ORLANDO – Coach Adrian Heath has had almost a week to digest the food for thought served by his team’s performance in last week’s friendly. On Friday, his mind’s work will be put to the test when the first-place New England Revolution (5-2-2, 17 pts) pay a visit to the Citrus Bowl.
The Luke Boden – Brek Shea combination has been a hot topic at training this week. Shea has made noticeable progress at left back since arriving in Orlando, but its possible his services will be utilized further up the pitch this week.
“I’ve played (left mid) longer than I’ve played left back by far, I’ve played my whole career more forward and left back is a new position so I’m excited to get back out there and just play, whether I play left back or left mid.”
Even though the Revs pose the toughest test of the young season, it would be easy to get caught looking ahead. Just 5 days after Friday night’s match, Orlando will face DC United (5-1-2, 17 pts) on the road, who are tied with New England atop the table. As if that wasn’t enough, who else but the defending MLS Cup champion LA Galaxy (3-2-5, 14 pts) will come to Orlando just 4 days later.
After the Toronto game, the horizon held nothing but an international friendly and time to rest. All of the sudden, there lies a mountain in the Lions’ way. Fans and media alike see it as a huge challenge – and it is – but Heath won’t fall into the trap of looking past the Revolution.
He promptly ended any talk of DC or LA, saying, “No no no, let’s get this one out of the way. We’ve got plenty on our hands tomorrow night.”
Thankfully, Heath and the Lions have reinforcements on the way. Slowly but surely, the Lions’ injuries are subsiding and more faces are reappearing on the training grounds. Lewis Neal, who started the first two games of the season, was jogging at practice, but is still nursing a neck injury. Striker Martin Paterson is “getting closer”, according to Heath, after injuring his hamstring in the preseason. Goalkeeper Tally Hall, coming back from a torn ACL, is also nearing his return and should get playing time in the coming games.
Heath will also get speedy right back Rafael Ramos back at his disposal. Ramos is returning from a one-game suspension following a red card on April 18 against Columbus. The 20-year-old has started 6 games for the Lions this season.
Injuries or not, the team has repeatedly spoken of the confidence boost from the Ponte Preta friendly, in which the Lions roared to a 3-2 comeback win. Heath, Shea, and Bryan Róchez all alluded to it on Thursday, and they surely hope to gain even more from the team Heath referred to as most “in-form” team in the league.
As far as his team’s own form, Heath wouldn’t let on who would be in the starting 11, but he did offer insight into the Boden-Shea alignment.
“You don’t have to be Einstein to work out that it worked out really well and the fact that Kevin (Molino) is gone injured, the fact is that we’ll probably move Brek further forward.”