Holding midfielder Uri Rosell made his long-awaited debut for Orlando City against the San Jose Earthquakes with the Lions up 3-1 and looking to close out the match.
About 10 minutes later, the match was over. Rosell came on in the 84th minute in Saturday’s match and committed a foul, had three successful passes and intercepted a pass. Then, the full-time whistle blew.
He didn’t see the pitch for long on match day, but he was pleased to finally play in front of Orlando City’s supporters after a long road from Portugal’s Portimonense Sporting Clube.
“It was amazing, honestly,” Rosell said. “I felt so good being in that environment, in that stadium, with our fans. And also we got the three points so I was very happy and very excited to play again.
“It’s been hard, but finally I’m healthy. I’m feeling good. I’m trying to work a little bit more to get the fitness back, but I’m feeling confident.”
Rosell didn’t participate in a full training session with Orlando City until March 20, 49 days after he the club announced he was acquired. At first, club officials said Rosell was working to get match-fit again, but coach Jason Kreis eventually revealed the holding midfielder was battling a knee injury he picked up while with Portimonense.
“It’s hard when you are injured and you see your teammates play and you can’t, you know?” Rosell said. “When you’re back on the field, it’s when you realize this is what you love to do and just be happy to learn every day with the staff we have and the players we have.”
Kreis on Wednesday withheld judgement of Rosell’s performance against the Earthquakes because the latter wasn’t on the pitch long enough.
“Probably, in hindsight, wish maybe I had made that decision a little quicker,” Kreis said. “Get him in. Get him a few more minutes to get him acclimated to the group a little bit more.
“He’s had some really good training session the past several days – the past week and a half, two weeks now. He’s moving in a very positive direction.”
Two weeks ago, Kreis said Rosell, a key piece in Sporting KC’s 2013 MLS Cup team, was the “missing piece” for Orlando City in terms of getting the most out of a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond midfield. Kreis has utilized a 4-2-3-1 in recent matches, with Cristian Higuita and Yoshimar Yotún as the club’s two defensive midfielders.
With Yotún playing more of a box-to-box role, Higuita has taken up the defensive midfielder role that would likely be Rosell’s – and Higuita played well in the club’s last two matches. Kreis said Higuita was his Man of the Match against Philadelphia.
Rosell said he’s happy there’s competition within the club. Rosell came on for Higuita after Higuita’s calves cramped up on Saturday.
“When you have great players in your position, it makes you compete even more,” he said. “It’s good for the whole team to have very good players that may not start. It keeps the level high.
“Our job is to be the best on the field and also, we are very [good] friends outside. I never have problems with players. In the end, it’s good to have competition.”
Right back Scott Sutter (knee) and center back Jonathan Spector (concussion) are still recuperating, Kreis said. Spector was at Wednesday’s training session, but left before the portion of training that was available to media. Sutter wasn’t at Wednesday’s session.
“Scott Sutter is still struggling with a knee and recuperating from that, hasn’t been out to a full training session,” Kreis said. “John is still having some symptoms from the second concussion and so we don’t even have a timeline on that.”
Rookie sensation Chris Mueller, who has three goals in his last three matches, left Wednesday’s session with a bag of ice wrapped around his right calf. When asked, Kreis said Mueller had “a little bit of a knock,” but quickly added, “He’s fine.”
Orlando City is back in action at 4 p.m. on Sunday against the Colorado Rapids. The match will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.