With 180 minutes now behind Orlando City SC in the 2015 MLS season, the one issue that we thought would be a problem, the defense, has instead remained strong, consistent and has been more than able to hold its own against proven goal scorers.
Of course, some problems are evident -- Collin's rash challenges, and the lack of coordination between the players. However, the Houston Dynamo game did show that a rapport is developing, and when the defenders finally come into their own, Orlando City is going to be hard to break down at the back.
But the one area that we thought we had covered, up in attack, is really starting to look suspect. Orlando City is currently carrying six forwards (Cyle Larin, Danny Mwanga, Martin Paterson, Pedro Ribeiro, Sidney Rivera and Bryan Rochez), and between them they have only played 46 total minutes.
Currently Carlos Rivas, a winger known for his tremendous pace, is being preferred as the lone man up top in Head Coach Adrian Heath's 4-2-3-1 formation. However, with Rivas' numerous offside infractions in the New York City FC game and then looking out of his depth against Houston, who is Heath going to turn to next?
Well the man that everybody expected to start up front, 19-year-old Bryan Rochez, is obviously the next in line. After a tough preseason, the jump in leagues that Rochez is trying to make may be a step too far for him right now. There has already been a marked jump in the quality of MLS soccer in the regular season over the preseason and, if Rochez struggled during preseason, I would expect Heath to potentially try to look in another direction for the next few games.
Since Heath is trying out the young guys, another choice up top could be 23-year-old Danny Mwanga. Mwanga has over 90 games in MLS under his belt, however, after a lackluster spell in Philly and limited time in preseason where he didn't really impress, I wouldn't expect him to become a starter anytime soon, despite Orlando City's failure to score a goal without some luck.
Other young guys that are also available are Cyle Larin and Sidney Rivera, both taken in this year's SuperDraft. Larin, a Canadian international, seems like he could potentially be the perfect candidate. He has played on an international level and proven himself to be a competitor at that level. I am sure that when the OCSC front office decided to draft him, they didn't see him as a day-one starter.
In light of their recent woes up front, Larin could be a potential candidate to get the nod if things continue in the same fashion.
Rivera is a different matter. The club took a long time to sign him up after the draft and he is most likely on his way to Louisville City FC, our USL affiliate, to get some playing time and experience and to help the club make a decision on his future with Orlando.
After all that, there are only two players left. One is Pedro Ribeiro. The main problem is that Ribeiro is actually listed as a midfielder/forward. Despite this fact, Ribeiro got the nod against Houston when he subbed in for Carlos Rivas up front and ultimately managed to get us the W after forcing Tyler Deric into a mistake.
He looked like a player that was playing for a spot in the starting 11 and you can only think that would be at striker, especially since the midfield is so crowded on the Orlando City roster.
Finally, we come to Martin Paterson. I am sure that Heath can't wait for this experienced Northern Ireland international to recover from his hamstring injury to help alleviate some of the worries at forward. But the one overall concern about 'Pato' is that his style of play doesn't necessarily gel with Heath's system.
He is a target man, not the long-ball chaser that Orlando needs to make the 4-2-3-1 system work. Therefore, expect experimentation with these players to continue up front as we look to keep this great start to our expansion season going.
So where does that leave us? Unfortunately, not much further forward.
Expect Orlando to maintain the status quo unless an injury forces a change. We have plenty of options up front, however, just like a fine wine, those talents that currently occupy the bench are going to need time to age. Expect the OCSC front line to continue to be a worry going into the next few games, if not the season, due to the lack of experience at the forward position.
What does this mean in the short term for Orlando fans? Probably lots of low-scoring games, with the Lions trying to nick a winner from dead balls and trying to keep opposition scoring in check.