Early into Orlando City's Oct. 3 clash with the Montreal Impact, starting right back Rafael Ramos and center back Tommy Redding were involved in a scary collision which left Redding with a concussion and Ramos with a gash across his forehead. A week and a half later, Lions head coach Adrian Heath has confirmed that neither will be available for Friday's match-up with New York City FC.
So with Ramos missing this crucial game, who will start for the Lions at right back? At the start of the season, Tyler Turner was pegged as the backup to Ramos, but a string of poor performances has left the 19-year-old on the outside looking in for a spot in the team.
Another, albeit less obvious, option is Brek Shea. After spending most of the season at left back and left midfield, Heath made the decision to move Shea to the unfamiliar role of right back following Ramos' departure in order to bring on the speedy Carlos Rivas. The left sided player excelled at the new position, garnering MLS Team of the Week honors. But Shea will be unavailable Friday due to yellow card accumulation.
It seems as though the two most likely candidates to fill the position are left backs Luke Boden and Corey Ashe. Following star midfielder Kevin Molino's ACL tear in May, Heath moved Shea forward and replaced him with Boden, the longest tenured Lion. But then, on July 14, the Lions made a trade with the Houston Dynamo to acquire the two-time all-star Ashe, who had been left on the bench following Houston's acquisition of U.S. national team member Damarcus Beasley.
During his coach's show Tuesday night, Heath admitted he is unsure of which player will fill the role vacated by Ramos. "The last game we played Brek over there," Heath said. "Do we move Bodz over there and play Corey at left back? Do we play somebody else at right back?"
Barring the appearance of Turner, which still seems unlikely, the only option other than Boden and Ashe would be Seb Hines. Though primarily a center back, Hines did play a fair amount of the right back position while at Middlesbrough and certainly is another option.
While Hines' history at the right back position might suggest he's best suited for that role Friday night, his versatility might exclude him from the start. David Mateos has been back at training this week and is available for selection at center back alongside Aurelien Collin, but injuries leave fellow center backs Redding and Conor Donovan unavailable--leaving Hines as the only back-up. His ability to play every position along the back line might influence Heath to keep him as the team's first defensive sub off the bench.
Due to injuries and yellow card accumulation, Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath will have a tough decision as to who will fill in for injured right back Rafael Ramos Friday night. The nod will go to one of three players, none of which are natural right backs. But it could turn out to be a crucial performance in a game where the Lions must secure three points. This season has been filled with unlikely heroes in unfamiliar roles for Orlando City and that will likely be the case again this weekend.