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Orlando City fitness, communication sharp during Wednesday scrimmage

After two scrimmages against MLS opponents and a week of tougher-than-usual practices, Orlando City head coach Jason Kreis said the Lions are going to spend the next two days recovering.

At this point, it’s well-deserved. Orlando City SC has scored seven goals during two training scrimmages against MLS competition. Wednesday afternoon, the group scored three goals against the Philadelphia Union, including two in about two minutes.

The first goal came from midfielder Yoshimar Yotún off a penalty kick. The next two came as the scrimmage started to wind down. Right back RJ Allen headed home a cross from midfielder Sacha Kljestan. That was quickly followed by a finish from rookie striker Chris Mueller.

It was Mueller’s third preseason goal against MLS competition – he had two Saturday against Minnesota United FC.

“He’s got to be pleased with himself – I know we all are,” Kljestan said of Mueller’s performance so far this season.

Philadelphia got a goal back thanks to Jamaican striker Cory Burke. No official score of the scrimmage was recorded, so it technically wasn’t a 3-1 victory for Orlando City. Still, the Lions were content with their effort.

“All in all, I think the exercise was, again, positive,” Kreis said.

“To stretch the guys to 75 minutes, everybody played 75 minutes after playing 60 on Saturday and looking to play another 75-90 this Saturday … we know it’s a difficult stretch for us, but we know it’s important to build fitness. All in all, I was pleased with the performances.”

Despite a host of new faces, Kreis said this year’s squad has come together in a way he didn’t expect.

“There’s definitely some combinations in and amongst the team that you see are starting to develop,” he said. “As a whole, I think the team this year, to me, feels like it’s miles ahead of where we were last year from a camaraderie and a togetherness and a tactical awareness connectedness as we play.”

The Lions have another training scrimmage Saturday against Real Salt Lake.

“So far, so good,” Kljestan said. “It’s been – after three games – all very positive.”

Increased communication

Kreis on Saturday said communication along the team’s back line has been a point of emphasis as the preseason continues.

Against Philadelphia, he said the communication was there.

“Super, super job from all three goalkeepers that played. Center backs, great job with that. I think everybody is buying into the idea we need to communicate more. It looks really good from my point of view.”

The focus on team communication extends beyond the back line, of course.

Kljestan made his voice heard after Burke’s goal. Raising his voice, he questioned the players walking back after Philadelphia’s score.

“That’s what it’s about,” he said. “When you score a goal, you don’t let your foot off the gas and when you give up a goal, you got to put your foot on the gas even more and try to get your handle on the game again.”

With a shrug, he added, “Not really elementary stuff, but it’s kind of the thing you think everybody would know. If we can build that into our identity as a team, it’s just going to make us that much better.”

Dwyer back in the mix

Star striker Dom Dwyer, who is still recovering from a hamstring injury, played 45 minutes on Wednesday. 

“Looked a little rusty, but was willing to work and run and put in the fitness we needed him to get,” Kreis said. “Hopefully we’ll build on this for Saturday.”

Dwyer recently returned to training and said he was excited to get back to seeing match minutes.

“I’ve been itching to go, just really running around the outside of the field,” he said on Tuesday. “It’s nice to be involved and back with the group.” 

 

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