ORLANDO, Fla. — For the coaches and players of Orlando City SC, it is time to draw a veil over their first 14 games of the season and move on to a new stage at home to Toronto FC on Saturday (7:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).
The use of the word ‘draw’ is advisable in this instance, as the Lions have notched a league-high eight ties to date and, although their unbeaten home streak dates back to July 19 last year, it is starting to ring a little hollow as they linger in eighth spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
“I wouldn’t say this is a must-win game,” said head coach Adrian Heath. “But we are getting to the stage where we are putting ourselves in a corner and are under a lot more pressure to take three points at home.
“We have lost the least number of games in the [conference], but, playing another Eastern Conference team at home, we have to turn the draws into wins, so there is no denying this is a big game for us.”
Heath will be keeping his fingers crossed that skipper Kaká will be raring to go after the thigh injury he suffered with the Brazil national team ahead of the Copa America Centenario and which sidelined him for last week’s 2-2 draw at home to San Jose.
City’s Brazilian talisman has now missed half the team’s games this season but has been back in full training this week, with Heath just awaiting any possible reaction before naming his team to face TFC for the first time this season.
“Barring any overnight issues, we have Ricky [Kaká] back, Darwin [Ceren] back and Rafa [Ramos] available, all three of whom are potential starters for us,” the head coach added. “They are guys who make a difference for us and, with a tough month just around the corner, it couldn’t come at a better time to have everyone fit again.”
“David was very disappointed to lose his place for the last game,” Heath confirmed. “It’s now up to him to stake another claim for that spot now.”
While Orlando’s head coach is most concerned with his own lineup, he does admit to some serious concerns over “the little fella” on the other side, as Sebastian Giovinco bagged four goals and two assists in three games against his men in 2015.
“He’s either scored or been involved in most of their goals this season,” Heath observed. “And he is arguably the best player in the league. You try to watch as much video of the opposition as you can, and you can’t watch Toronto on tape without Giovinco staring you in the face, so we hope we can put some shackles on the little fella.
“To be honest, I love watching him and I could watch him all day. His movement, his touch, his understanding of the game and his finishing are all first class, so we have to make sure we stay concentrated for the full 90 minutes.”
Heath refuses to believe the Reds have any kind of hex over the Lions, though, after City went 0-2-1 against them last year, conceding 11 goals and scoring just once.
“I don’t hold to the idea that they are a bogey team or anything like that,” Heath insisted. “We actually played them a lot in our USL days in the annual tournament at Walt Disney World and did really well against them. Last year was definitely a bad one for us in those terms, but I’m confident we can be competitive against them.”