For those that missed Coach Heath's radio show on Tuesday night from the Harry Buffalo downtown, here are a few highlights. I've been attending the shows after work on Tuesdays. With the extended hours it's a good excuse to use the SunRail to get there from Altamonte Springs where I live and to check out a few of the downtown eateries that I have not yet tried. In the first part of the post I'll talk about where I dined, and you can skip that to the heading about the show if all you care about is the recap from the show.
Dinner at Don Jefe's
Since the show originates from Harry Buffalo's, I'm starting my exploration of downtown eateries with those dining establishments nearby. This week I stopped into Don Jefe's Tequila Parlour which is between Orange Avenue and the railroad tracks, located right near Chiller's and the Rok Room. I arrived around 6pm, which is very early for Church Street, and the place was pretty quiet. However, there were several characters in attendance already.
My bartender and server was none other than the self-proclaimed "Ecuadorable Ashley," and I quickly discovered I was sharing the bar with royalty as I met a couple of south Asian gentlemen that were the Monarch of Mombay and the Duke of Delhi. All in all Don Jefe's has the impression of being a pretty relaxed place. On Tuesdays they have a margarita happy hour, and I was told that all the margaritas on the menu are $3. They have a variety of standard and specialty tequilas, with most of them being named for Florida fruits or exotic-sounding locales. I tried the blood orange margarita and thoroughly enjoyed it. Then again, I'm pretty much a fan of margaritas so that has to be taken into account.
Don Jefe's has a selection of perhaps two dozen beers on the menu, including about ten craft beers, some of which are on tap and some of which are served only in cans. I'm a wheat beer fan myself, so I asked to try the Breckenridge Agave Wheat Beer, which is one of the ones that comes only in cans. For a canned beer it was acceptable, but I would much preferred to have found something on tap in a wheat beer style.
Don Jefe's has a kitchen and a menu of fairly standard-looking Mexican restaurant fare, but as I found out, even the simple dishes have a nice flair to them. I was in the mood for something a little quick and not too heavy, so I asked my bartender about the tacos. She indicated they are medium size, so I ordered a pair of beef tacos with hard shells. The beef tacos come with lettuce, pico, and mixed cheese and are served with salsa verde, cilantro, and fresh lime on the side. They arrived on a nice rectangular plate with a stainless steel taco holder to keep the shells upright. I mentioned there's a little flair, and in the case of these tacos that means the top of the shells are folded out like stubby little airplane wings, and the ground beef is deposited on top of the shells like a scoop of ice cream, with the toppings stuffed into the shells. The crunchy shells are indeed crunchy, and they are a hearty, thick tortilla shell and not papery thin like some taco shells tend to be.
The ground beef was seasoned mildly and the salsa had a nice flavor to it. I enjoyed the meal and the spirited conversation with my fellow bar patrons, our bartender, and some of the other servers who were circulating and occasionally stopping at the bar to place drink orders for their tables. The two tacos, the beer, and the margarita came to less than $15 with the happy hour special. I sat at the bar, but there is seating at tables deeper inside the restaurant as well as open-air seating along the sidewalk just outside.
Coach Heath's Show
After dinner I wandered west down Church Street to the Harry Buffalo. As 8pm rolled around the show started, with the four standard figures at the microphones. Tom Traxler and Jeff Radcliffe are the main hosts of the show, along with Dr. Keith Buckley--head soccer coach at Rollins--and of course Orlando City coach Adrian Heath.
In the first segment they focused on the performance of the team in the match at Montreal. With so many players off for International Duty and several other players nursing injuries, Coach Heath indicated his lineup decision for Saturday had been dictated more by experience of the players than adherence to any particular shape of the team on the pitch. Thus we saw a bit of a formation change (3-4-3) and wound up seeing several of the players in positions slightly different than they might otherwise be playing with a fully healthy squad.
When asked about the challenge of having only four substitutes on the bench, Coach said he's never been one to want to make excuses and decided it was just important to try to get a result with the players that were available.
About conceding the early goals to Montreal, Coach indicated that he did not agree with the decision to award the PK for Montreal's first goal, and that the second goal was just a result of very poor defending on our part allowing the attacking opponent such a vast expanse of space before the undefended net. "I was thinking this is either going to be a great comeback or a really long last 60 minutes of the match," Coach said of his feelings at that point.
When asked about the response of our team to the goals, Coach indicated he thought that our first goal (Ribeiro, with assist from Kaka) gave the team a sense of hope again. Coming right at the end of the first half-hour of play, they realized they were back into the game and it seemed to give them some confidence. It also took some of the excitement and energy out of the home crowd, who were really excited after watching their team score two early goals in MLS competition for the first time all season. But the second goal, coming only 82 second later (Kaka, with assist from Ribeiro) virtually silenced the crowd. Coach said it took the energy right out of the building, and with the way Montreal has struggled as of late in MLS play, the fans seemed to sense that their squad might be on the verge of giving another match away after getting an early lead.
Later in the show when Coach was asked about what he thought of the play of those who were able to see their first action of the season in Montreal, he mentioned Luke Boden really seemed to make the most of his opportunity. He also praised the team in general for having a good sense of when they needed to apply pressure to Montreal and when they needed to relax that pressure a little to be in better defensive shape.
During the Q&A segment of the show, I asked a question that had been on my mind regarding the status of the players returning from International Duty. Coach indicated that by Thursday all the players would be back in town (Brek Shea was the last of the usual starters to return on Wednesday). Their availability for Friday's match would largely be determined by how well they had been able to rest during their travel and if they displayed the level of fitness Coach wanted to see in Thursday's practice. He indicated that would be the key day for him in determining his Starting XI for Friday's match with DC United.
Another question came in on text or twitter about the growth of MLS, and Coach Heath indicated he believes that the league's goal of being a Top Five global league by 2020 is achievable. Based on the sheer volume of money that gets thrown around in some of the European leagues I have been a bit of a skeptic, but Coach indicated how difficult it can be for some players in Europe to live the fishbowl existence, with fans and paparazzi virtually clinging to them everywhere they go and whatever they do.
Without naming any specific names (other than to shoot down some of the more ludicrous rumors such as Mario Balotelli) Coach Heath indicated that he had personally been contacted by agents for some of the current European league stars at least voicing interest in the possibility of their big-name clients coming to Orlando City, and he speculated that it is likely that more coaches in the league is getting similar calls. Certainly thinking about large market teams like New York and LA and Chicago, it would not be hard to imagine some global superstars having interest in going to play in such markets where there could be lucrative endorsement deals on top of whatever compensation they may be able to negotiate through the Designated Player exception to the league salary cap.
Coach also indicated that we may not be too many weeks away from seeing Tally Hall and Martin Paterson ready to return to the pitch. Paterson is set to begin training next week if all goes according to plan, and Tally Hall has been participating in more and more drills with the rest of the goalkeepers, indicating that his status continues improving.
In the final segment of the show the focus turned to Friday night's match with DC United. Coach indicated that among the players to watch on the opposing squad will be Jose Arrieta, who finishes well and is very dangerous in the box. After facing several teams in a row that have a good counter-attack, he also said that DC United will present a different type of challenge. At the same time, Coach is proud of the fact that Orlando City is already gaining a reputation around the league for being a team that wins the battle of possession time on the pitch during matches, and this is helping us to gain the respect of our opponents even in this expansion season.
Finally, Coach had great praise for the home fans, saying that the combined energy of the Ruckus and the ILS in the Supporters section, as well as the generally vocal and energetic nature of our crowd is helping the team feel like they have a home field advantage. Still, he said he expects to see better forward play by the lads in the final third of the pitch on Friday so they can capitalize on the atmosphere to start creating a true home field advantage in the Citrus Bowl.
I am confident that the team can succeed on Friday. And I know that those of us in the stands will do our part with all the noise, energy, and passion we can bring to the match.