Orlando City midfielder Kevin Molino's voice drops a level or two whenever a microphone appears, but his volume increased Wednesday afternoon as he laughed about his beach habits this offseason.
"I've been on the beach every day," Molino said with a chuckle as he stood outside of the team's facilities at Sylvan Lake Park.
During a sometimes tortuous eight months away from the soccer field, Molino was forced into the gym he had so happily avoided for the majority of his life. Soon, he learned he quite enjoyed the abs and muscles that were a result of those workouts. Or, as Lions coach Adrian Heath called it, Molino's new "beach bod."
The side benefit, of course, is a stronger, more fit Molino for the start of the 2016 season. And after joking around, Molino was quick to point out the gym is now a part of his daily routine.
"It's very important that I keep on my injury and go in the gym and treat my body different," Molino said. "Because the reality of it is I had a serious injury and I just have to look out for myself even better, just eating [well] and being here early to get treatment to go through the season and my career."
Molino aims to be back in the lineup for Orlando City on March 6 when the team opens the season at home against Real Salt Lake. Heath said expects Molino to participate in full contact work during the next few weeks.
The club is still exercising caution. Molino didn't train on Wednesday as rain fell and made for a slick field, but Molino said he is going into the training sessions without any reservations. He isn't waiting for that first hard tackle or even nervous about the first game back. At least not yet.
"I'm not really studying about that," Molino said. "When it comes, it comes. I just have to deal with it in that situation. For now, I just want to focus on whatever they tell me to do. If I'm going to train, if I'm not going to train, if I am going to stay in the gym. I just listen to what they say and when I get an opportunity to go out there and train, if I get in a 50-50 tackle, so be it."
Molino tore his ACL during a friendly against Ponte Preta on May 2. It was the first major injury of his career, and the rehabilitation process brought many new lessons.
Molino said he struggled at first to deal with not being on the field and in the locker room with the team, but he gained perspective from watching in the stands. He also took time to study film and tried to learn the habits of his teammates and the team itself.
Sitting out also added a new level of appreciation for the game that Molino said he will carry into the 2016 season.
"Yeah, [I am] very excited [to get back] but also humble about it because of all the work I have done," Molino said. "I'm not going to take it for granted. And every day I go on the training pitch, everything I put in is what I'm going to get out of it. So what I put in in the training field is what I'm going to get out of games and I'm very excited looking forward to the first game on March 6."