Notes & Quotes: Orlando City SC (1/24)

Orlando City SC defender Donny Toia runs laps during the first day of preseason training at Sylvan Lake Park on Monday, Jan. 23, 2017. (Photo by Victor Tan / New Day Review)

Jan. 24, 2017 at Sylvan Lake Park

Availability: DF Donny Toia, MF Servando Carrasco

DF Donny Toia

Toia was traded to Orlando City SC by Atlanta United FC in exchange for the Lions’ natural first-round pick in the 2017 Major League Soccer SuperDraft.

It’s good. The quality’s good, the fitness is—I mean, it’s preseason, so you’re coming in little bit of fitness, and that’s what the whole preseason’s about is making sure you’re in shape for the very first game of the season.

Well, first I found out that I was going to Atlanta, so I was pretty excited there. And then I got a phone call a couple hours later that I was traded to Orlando, so I was even more excited. I spoke with [City head coach Jason Kreis] a little bit, and they’re very interested in me, and he was my head coach when I first came into the league, so I knew a little bit about him, and he’s the one who actually converted me to defender. It was very exciting, and I think it was the right move. I mean, I was trying to get out of Montreal. It just wasn’t right for me, so I was able to get out of there, and now I’m in the states.

When asked about his conversation with Kreis leading up to his arrival in Orlando, Toia said it was brief.

It was very brief, just letting me know that they made a trade prior to the expansion draft, and that instead of Atlanta picking me up, they actually picked me up, and they had all these discussions prior to that. So, like I said, it was very brief, but it was exciting. They’re excited for me to come here, and I was excited to be here.

Toia played under Kreis at Real Salt Lake in the 2011 season.

Well, it’s the second day, so we’ll have to see. Like I said, he was the first one to bring me in, and I was very thankful for that, and now that he’s brought me back, it’s definitely a positive for both sides, and now I just gotta work hard and prove that I’m the defender that he saw when he was looking at me.

Toia was the first-overall pick in the 2016 MLS Expansion Draft.

I was blown away, to be honest. I didn’t think anything of it coming into that expansion draft. I thought for sure that somebody else was gonna get chosen on our team. We got great players in Montreal, and I knew a couple of them were trying to get out of there as well. And for me to get picked first, it blew my mind. I had no idea. It was pretty exciting, though. Thinking about it, I mean, first out of 259 players or whatever. That’s pretty incredible. So, it was a good feeling, and all of my family and friends were very excited for me.

When asked about what he expects to bring to the team, Toia said it was about moving forward on the attack after defending.

Hopefully just hard work and making sure that I defend properly. I think that’s most important for my job as defending first and then going forward as well—bringing in the attack and getting a lot of crosses in and helping us set up for some goals.

Just, like I said, the hard work and trying to get forward more. He likes his outside backs to go forward and overlap, get crosses in and help out with the offensive side as well.

When asked why the Montreal Impact wasn’t the right fit, Toia said it had to do with travel.

You know, it’s tough to say. The environment was good, the players were good, the club was good. It’s just too far from home, I think. I’m from Arizona, it’s a long travel and everything else. So, I think it was just too far, and I just wanted to get back state-side.

MF Servando Carrasco

Toia was among several offseason moves for the Lions. It was made official early Tuesday afternoon that United States men’s national team defender Jonathan Spector would join the team. MLS All-Star Will Johnson and Victor “PC” Giro were also added.

Yeah, [I think the right moves were made this offseason]. I think that the mix of players, right now, is fantastic. I think that we added players like Will Johnson, a guy who’s a true pro. I think a guy like that is always going to be good. I think we have another guy that’s coming in too who—I think it’s always good to add that experience for sure.

Carrasco was noticeably more vocal during Tuesday’s training session.

I think that comes with the position. I think when you’re in the middle of the park, you have to kind of direct traffic. So I see it as kind of a responsibility based on the position.

I think the one thing that I’ve kind of come to know is you have to value this time. I think the preseason is crucial in terms of trying to establish a certain culture, a way of doing things. And I think if we establish a culture where we don’t take shortcuts, where we come in and work hard every single day, I think we’re gonna be able to make that jump. And I think last year, maybe, we would pick and choose when we wanted to work, and I think, this year, we can’t have that. So, I think the main message is you have to come in, and you have to play your max.

Carrasco played his most minutes ever last season, starting 21 of his 31 appearances and totaling 2,001 minutes with two assists.

I don’t really think about that too much. Every season is a brand new slate. I mean, you come in, you have to work hard, you have to be fit, and the past is in the past. I think, for me, it’s a fresh opportunity, and I think I’m really looking forward to that.

With regard to Kreis moving to a 4-4-2 formation, Carrasco said the team hasn’t begun discussing tactics on its second day of preseason training.

We haven’t really talked about tactics yet. For me, it’s just trying to do the same thing. Just trying to keep the game simple, just trying to keep the ball moving and just kind of do my job.

Kreis said on Monday after training that a lot of players, including forward Cyle Larin, stayed in Orlando and trained.

I actually stayed local. I stayed here for most of the time. I took two weeks off to vacation, as I said—I traveled. For the most part, I was here. It’s perfect weather. This is home for me now, so there’s nowhere else I’d rather be for sure.

Along with Seb Hines and Kevin Alston, Carrasco re-signed with the Lions in early January. Carrasco’s deal is a two-year agreement.

I think it’s a very exciting project. I think we’re very lucky to be here. I mean, when you look at the fanbase, when you look at the new stadium, when you look at the fact that the front office or the coaching staff has chosen us to kind of see through this vision, I think as a player, if that doesn’t excite, I’m not sure what will, really. So, yeah, I think we’re all looking forward to playing in a brand new stadium. I think we’re all looking forward to really making a mark. These past two years we’ve been right there, and I think the last jump is all mental. It’s all about establishing the right culture, and that’s kind of the main thing that we’re gonna focus on during the preseason.

Larin said he is significantly fitter at the start of this preseason than he was at the start of the 2016 preseason. When asked about what was different about this preseason compared to last season’s, Carrasco said it was the fitness level.

I think for the most part, we’re definitely fitter. I think we’ve set a pretty firm foundation when it comes to fitness. Guys have worked extremely hard during the offseason. I mean, you look at a guy like Cyle [Larin]. And I think he’s lost a ton of weight. He looks sharp, he looks fit, he looks strong. So, all of those things are positives. But, yeah, I think jumping straight into touching the ball is fantastic. I think the guys look sharp, and I think it’s only gonna get sharper and better for sure.