Orlando City

Hunting Journal | Vibes


ORLANDO, Fla. — There's always a question about what the vibes will be like within the team ahead of a playoff game.

You almost expect a heightened level of focus and seriousness in every training session, but especially in preparation for a playoff game set to kick off at 7 p.m. ET from Exploria Stadium on Monday, Oct. 30.

Wednesday didn't feel like that at all.

Sure, the team was locked in during the two-hour session, but the vibes were, as they say, immaculate.

Over the last few months at trainings, I can't honestly remember the last time the team's mood was this joyful. Guys were joking as they came out from the locker rooms, running to start their traditional pre-training routine: rondos.

Mason Stajduhar was talking about his assist this past weekend, reminding everyone that it was the first-ever goalkeeper assist in Orlando City history. I got a chance to talk with Abdi Salim about captaining Somalia in his first-ever call-up, which he said was, "incredible." Duncan McGuire came out talking about the race for the latest Goal of the Matchday title that week, which was surprisingly close at the time (he'd eventually win, deservedly).

Even the coaching staff had a bit of a pep in their step heading out onto the pitch. Goalkeeper coach Cesar Baena, who always brings the most energy to training, was hitting a higher level as he got his training with the keepers underway. You could hear him yelling from the complete other side of the field as the rest of the players started their rondos.

As good as the vibes were heading into the training, a switch flipped as assistant coach Fabian Bazan called them over for drills. The team started to hit a competitive groove from that point, lasting the final hour and 45 minutes of practice.

When drills start, the most competitive ones on the pitch are the ones minding the net. Just like their coach, you can hear Pedro Gallese, Adam Grinwis and Stajduhar yelling at the top of their lungs from anywhere on the practice pitch. Stajduhar and Grinwis, who have been teammates on and off for the last five years, always try to outdo one another. The look on their faces when they make a big save or concede a goal is a testament to their tenacity and work ethic. Always pushing the other to get better, along with Gallese.

The one consistent between all three goalkeepers was their inability to keep star rookie McGuire from scoring on them. Occasionally, they would get a piece of a shot, but seven-out-of-10 times the Creighton product was keeping his good form going, banging in goals left and right. It even got to the point that Stajduhar made a good save on Duncan's shot, but he was able to follow it up, tap the ball to himself and score.

Just as the play restarted, Gallese, who was standing off to the side of goal, turned to me and said what everyone else has been thinking around MLS: "Duncan's on fire."

2023 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs | First Round, Game 2

2023 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs | First Round, Game 2

2023 Audi MLS Cup Playoffs | First Round, Game 2

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