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Orlando City pushes through bumps, bruises while managing heavy schedule

Coach James O’Connor looks to integrate new additions and players recovering from injuries as his team battles another heavy workload.

Orlando City SC defender Robin Jansson (6) dribbles the ball during the first half at Orlando City Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

SANFORD, Fla. —  Orlando City hit the road on Tuesday for a West Coast matchup with Portland later this week. The team’s trip is one of the longest it can make in MLS play, spanning more than 2,500 miles of travel and three time zones. Its final destination is one of the most raucous soccer stadiums in MLS.

This week has given Orlando City a chance to regroup and rejuvenate, with a full Sunday of recovery before two days of training and a flight on Tuesday afternoon. With only one point separating Orlando City and playoff contention, the team will touch down in Portland, Ore., with its mind set on making the leap into a top-seven position.

Robinho’s role

It’s been less than a week since Orlando City announced the acquisition of former Columbus Crew player Robinho, but the midfielder is already mixing in with the rest of the Lions. The midfielder first began training with his new club Friday, but he sat out Saturday’s game against his former club as a courtesy.

Robinho made 13 starts this season with the Crew. He has yet to net a goal in MLS play, but he did add two assists and contributed in both of the team’s U.S. Open Cup games. Orlando City coach James O’Connor is hoping to bring the midfielder into the fold of the team as soon as possible.

“The biggest thing is just managing his load,” O’Connor said. “We want to make sure his integration to the players for him is pretty smooth. He’s someone who we think can help us, so fingers crossed he’ll be able to come in soon and be able to give us a little bit of something.”

Managing injuries

At training on Tuesday, defender João Moutinho said he feels “almost back to 100%” after spending several weeks on the sidelines with a hamstring injury. He returned to training with his teammates last week, but O’Connor said the defender is still day-to-day.

Meanwhile, midfielder Cristian Higuita and defender Shane O’Neill are both working through longer recovery periods. O’Neill is working one-on-one in training while he remains under concussion protocol, while Higuita’s return to training is undetermined as he continues to recover from a hamstring injury.

O’Connor noted that one key to his team’s ability to avoid injury-related roster shortages has been his players’ willingness to power through knocks and bruises throughout the season. Defender Robin Jansson took a hit to the torso during the U.S. Open Cup win over New York City FC that trainers feared might have fractured his ribs. Three days later, Jansson played through a rib contusion for a full 90 minutes against Columbus.

“This is what I mean with the level of commitment,” O’Connor said. “Even if you don’t fracture a rib, any type of bone bruising is very very painful. His mentality is a breath of fresh air. He’s a guy that you want in the trenches with you.”

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