Over the past few weeks, a new sports star has revealed himself for Orlando City in Brazilian Pedro Ribeiro. After his tremendous hustle created the club’s first MLS win, Ribeiro earned himself a spot in Adrian Heath’s starting lineup. This change has had another impact, and one of more significance -- finally young Carlos Rivas will play the position he was brought to Orlando to play.
Orlando City has had its share of injuries so far this season, especially at the forward position. Martin Paterson and Bryan Rochéz were expected to hold that position this season, but neither has been fit enough to start. In their absence, Heath relied on Rivas to fill the role until Paterson, the expected starter, could return to action.
After Rivas started the first two games against New York City FC and Houston Dynamo, Ribeiro came on as a substitute in the second game, where he forced Tyler Deric into the mistake that gave the Lions their first win this season. It was a pleasing result, given that the Brazilian played primarily center back at Harrisburg in USL Pro last season. Then, as a starter last week in Montreal, Ribeiro scored and assisted Kaká in a remarkable two-goal comeback.
Ribeiro’s play opens up an opportunity Heath has been waiting for. Rivas was signed this winter as a young DP from Deportivo Cali in Colombia and the winger was expected to fill in at left midfield in front of Brek Shea. But with injuries and uncertain production of other forwards, Rivas was forced to move up top. With Ribeiro entering the starting lineup, Heath would’ve ideally started Rivas there last week, but an injury kept the 20-year-old out of the trip to Canada.
With Rivas playing up top, the left midfield position has been one of uncertainty. Both Lewis Neal and Eric Avila have started in the position this season, but neither has staked their claim to the role. Against Vancouver Whitecaps, Heath made the surprising decision to move Kaká from his central midfield role to the left side, switching with Avila. That move only further indicated the lack of stability at the position.
On Friday night against D.C. United, assuming Rivas is fit, Heath will finally have the opportunity to slide the Colombian into the role he was brought in for. Despite the fact that Orlando City will still not have their full starting 11, this is the first time Heath will be able to start the lineup that everyone’s been waiting to see.
Injuries, illnesses, and international call-ups have been a major factor for Orlando City this season. It’s forced Heath to start odd formations and play certain players in positions they may not be accustomed to. But with Ribeiro’s excellent form, the Lions will finally be able to move the speedy Carlos Rivas to the left wing, where he can display his attributes. Soon their purple clad fans will see the lineup of which they’ve been dreaming.