One game remains in Orlando City's inaugural MLS season (barring a miracle). The Lions will need to score a multitude of goals against Philadelphia and hope that the other expansion team, New York City FC, can do the same against New England.
While offense will be important in this game, it's also imperative that the defense does not let in any goals. Unfortunately for Orlando, starting goalkeeper Tally Hall is out for the rest of the season following a torn meniscus in his right knee, which he sustained Friday night against NYCFC. Backup keeper Earl Edwards Jr. is also out due to a knee injury, so the burden lays on Orlando's third string 'keeper, Josh Ford.
Ford is one of three Lions to come out of the University of Connecticut. The other two being Tony Cascio and rookie striker Cyle Larin. Before being drafted by the Seattle Sounders in 2011, Ford was one of the best keepers in college soccer. After his senior year, Ford was named to the 2010 All-Big East first-team and owned school records in shutouts (50), consecutive starts (85) and wins (54).
In the 2011 MLS SuperDraft, Seattle chose Ford with the 11th overall pick. In his rookie year, Ford was one of four goalkeepers on the Sounders' roster, all playing behind U.S. Men's National Team legend Kasey Keller. Keller retired going into the 2012 season, but Ford suffered a right knee injury in May of that year that forced him to miss two months, while Michael Gspurning and Bryan Meredith shared time in goal. He ended up starting and playing in four MLS Reserve League matches, posting record of 2-2-0. Then in 2013, as Ford was set to be a contender for the backup job behind Gspurning, he suffered another setback, this time breaking his patella (kneecap) in late April. Before his injury, he was able to start one MLS Reserve League game, a 1-1 draw against the LA Galaxy.
The first time Ford played as a professional was in 2014, but it was not with the Sounders. The goalkeeper was loaned out to USL side, the Orange County Blues. In his first professional action, Ford posted a shutout and even recorded a game-winning assist against the Oklahoma City Energy. The only other game he played for the Blues was against, you guessed it, Orlando City Soccer Club. Despite beating Ford and the Blues, 4-1 (check out his highlights from that game here), Head Coach Adrian Heath and company obviously saw something in him that eventually led to the keeper being drafted by the Lions in the re-entry draft late last year.
Most of Ford's 2015 season has been spent with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in NASL. He played and started 16 games for the team, allowing 25 goals but earning 38 saves. His goals against average was 1.56, a better average than longtime Orlando goalkeeper Miguel Gallardo, who is now with the Jacksonville Armada.
This weekend will mark the first ever MLS start that Ford will have, with the benefit of having played almost half a season already. No doubt this will be a special moment for Ford and it is a chance to prove himself, not only to the Orlando coaching staff, but possibly other teams in the league, should the Lions decide to move him elsewhere. In any case, this game on Sunday, regardless of the situation, will be one that Josh Ford is ready for.
MLS pool goalkeeper Trey Mitchell will serve as the back-up in case something should happen to Ford, .