SANFORD, Fla. — Orlando City saw a familiar face return to the sidelines Wednesday, with Cristian Higuita suiting up for light training for the first time since suffering a hamstring injury earlier this season.
The midfielder hasn’t suited up for the Lions since May when he first suffered the injury during the team’s match in Montreal. During Higuita’s first five games this season, he notched four starts and an assist. During the past two months, Higuita has spent his training time inside the facilities at Lake Sylvan Park, focusing on rehabilitation and making a slow recovery.
His return to the training field on Wednesday is only one step on a longer road to full recovery. Higuita’s movement was limited to a gentle walk and jog around the field while his teammates trained on the pitch, and he will have to ease his way into sprinting and full-speed contact drills.
Orlando City coach James O’Connor made it clear from the start that the process would be a careful one and Higuita won’t be expected to return to training any time soon.
Higuita remains on the injury report alongside defenders Alex De John and Shane O’Neill, both of whom continue to recover from concussions they suffered during the past few weeks.
Star forward Nani also took a lighter approach to training on Wednesday, limiting his movement after suffering a tweak to his calf during Sunday’s game against the Red Bulls. However, Nani is expected to play Saturday against New England.
With two games spread out across two weeks, the pace of play has slowed down for Orlando City.
The more traditional gap between matches has helped the team fully integrate midfielder Robinho, who joined the team two weeks ago and already saw his first start and assist in a purple jersey.
“It’s been a very good first impression so far,” Robinho said through a translator. “It’s a good team. We deserve better and we’re fighting for it.”
During his first season of MLS play, Robinho started the year with the Columbus Crew, where he logged 19 games and contributed two assists. The young player brings an aggressive style in the attacking third and a propensity to challenge players in one-on-one situations.
O’Connor felt confident enough in Robinho to start him on the road against the Portland Timbers despite the fact the young player had only been with the team for six days.
Although Robinho has two appearances with Orlando City, the next two weeks will offer the midfielder the opportunity to better integrate with the team. O’Connor said the time is important, helping Robinho adjust to a new team and system.
“He’s got good pace, good awareness, good quick feet, he’s very good 1-v-1,” O’Connor said. “It’s gonna take him a little bit of time to get used to the guys, but he’s someone we’ve been very happy with in the short time he’s been here.”