Through its first five MLS regular-season matches, the progress of Orlando City SC has been noticeable, even if goals and victories continue to be hard to come by.
A frustrating pair of 1-0 losses at home in stoppage time, including last Friday night to D.C. United, can't completely overshadow what the team has been able to accomplish. Coach Adrian Heath was pleased in general with the effort shown in its most recent match, when Orlando City finished with a 17-11 advantage in shots and kept its third consecutive crowd of more than 30,000 fans at the Citrus Bowl entertained.
"I had a couple chances where I should have scored," midfielder Kevin Molino said Tuesday after a training session in preparation for Sunday's upcoming match at Portland. "But the most important thing is that it's early in the season. We still have a chance to capitalize on our chances."
Molino, who scored 20 goals last season for Orlando when it was part of the USL PRO, had a shot which rattled off the crossbar in the 30th minute and found himself staring at another scoring opportunity shortly before halftime after taking a pass from Kaká. Much like a power hitter in baseball who might find that first home run of a season somehow difficult to get, the 24-year-old native of Trinidad and Tobago believes he is on the verge of busting out.
The struggles on offense could remain an issue after forward Pedro Ribeiro tore a hamstring in the first half of Friday's contest, an injury which will sideline him for at least the next two months. Ribeiro, who has developed a strong bond with fellow Brazilian Kaká, recorded a goal and an assist in Orlando's 2-2 draw at Montreal where he and Kaká struck within minutes of one another.
But Molino is far from discouraged.
"With the quality we have here," he said, "sooner or later we'll get things going."
The match at Portland will be a homecoming for Orlando goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, who played for the Sounders for the entire 2013 and 2014 seasons. Ricketts has been in goal for all five matches, and while he and the rest of Orlando City might be tempted to kick themselves for wins or draws which got away, they can't quibble too much for currently sitting sixth in the 10-team Eastern Conference with 29 matches still to go.
"We haven't gotten the wins that we needed," Molino said. "But when I look at the games, we've played totally good football for 90 minutes."