Simon Veness is a beat writer covering Orlando City SC for MLSsoccer.com. You can view all of his stories written for MLSsoccer.com here.
ORLANDO, Fla. – If ever a bye weekend arrived at the right time, it is this week for goal-shy Orlando City SC as they try to shake off the disappointment of a third straight home defeat and their first MLS losing streak.
The Lions have managed just one point from their first four games in front of their own fans, who have averaged 39,000 per match to date, a record for any expansion team in its debut season. And last Sunday’s 2-0 reversal at the hands of Toronto FC, following on the heels of their 3-0 drubbing at Columbus, makes for a sobering two-game skid.
No one at the club is in the same zip code as the infamous “panic button,” but there is a realization the team needs to raise its game. Having a week off — with only a friendly against Brazilian side Ponte Preta this weekend — to clear heads and soothe a few injuries is extremely timely.
“We have 15 days before we have to play again, so these 15 days will be very important to us,” said Orlando’s own Brazilian star and skipper Kaká. “We need to get back our confidence, to play hard, train hard and get back in the shape that we had before [the last two games].
“In this moment, I think we need to focus on us, what we can do better, where we can improve, and how to get our intensity back.”
Kaká’s midfield colleague Kevin Molino is equally convinced the bye week has come at the right time for Orlando to regroup and prepare for a tough May slate of league games. The Lions are set to meet three of the Eastern Conference’s top four, plus a visit from the defending MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy.
“Yeah I think it’s time to go with your family and refresh all the things you haven’t been doing well and the things you have been doing well,” the Trinidadian conceded. “We need to come back together as a team and collectively.
“We have a great bunch of guys and just have to stick together no matter what happens. The most important thing [to remember] is it’s very early in the season, so we still have chances to get points and we just need to keep fighting — fight to the end and see where it takes us.”
While the players and coaches find breathing room after the hectic first seven weeks of their MLS lives, the team can look forward to restoring a few key pieces of the roster, notably Martin Paterson. The Northern Irish forward has yet to appear for his new club after picking up a hamstring problem in pre-season, and could be the ideal boost for a strike force that has managed just one goal at home.
Inexperience at this level still seems to be the biggest issue among Orlando’s young attackers, especially with Pedro Ribeiro also sidelined after tearing a hamstring last month. No.1 SuperDraft pick Cyle Larin has one goal in five appearances, while young DPs Carlos Rivas and Bryan Rochez have yet to register, and both snatched at good chances towards the end of the Toronto defeat.
Head coach Adrian Heath indicated last week that Paterson could be ready for a full training load again soon, but he is insistent there is nothing fundamentally wrong with the team.
“We didn’t think we were inexperienced a couple of weeks ago when we won in Portland,” he pointed out. “That wasn’t because we were young that night. We’ll certainly tweak things, but I don’t think this is in need of sweeping changes at all.
“As I said before, the Toronto defeat was a disappointment but we just need to sit down, look at the tape, see where we went wrong and move on. And that’s what we’ll do.”