Kevin Molino made a name for himself in USL. In his four years with Orlando City in America’s third division, Molino was twice named league MVP. In 2014, the midfielder broke the league’s single season scoring record previously held by former teammate and current Sporting Kansas City forward Dom Dwyer, by netting 20 regular season goals.
Molino is only one of two players that was with the club prior to being announced as an MLS expansion side (defender Luke Boden being the other) and the only one to be a regular starter. Now five weeks into the regular season, Molino has had time to adjust to playing at the higher level and has been able to pinpoint the differences between the two leagues.
One of the biggest differences Molino points out is the lack of opportunities against MLS defenders. “You must take your chances because you might not get another,” Molino says, “You have to take full advantage.”
After scoring seemingly at will a season ago, Molino has found it difficult to find the net in 2015. Part of that is the change in position from central midfield to right midfield which Molino describes as having “more defensive responsibilities.” However, he knows that he must convert the chances he gets. “When I get opportunities, I have to take advantage.”
As a club veteran, Molino believes that accountability is a part of leadership. “I have to take full blame for it (lack of goals). I have to score the chances I get.” But he also knows that he’ll continue to have the ability to change his fortune. “I’ve had plenty of opportunities in the first five games. It’s just a matter of getting one in. I must stay positive and when I get the opportunity, I need to take advantage and score.”
The positivity Molino expresses isn’t just personal, but comes from his teammates. While Orlando City is known for its youth, some of the club’s MLS veterans have been key in keeping the 24-year-old in the right frame of mind. “There is a great bunch of guys in this team. They always motivate me to do great things.”
But even with the support of his teammates, Molino has found several challenges which differentiate the two American leagues in which he’s played. “The biggest thing is training,” Molino says. “When you train, you want to show your quality. And coming to the training park we must learn each other.” It’s part of the day-in, day-out grind of playing at an MLS club.
While training is the most important, the most difficult challenge is the opposing atmosphere. “It might be Portland, it might be cold, you might go to New York and it’s a different atmosphere so you just have to get used to it and be ready to be up for the challenge.” The travel and atmosphere are much different than his home country of Trinidad and Tobago. “At home you just have one stadium home and away. But here you have different stadiums with different atmospheres. Sometimes cold, sometimes hot. So that’s the thing for me.”
It’s been a big adjustment for Kevin Molino moving from USL to MLS but he’s taking it in stride. Six games in and the midfielder is clearly more comfortable playing in MLS, scoring his first assist on a beautiful cross that was cleverly chested in by teammate Cyle Larin. And, with full confidence from head coach Adrian Heath, Molino knows he will find himself on the score sheet soon enough – saying, “Just work hard and stay positive.”