starting 10 of the Lions’ first 11 games because of the injury. He only made one appearance for Jason Kreis at the end of the season, having been out with the bum hamstring when Adrian Heath was let go by the club.
He arrives home to an Orlando City team, specifically the back line, that looks much different than it did at season’s end, happy to be one of the returning faces.
“It tells me that I think that he likes me and he wants me here, and I’ll be my best to help him,” he said.
And, unlike the new faces, Ramos comes back into camp as a player that knows Kreis and his style, and vice versa. “It’s good for me because I know him from a little bit of last season, and I know what he wants, what he likes, and I’ll try to do my best to impress him.”
Among the excitement of the new season on the horizon for Orlando City sits the brand new downtown soccer stadium that’s set to open this season. Sure to please and destined to be among the loudest places in the league, coaches and players alike haven’t been able to hide their excitement for the club’s new home.
“[I’m] looking forward to seeing it very soon,” Ramos said. “I just saw it coming here. It looks great, it looks beautiful, and I think it will be great for us and a very tough place for the visitors to come. Just being a new stadium, it’s a great thing for us. It looks great, it has great facilities, and I think it will help us a lot. Being a little bit smaller will be great for our fans, and it’ll always be full, which is great for us.
“Very much looking forward to [the first game], and I hope that we get a big win for the amazing fans.”