Orlando City will enter the USL Pro postseason with a massive lead over the rest of the league, currently 18 points above the second place team. Coming off winning the double last season, City is looking to go 4 for 4 in major competition since its inception in 2010. Manager Adrian Heath is confident his team can accomplish the task.
“I’m a firm believer that the league table doesn’t lie,” Heath told Sports Talk Florida. “The fact that we’re 18 points ahead of everybody shows that we are the best team in the league. Now we have to go prove it in the playoffs.”
The Lions have torn through the USL Pro Division this year, setting league records with 56 points, 49 goals, 17 conceded, and a +32 goal differential. Their dominance makes us ponder the prospect of how they would fare in Major League Soccer.
City, on paper, look to stack up quite well with several MLS clubs. Let’s pretend there is a promotion/relegation system for a moment. Toronto FC is currently sitting bottom of the league with 19 points, followed by Portland at 20, and Philadelphia at 23. Would Orlando City have a higher point total than that? It’s not out of the realm of possibility to think the Lions could be better if they were given the resources to do so.
“If you look at the (MLS) salary cap and you look at our budget, we’re probably a tenth of that,” Heath says. “I think the difference is most, not all, but most MLS clubs have one or two special players. You look at the Galaxy with Donovan, Robbie Keane, David Beckham, and even with Montreal now with Di Vaio and Nesta, the MLS clubs invariably have two or three players that are game changers. The actual rest of that team, and the rest of that squad is not much different than ours.”
Given this enlightening fact that City have a budget a tenth the size of Major League Soccer’s salary cap, one would have to believe they would have the financial flexibility to do two things.
One, pay their best players more, giving them not only an incentive to stay at the club, but also limiting the distraction of financial dissatisfaction. Think about it, why do companies give an employee a raise? It isn’t just to keep the employee, but also to give them incentive to both work harder and do better at their job. Usually, an employee with a recent raise will work harder for at least a short time thereafter in order to justify that pay in their own mind. Therefore, paying your players more will boost morale and quality of play. Doubt it? I suggest you read Soccernomics by Simon Kuper and Stefan Szymanski.
The second thing City could do with the extra cash is obviously purchase one or two of the “game changers” Heath talks about. If they did this, it’s very hard to imagine Orlando City not being competitive with those teams, or finishing worse than 15th.
“I think we would be very competitive in a one-off game with anybody, as we have proved when we played MLS teams,” Heath told Sports Talk Florida.
So, will we get to that point? Will we one day see the day where lower division teams, who have clearly maxed out in their current leagues, get the opportunity to test themselves at the MLS level? Adrian Heath believes so.
“Well I think everybody who loves our sport hopes that we get to a stage where there are enough teams to have a promotion/relegation system. I think we’re a few years away from it yet. And I think Don Garber has done a really great job of growing (MLS) slowly. The league has gone through a lot of changes and when you consider what (soccer in the U.S.) was in the 70’s, there were great crowds but there was no base and no foundation for the game to flourish, and I think that’s all changed; that’s over now. I think the game now in this country is probably at its strongest that its ever been.”