For two Lions, Sunday’s win had particularly significant meaning.
Goalkeeper Tally Hall and striker Martin Paterson both made their Orlando City debuts in the 4-0 win over the LA Galaxy. Hall was given the nod to start in net and Paterson came on as a substitute in the 83rd minute.
Neither player was particularly challenged on the day, as Paterson saw just 9 minutes and Hall was only forced to make a single save, but perhaps that’s just what the doctor ordered for the newly rehabilitated players.
Hall, returning from a torn ACL suffered last August while with the Houston Dynamo, kept himself loose with sprints and stretches in his box while his teammates kept the Galaxy at bay.
“Someone said a long time ago that Japanese outfielders, and I’m serious when I say this, they don’t get injured because they’re out there stretching and doing everything,” offered Hall in a moment of cultural insight.
He said it with a laugh and a smile, much like everything else he said after the game. His return was a long time coming, and a clean sheet in a dominant win was everything he could’ve hoped for and more.
“It’s phenomenal, man. I’ve been watching this team, I’ve been seeing the fans, and I’ve been dying to get back in it. And it is something truly special to be on the field. It just felt great to be a part of that.”
Paterson, or ”Pato” as he is affectionately called, shared Tally’s excitement on returning to the pitch. “I was delighted. I had a frustrating time rehabbing the injury,” he said.
It was his first game with City since injuring his hamstring in the preseason. The 28-year-old was hoping to be a major contributor in Orlando City’s inaugural campaign, and Sunday’s debut was another step toward that goal.
“At some point in the next couple of weeks, I’ll be in on goal and I might score so you know, I’ll be working very hard to remain part of the squad and hopefully at some point get on the field again,” said Paterson after the game.
Standing in his way is budding young star Cyle Larin. Larin scored his 3rd goal in as many MLS games before being subbed off in the 78th minute. Asked about his attacking partner after the game, Paterson had nothing but praise for his competition.
“I’ve been really pleased with the way Cyle’s played… Now that everyone’s fit, people can push him and try to get his space and that will just bring him on again so at the end of the day he’s got four goals and he should be pleased with that but he should have it in his mind that he can go and get more.”
The same can be said about various spots on City’s starting XI. As more and more players get healthy, the elevated level of competition on the training grounds should translate to more performances akin to Sunday’s dominant win.
“(The Orlando Citrus Bowl) can be a fortress, and I think that now is the time that we’ve turned the tide and hopefully this is a fortress now that we can really put teams to the sword, but we know we have to work hard to do that.”