How Orlando City Might Make The Best Of The Enforced 30 Day Break
Updated: Jun 1
News broke this week that Major League Soccer had made the move to suspend the season for 30 days due to the outbreak of Covid-19, the illness born out of the Coronavirus. The news came shortly after the NBA announced similar measures, and shortly before Disney closed its doors (usually a good sign that s*** got real). First of all I just want to say, I applaud the decisive action taken by MLS. This virus is something we should all be taken seriously and the safety of all involved in the league ought to be a top priority. Whilst it is undoubtedly disappointing news, as we only just got MLS back, many will be wondering how teams will be treating this enforced break. Whilst it's a break none of us wanted, and certainly not under these troubling circumstances, many of us have been left wondering how the club will use this time.
The club has said that it will continue to work with local authorities and medical advice, in order to ensure the safety of all those concerned with the team. This undoubtedly puts the players in a strange and unprecedented position. Oscar Pareja and his coaching staff will have tailored their pre-season programme to help the players hit the ground running in MLS. Thus far, whilst performance levels have been encouraging results have not. This enforced break will provide the team with a chance to take stock of their first two games. Although, when they will actually get chance to take stock is as yet unclear. The whole squad has yet to be given the all clear to return to training, though players nursing injuries such as Dom Dwyer have been permitted access to the club's gym. There has yet to be a whole squad session held, since the suspension announcement.
The enforced break is certainly something that is unprecedented. MLS veterans Brian Rowe and Tesho Akindele recently told PROSoccerUSA.com that this situation is unique, and has left the team wondering what the next steps are. The MLS Players Association advised all players to stay away from the team's training base until Monday the 9th March. Players like Joey DeZart and Santiago Patino posted videos of joint work-outs, while Ruan posted a video of him running on a treadmill in his home with his wife. Akindele told Julia Poe that the players have been trying to keep each informed with the latest developments through a WhatsApp group chat. The uncertainty is something that is not easy to deal with, I know we are feeling it all as fans so the clubs' athletes must be finding this all particularly disconcerting. There is undoubtedly a lot of worry about what the virus could entail for them on a personal level. Many will be concerned for their own welfare and for the well-being of their loved ones. It's an unsettling period for us all. That being said, every cloud has a silver lining. There are certainly things the club can be doing to make the best of this situation and ensure the team is in the best place to compete if and when the season gets back underway.
The break gives the team chance to make more roster additions. In the last week or so, reports have emerged linking the club with Vitinho, a winger currently with Flamengo. The Brazilian has registered 12 goals across 87 appearances for the Brazilian giants. Having been rebuffed in their attempts to sign the likes of Alex Castro, they will be keen to land Vitinho as soon as possible. Vitinho is a player with pace, who has the ability to play on both flanks. He could be just the sort of player the team are looking for. Alongside Portuguese superstar Nani, the Lions would have two very good options on either flank with the likes of Chris Mueller providing very capable competition. That being said, they still need a striker. An out and out goal scorer is a must for me. If Dom can use the break to get back to fitness then that's great. The Englishman is certainly wearing a chip on his shoulder, and does have a point to prove this season. I still believe he could have a good year, but I've yet to be convinced by what we have in reserve. Tesho has looked off the pace. Patino has been spending time with OCB, as has Daryl Dike and to be honest I can see that being the case for a while. Benji Michel has been used as a wide forward, and whilst he undoubtedly has promise as a central striker he has yet to prove he can get 10-15 goals at this level. We cannot afford to rely so heavily on Nani's goals again this season.
It's not difficult to imagine how difficult and frustrating this break will be for the team. Having only recently finished a gruelling pre-season programme, and off the back of a frustrating loss in Colorado. The team will be chomping at the bit to get out there again. From that point of view the mental challenges associated with keeping themselves at peak fitness, ready for a season resumption that may or may not come are unprecedented. The challenge for Oscar Pareja and his coaching staff is going to be ensuring that mental preparedness is maintained at optimum levels, as well as maintaining fitness. Whenever the season resumes, whoever the team are facing; they need to be able to hit the ground running. The picture is still very unclear in regards to if and when the league will resume and will remain so as the Coronavirus continues its spread. All Orlando City and it's players can do is make sure they use this time to make sure that, when the campaign does get back underway. They are ready for it.