Feb. 13, 2017 at Sylvan Lake Park

Availability: Goalkeepers coach Tim Mulqueen, DF Donny Toia, GK Josh Saunders

Goalkeepers coach Tim Mulqueen

Mulqueen was hired by Orlando City SC in late January.

I’m settling great. I mean, the staff has been super. I had a previous relationship with [assistant cocah] Miles Joseph when I coached in New York. He was a player there. So, knowing him coming in was helpful, but [head coach] Jason Kreis and [assistant coach] C.J. Brown and [assistant coach] Bobby Murphy have been super, and then having known the goalkeepers prior to me coming here made it a bit easier coming in. But it’s been a really great transition for me. I’m very excited, and the team has been very welcoming as well as everybody from the back-room staff to the training staff. Everybody’s been great.

I was at home, and Miles sent me a text message asking me if I’d be interested in the position. And I think before he hit send, I was replying back, “Yes, 100 percent I’d be interested.” I spoke with Jason on several occasions about my philosophy and their philosophy, and it seemed like it was a good fit. And in about 10 days to two weeks, through the whole process of getting to know each other a little bit and getting to know how I went about coaching goalkeeping, we came to an agreement that this would be a great situation for me. And I knew all along that I wanted to be here. So I was very thankful that Jason selected me. I know there’s a lot of people out there that would love this opportunity and how very, very grateful to Jason and the organization for bringing me on board. I promised 100-percent effort every day, and I plan on doing that.

When it comes to his philosophy on goalkeeping, Mulqueen said his first concern is keeping the ball from going in the net. While the point may be obvious, he said often times coaches get too involved with other aspects of the goalkeeper.

First, it’s very simple. The first thing we want to do is make sure the ball doesn’t go behind us. I mean, you laugh, but that’s key. So many people get wrapped in goalkeepers being field players and being able to play with their feet. No, the main job is to keep the ball from going in. So my philosophy is making sure that the goalkeepers are very confident, very confident in the goal, seeing shots and what they’re handling and what their angle play. Once we got that all down, then we can go into playing out of the back and playing with their feet. I think my greatest strength as a coach is keeping it simple and realizing what the goalkeeper needs on a day-to-day basis, which is seeing shots, seeing crosses, working on their angles.

Prior to joining Orlando City, Mulqueen worked with City starting goalkeeper Joe Bendik on the U-17 United States national team.

Joe has had tremendous growth over the years. I had Joe as a young 16-year-old boy with the national team, the under-17 national team. And I think Joe was just figuring out then that he could be a very good goalkeeper. And then he’s taken the transformation on and off the field to where he’s a 24-hour pro. He’s a great shot-stopper, but he’s a great professional. I mean, I watch him as a mature man as opposed to a young kid when I had him, and I’m really, really excited about his growth and his potential. He’s really grown into a great professional. And I think that’s the highest compliment you can give a player is that they’re a great professional on and off the field, and he certainly is.

Despite being a multi-Save of the Week winner and the Save of the Year winner, Bendik and the Lions’ back-line still allowed the most goals in Major League Soccer last year with 60.

Joe is a tremendous shot-stopper. So if we can get him to communicate and help the players in front of him so he doesn’t have to make so many saves, and so he doesn’t have to lead the league in saves and win Save of the Year and Save of the Week umpteen times as he did last year. If we can get him to organize the team a little bit better and read the game a little bit better, I think that will cut down a lot on the work that he’ll have to do. And it will save his body and give him longevity to his career.

Kreis said that newly acquired Saunders come into a role to support Bendik, who is in the starting position.

There’s always competition. I think that’s always a good thing. But the good about it is I think Josh understands that Joe had a tremendous year last year and that it’s Joe’s job right now. But Josh is ready at the call. We saw this weekend with Joe getting sick. It was great to have Josh step in and play against Tampa Bay, which is a very comforting thing to have someone who’s won four MLS championships to be on your roster and that you can turn to. Not only for a game but also for advice and help. So I think it’s always good to have competition, but I think it’s very healthy and very comfortable within the goalkeeper group. They get along very, very well—all the keepers do. And that’s something that I try to really manage and make sure that that happens because I think you need a good working environment. Only one can play, so it’s a difficult situation, but they need to support one another.

DF Donny Toia

Toia was acquired by the Lions through a trade with Atlanta United FC.

It’s been good. It’s been intense. Obviously, fitness-wise, it’s always good to get back on the field and running and playing soccer. So, it’s been good. It’s great weather to be here, so can’t complain there.

We have strengths all around. All the way from defense, all the way to forwards. That’s just trying to get everybody on the same page and hopefully getting results out there.

When asked about his conversations with Kreis, Toia said it they had to do with focus.

Just staying focused. I mean, there’s things going around, and you’re trying to stay focused and do your job and train hard every day and make sure that we’re doing the right things for each other and for yourself.

Through the early part of the team’s preseason, Kreis has emphasized the importance of good body language.

It’s hard to tell with the new guys. I don’t know what their body language is when they get upset and stuff like that. But, obviously, when they’re frustrated, they tend to yell or something like that. But, for the most part, it’s been pretty good. You try to keep it bundled up inside of you as much as possible so you don’t let the coaches know and stuff like that. I think it’s been pretty good for the most part. You go out there and you gotta just—you mess up, you gotta stay positive and work on the next thing that’s—whether that’s a pass or a shot or whatever. So you just gotta stay focused and not dwell on them.

On Saturday, the Lions competed against the Tampa Bay Rowdies and Montverde Academy in a training scrimmage.

I think it’s accurate. I mean, obviously, preseason is time to get into better shape than you are and work on things as a team individually. Obviously, there’s gonna be frustration. Going forward, you’re still trying to know the guys, especially new guys. Still trying to get to know the guys and what they’re capable of and their abilities and stuff like that. So, definitely going to be frustrating, and it’s part of the process.

When asked about the back-line, Toia said the key to its success is communicating.

So far it’s been good. It just comes down to communication. Just trying to obviously stay focused in the moment and making sure we don’t allow silly mistakes in the back. I mean, if we can’t play out of the back, then we need to make sure we get it out of there as soon as possible, and when it’s up there, we press them. And then we can win it back that way.

GK Josh Saunders

When asked about his assessment of the goalkeeping group he’s a part of in Orlando, Saunders said it’s a good working group.

I think we have a good working group. We have a hard-working group. And it’s a group that takes every day seriously, which is awesome. So I think it’ll be something that, from our standpoint, we look to build from the back, and push the group in front of us to work as hard as we do.

[Mulqueen’s] done great. I think he’s managed us very well. I think our training sessions have been very intense. And I look forward to the year to come.

It’s a position that’s tough because you don’t get to share the time. So, yeah, it’s just the concentration things and to be focused in training every day so they can get better.

Saunders won back-to-back MLS Cups in 2011 and 2012.

It’s been great. I think he knows a lot of things that through my experience in this league that I can do to help Joe to become a good goalkeeper and a great goalkeeper that he already is. There’s little things that I’ve experienced, not even just playing-wise, but outside of the field that I look to help him with.

 

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