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How Orlando City's Key Positional Battles Are Shaping Up

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With the club's season opener only 10 days away, it's time to look into the key battles to break into the Lions' starting XI.

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

Just 10 days separate Orlando City SC from its first MLS game against fellow expansion club New York City FC. With opening day drawing nigh, here's how some of the key unsettled positional battles are shaping up for the Lions.

Center Back

The instability of the back line has some following the club worried, and the team's performance in the last three games really hasn't inspired a lot of confidence, so the battle for center back could make or break the Lions' season.

Aurelien Collin will start out as Orlando City's anchor on the back line but the position for his center back partner is wide open.

Seb Hines made the start Wednesday evening against the Battery and might be the favorite to take that spot. He's officially signed to club, and the on-loan defender from Middlesbrough has quality experience from playing in England. Hines hasn't had much of an opportunity to get quality first team minutes during preseason play but he should be the front-runner for starting spot.

Sean St. Ledger and Conor Donovan have made three preseason starts a piece and will factor into the competition.

St. Ledger has outperformed expectations during his period as a trialist for Orlando City. Like Hines, he has plenty of English league experience -- 211 appearances for various Football League Championship clubs -- but also brings 37 caps for the Irish National Team.

Donovan's started in two clean sheet games, the 4-0 domination of FC Dallas and the scoreless draw against FC Toronto. Donovan is the youngest and  most inexperienced of the three vying for the position, but represents the future, so he'll get in the rotation during the season.

None of the three has pulled away as the clear-cut favorite to become a starter, so the battle to be Collin's defense battery mate could rage into the early parts of the regular season.

Striker

The job for the spot atop OSCS' formation is a two-man race, but the gap between Designated Player Bryan Rochez and Martin Paterson might grow larger after the Carolina Cup Challenge.

Rochez has emerged as the front-runner after returning from the CONCACAF U-20 Championship. Adrian Heath chose Rochez to start both games as the lone striker in the Lions' 4-2-3-1 in the Carolina Challenge Cup, so clearly he wants the young Honduran to take the spot. Rochez has yet to score for the club but he's definitely capable of laying waste to an opposing goalie.

Martin Paterson started three preseason matches while Rochez was away, scoring a goal in the Lions' 4-0 victory against FC Dallas and drawing the penalty that led to Kaká's goal from the spot. The striker, on loan from Championship side Huddersfield Town, has scored 65 goals in 258 matches across four levels of English soccer.

Number one overall pick Cyle Larin is a longshot to start right away, as he'll take some time to get used to MLS play. He's seen plenty of second-half action in preseason. Like Donovan, he represents the future of the club, but playing time might be hard for him to find right away.

Left Back

Brek Shea might have helped his case with his goal against the Battery Wednesday night, but his spot as a starting fullback might not be set in stone.

It's true that he's started the last three matches since returning from USMNT duty, but he's still raw as a fullback. Shea adds a dangerous attacking element going forward, but hasn't looked 100 percent solid defending the position, especially against New York City FC on Saturday. The adjustment from winger to fullback is going to be rough for Shea and shaky play from the center backs might lead Adrian Heath to give the young Texan orders to push high up the pitch.

Luke Boden was the number one left back when Shea was away for international duty and could fight Shea for playing time should he struggle covering himself. Boden doesn't press in the attack like Shea but provides good cover for the left winger.

The only other spots that might not be 100% decided at this point are right back, where Rafael Ramos holds the advantage, and defensive midfield opposite Amobi Okugo, where Cristian Higuita -- now nursing a groin injury -- seems to have the inside track.