As supporters, we often find ourselves caught between club and country when it comes to international call-ups. Generally, if it doesn't impact our club schedule, we're perfectly happy to have our players help their country. We even take pride when someone like Cyle Larin steps up for Canada, or Brek Shea makes a difference for the U.S. Men's National Team. But then there are those times that a call-up means that a player is out for an important club match. How much did international call-ups really affect Orlando City matches this past season?
|Conor Donovan||USA U-20s||3/29/2015||England U-20s|
|Darwin Ceren||El Salvador||3/28/2015||Argentina|
|Rafael Ramos||Portugal U-20s||3/27/2015||Uzbekistan U-20s|
|Estrela||Portugal U-20s||3/27/2015||Uzbekistan U-20s|
|Kevin Molino||Trinidad & Tobago||3/27/2015||Panama|
There were plenty of players out for the March 28 match against the Montreal Impact, including scoring sensation Cyle Larin (who actually hadn't started scoring yet). While Shea, Larin, Rafael Ramos, and Kevin Molino were out, Pedro Ribeiro and Kaká were on hand. It turned out that those two would be enough for Orlando City to secure one point in a 2-2 draw. Ribeiro would score in the 29th minute, and Kaká would follow shortly with a strike of his own in the 30th minute. While this result was certainly welcome, would the presence of either Larin or Shea have proven to be a winning combination?
|Conor Donovan||USA U-20s||5/30 to 6/20||Qualifying|
June would prove to be more damaging than March, but not in the way one would expect. The only match affected directly by the international call-ups was the U.S. Open Cup match against Charleston Battery on June 17. Shea was with the USMNT (more on that later), and Larin was with the Canadian Men's National Team. Additionally, Kaká was held out of the match by Head Coach Adrian Heath. Despite being down three of its best players, Orlando City was able to pull out the win, though it wasn't easy. A former USL rival, the Charleston Battery was determined to prove something and did so in a 4-4 shootout that resulted in penalty kicks. Orlando City would take the win 8-7 on kicks after 10 shooters per side.
It wasn't only the U.S. Open Cup match that was affected by an international call-up. Shea sustained an injury in the USMNT match versus the Netherlands, though he'd try to play through it until coming off in the June 24 Orlando City match against Colorado Rapids. Shea would be out for over two months. That's the type of impact that international play can have on a club roster. Orlando City finished the season just below the red line; could Shea's presence on the pitch have changed that outcome?
|Ricardo Kaká||Brazil||9/5/2015||Costa Rica|
September was the month that the international call-ups resulted in a loss for Orlando City. With Kaká, Larin, and Darwin Cerén all out, the Lions went into the match against the New England Revolution distinctly undermanned. The result would reflect that, as New England would take three points in a 3-0 loss for Orlando City.
There was another match in September that was also affected. This time, no one was playing internationally. Shea was back from injury and Larin was playing. Shea would contribute five minutes after subbing in at the 61st minute, playing the ball in to Bryan Rochez for a goal. Adrian Winter added two more for his first goals in a Lions uniform, as Orlando City would win 3-1 over SKC. While that all sounds good, the missing factor was Orlando City's captain, Kaká, who was out with an injury sustained when playing with the Brazilian National Team. Have no doubt, Heath was not pleased that one of his Designated Players was unavailable due to international play.
|Darwin Cerén||El Salvador||10/9/2015||Haiti|
|Bryan Rochez||Honduras U-23s||10/1 to 10/13||Qualifying|
Though there were international call-ups during October, they fortunately did not intersect with any Orlando City matches. That's interesting, considering that from the Sept. 13 match against Sporting Kansas City, Orlando would rattle off five straight wins to try and stay in playoff contention.
What can we take from this information? Orlando City's record in matches directly related to international call-ups was one win, one loss, and one draw. On the surface, that would seem to be a wash when it comes to results. However, injuries, inconsistent lineups, and actual missed time certainly had an effect. On one hand, having players good enough to be selected by their home countries for international matches speaks to a roster's quality. On the other, it can hurt a club in a league that doesn't respect the windows for international matches. This is something that Orlando City will continue to deal with, as will the Orlando Pride. But that's a discussion for another day.