The Carolina Challenge Cup is less than a week away, which means that Orlando City SC's preseason is almost finished. With the roster currently sitting at 28 (not including trialist defenders Sean St. Ledger and Seb Hines), Adrian Heath still has a lot to think about when it comes to who will stay with the first team and who will head north to Louisville. Let's have a quick look at some players and see who will stay and who will go.
Harrison Heath (MF)
I think before preseason started, everyone had Harrison Heath going up to Louisville for the entire season. After watching him in training and in preseason games, it is not as clear cut as it was a month ago. The younger Heath hasn't looked spectacular on the field, but at the same time, he hasn't looked terrible. He's done a great job of holding his own in the midfield and being fairly solid overall.
While he isn't on par with many of the other guys on the roster, I can see him sticking around with the team and learning from some of the more experienced guys, like Amobi Okugo or even Darwin Ceren. A guy wearing No. 8 on his jersey isn't usually someone who's left out of the team. That may be nothing, but it's worth noting nonetheless.
Tommy Redding and Conor Donovan
This is pretty much a given at this point. With Aurelien Collin, Sean St. Ledger and Seb Hines as center backs, there won't be much playing time to go around for the two U-20 U.S internationals. Instead of having them sit around, the Lions coaching staff would rather have them further their development by getting game minutes with Louisville.
At only 18 and 19 years of age, there's no point to rush them into developing too quickly. Having them both spend the year in Louisville would be the most beneficial thing for them and the team at this point in their career.
Here's someone who may be a bit of a surprise to some people. Having only been with the team since the middle of last year's season, Estrela is a project player who, like so many of the young players on Orlando's team, has a lot of potential. However, he's not quite ready to play in MLS just yet.
Having him spend time in Louisville before heading off for the FIFA U-20 World Cup in May would be good for his development. Once he is finished playing with Portugal on the national stage against stiff competition, the coaching staff may re-evaluate him and have him finish out the year with the first team. At this point, however, I would say he's headed to Louisville.
Larin is a tough one for me. From many reports coming out of training, he looks very dangerous up top and his big 6-foot-2 frame helps him shrug off defenders and get into good spots to score. That being said, he still hasn't found that killer finishing touch that strikers need.
Having him spend time in Kentucky could be similar to Dom Dwyer when he came down to Orlando. Getting regular game minutes and being relied on to score could help him get more accustomed to the professional game and maybe, come mid-season, he can come back and be a valuable scoring threat for the Lions.
Sidney Rivera and Earl Edwards Jr.
Both of these guys I grouped together for two reasons. The first is that they are still on the fringe of actually making the team in the first place. Second, if they do make the team, they will not see many minutes with Orlando this year.
If either one or both make the team, they will either spend their season on the bench, or they will be shipped off to Louisville to get some playing time. The way this Orlando City team is set up, there is depth at every position. Edwards Jr. is the fourth goalkeeper on roster and Sidney Rivera would be the sixth forward. I wish them the best in making the team, but at this point, they have two more weeks to prove themselves to the coaching staff.
Well, those are my two cents. What to you think? Who will be the players to head up to Louisville City FC?