ORLANDO – Tally Hall channeled his inner Clubber Lang when he outlined Orlando City SC’s possible route to this season’s playoffs with a one-word image: Pain.
The Lions goalkeeper is one of only three players on the roster with extensive playoff experience, and he was asked to explain what it will take to get the expansion team into the postseason in their first MLS campaign.
And Hall was quick to pick up on the description Mr. T’s villainous character in Rocky III used to describe his forthcoming bout with Rocky.
“You get to this point in your career and you can use these lessons to tell the guys to know what they are in for,” Hall said after the team’s training session Thursday. “Basically, at this time of the season, it is hard to walk after games. You have to give your entire body from here on out.
“That’s the level that it takes when it comes to the end-of-season playoffs. It is hard, it is physical and there are no shortcuts. You have to stay optimistic and work your butts off.”
Hall and fullback Corey Ashe – both from their Houston Dynamo days – and former Sporting Kansas City star Aurelien Collin are the Orlando trio with the inside track on making a playoff run. Hall thinks their combined experience will be crucial in the final seven games of the regular season.
“You look at the best teams that I have been on, teams that have made it to the playoffs, and you see what it takes,” Hall said. “And you know that there is always a team that no one expects to make a run at this stage.
“Every year there is someone that surprises everyone, and obviously we are trying to be that team right now. We know everything is on the line, but we have an opportunity to be that team, and we have to stay positive.”
Hall knows that defensively things have not gone well in recent away games and, with a trip to Gillette Stadium looming on Saturday (7:30 pm ET; MLS LIVE) – where New England Revolution have lost just once this season – there will be even more scrutiny on the defensive unit.
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Orlando’s last three road games have produced only one goal and 13 against, and, after draws in their last two home games, they know their playoff hopes now hinge on taking points away from home with four of their final seven games on the road.
“Yes, as a defensive unit we have something to prove no matter who we are playing,” Hall admitted. “We need to get back to being the team that other teams have to work hard to get through. It’s a cliché, but defense wins championships and teams that give up a lot of goals typically don’t make it very far.
“But the key is in the overall team performance and, defensively, there is extra focus on staying together. We need the guys in midfield blocking up the holes and the four defenders moving as one unit and keeping the line intact.”
Orlando are also not dwelling on the international absences of Kaká, Cyle Larin and Darwin Ceren, but Hall is hopeful of seeing US international Brek Shea back in the lineup again soon following his sports hernia surgery two months ago.
“Brek is an important aspect to our team,” Hall said. “So it is good for us to see him back on the training field. We know he may not be quite there in match fitness terms yet but we will be excited to see him back on the field, whenever that is.”