Adrian Heath on making 2016 MLS playoffs: ‘No excuses this time’

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(Courtesy of Orlando City SC Communications)

SANFORD — Orlando City Soccer Club head coach Adrian Heath was standing with both hands inside his windbreaker jacket, as the club’s logo stood plastered in the backdrop behind him.

With plenty of members of the press in front of him, it didn’t take long for someone to ask about making the playoffs. As a matter of fact, it was the first question asked during the team’s first media-availability training day Monday morning at Sylvan Lake Park.

“No excuses this time. We’re fully aware of what’s expected,” responded Heath to a question regarding making playoffs in the 2016 season.

It may be a new season, but Orlando City SC is heading into its second year in Major League Soccer with the same hope.

The club failed to reach the MLS Cup playoffs last year after a seventh-place finish in the Eastern Conference, which also saw at one moment a Didier Drogba-led Montreal Impact secure a spot in the East after a horrid start to their season.

“The first thing I said to the ownership group when we had the review at the end of the season was that [2015] was a disappointment,” Heath said. “There were a lot of positives, but the most important thing for me was the team was capable of making the playoffs, and we didn’t.”

Although the idea of OCSC expressing its goal of making the playoffs seems very reminiscent of 2015, Heath mentioned the addition of Orlando City B in the United Soccer League could prove to be beneficial this season.

Injuries and international call-ups plagued Orlando City last summer, which saw the Lions drop massive points, and eventually cost them a chance at postseason action. Heath added that with OCB in the picture, players like Tyler Turner and Tommy Redding can see more playing time at a professional level.

Heath added a few new additions to his squad; former New England Revolution defender Kevin Alston was one of them. The D.C.-area native brings plenty of MLS playoff experience. Alston said this squad has the capability of making the postseason this season.

“I want to play my part and do whatever I can to help the team,” Alston added. “Our goal is to make the playoffs, and that’s what we’re going to strive for all year. I think it’s always tough when you have new franchises that come in the league. There’s always that transition phase you have to put a team together. But you can tell [Orlando City] had tradition before they came into the league.”

If there was one player that knew the struggle of not making the playoffs, it’s Joe Bendik. The incoming goalkeeper spent three seasons with Toronto FC, a team that fought for a playoff spot since its inception in the league before eventually clinching the postseason for the first time last year.

“I think it’s a very attainable goal,” said Bendik on the club’s playoff hopes. “I was used to it in Toronto. That was our goal every single year, and we accomplished that last year. I saw what it took — the talent and the hard work it took — and this club has the capability to do it.”

Reinforcements on the way

Orlando City SC’s 2016 offseason has been a quiet one.

Though there has been some MLS experience added to the squad, Heath told reporters the squad is far from completed to compete this season in MLS.

“We got over a week left in Europe. So if we want to get something done there, we got to move on,” Heath added. “We certainly haven’t finished with the squad. We’ve got two or three things that we’d like to do.”

Said Heath on roster and management changes around the league: “I’ve been aware of what’s been going around the league, whose teams have signed some good players, and a couple of changes in management. We just want to concentrate at what we do over here, and that’s get better every week, every month, and take it into the season.”

Follow Mike Gramajo on Twitter (@byMikeGramajo). For more, follow the OSJ on Twitter (@OSJSoccer).


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