ORLANDO — Orlando City crushed the New England Revolution 6-2 on Wednesday in a preseason friendly to clinch the inaugural Orlando City Invitational. The Lions came alive in the second half, scoring four goals in less than 10 minutes, starting in the 47th minute.
Here are three takeaways from the preseason victory:
Colmán stands out
Josué Colmán’s status as a young designated player in 2018 meant big things were expected of him. He had flashes of bright play throughout 2018 – when he got on the pitch – but was inconsistent.
The young Paraguayan midfielder called last season “horrible” in an interview with Pro Soccer USA and said he’s put in “maximum effort” in order to improve.
Against the New England Revolution, Colmán showed what he’s capable of doing on the pitch. His passing was sharp, his goal in the 47th minute was first-class, his acceleration with the ball at his feet showed why he’s so dangerous and, most of all, he looked like a designated player.
Fans on social media were clamoring to see Colmán toward the end of last season. Those who were in attendance Wednesday were treated to what Colmán could bring to the Lions in 2019 if he stays consistent and healthy.
“I thought he played very well,” Orlando City coach James O’Connor said of Colmán.“I thought his understanding of space was very good. Not just him. I thought there was a number of players that performed really, really well. I think, again, the intensity that they were able to play at was great to see. Again, everyone will leave very encouraged by the work that the players put in tonight.”
It was just a preseason friendly, but the Revolution’s staring XI included some of their top players, including forward Teal Bunbury, who scored two goals, and defender Michael Mancienne. They called the loss a “reality check.”
Orlando City’s starting XI included a batch of players with little to no MLS regular season experience, including OCB centberback Matheus Silva, 17-year-old SIMA Gold player Hamady Diop, Homegrown signee Benji Michel, MLS SuperDraft pick Santiago Pantiño and two-time USL champ Greg Ranjitsingh.
They were helped by the presence of veterans Uri Rosell and Lamine Sané, but the Lions’ new players held their own just fine. OCB players Jordan Bender and Ates Diouf and SIMA Gold player Moussa Sabaly were subbed on in the second half.
Diop was a bright spot at left back.
“I thought they were excellent,” O’Connor said about the team’s younger first team and OCB players. “I think they performed really, really well. I think, when you look at the academy players — not just the academy players, I think some of the senior players alongside them to help them and manage them through the game — I thought there’s a number of performances tonight that you go, ‘Well that’s really, really encouraging for us as a football club to see that kind of performance.’”
Some of the young players who were with the team last season also thrived. Cam Lindley’s passing in the attack was solid. He didn’t get much of a chance to shine after the start of last season and he took advantage of his preseason opportunity on Wednesday.
And now, the wait
Orlando City kicks off its regular season against New York City FC on March 2. The Lions’ scrimmage against Minnesota United Saturday is closed, so the season opener will be the next chance for everyone to see what this team can do.
Despite picking up two wins and scoring eight total goals during the Orlando City Invitational, O’Connor has said, “it’s preseason,” enough times to put things in perspective.
“If you said we’re going to get that level of performance at this stage of the season and you look at the performance against New York, we can be pleased,” O’Connor said. “But again, it’s preseason.
“We need to make sure we are very intentional about what we’re doing. We need to make sure we rest. The next two days become really important. We need to manage the rest and recovery.”
A two-game glimpse was great, but there are still questions surrounding the club. Will star striker Dom Dwyer (quad) be ready to go in time for the season opener? Will newly-acquired star winger Nani be ready? What is this team’s first-choice lineup when everyone is healthy?
Preseason training has gone well, according to O’Connor, but how it all translates to the regular season is what counts.