When Orlando City's Rafael Ramos lost his cool against Columbus last week, he didn't just impact his own status for Sunday's match against Toronto FC.
He also gave an opportunity to a young right back looking for a chance to prove himself. For Tyler Turner, this Sunday's game against Toronto is as big an opportunity as he'll ever see.
Turner was one of the players who made the jump from USL to Major League Soccer with the Lions in 2015, and coming into the season, he was perhaps the most promising of the bunch. A speedy right back who started for Orlando in USL, he was expected to compete with the relatively inexperienced Ramos for the starting job in preseason training.
But it hasn't been much of a competition.
Ramos locked up the job early in the season and, last Saturday's incident notwithstanding, has been a revelation for Orlando on defense this year. But he'll be serving out a red card suspension against Toronto FC, handing the reigns to Turner for an absolutely pivotal home game.
But it won't be an easy assignment for the American defender.
Toronto's record doesn't really do justice to the wealth of talent on their roster (but when has it ever?). The Reds employ three offensive weapons that could make life miserable for Turner on the Lions' back line. In terms of experience, he's completely outclassed.
Just look at the numbers:
Sebastian Giovinco: 199 league games, 45 goals.
Michael Bradley: 278 league games, 32 goals; Eight World Cup games, one World Cup goal.
Jozy Altidore: 197 league games, 60 goals; Five World Cup games.
Simply put, these are three of the premier players in MLS. Turner will face them in only his second ever appearance in a top-flight league.
In order to contain them, Turner will have to start with recovery speed. Something Ramos does really well is play the opposition tightly, knowing he's got the speed to chase them down if he gets beat. There's a reason Turner is such a highly touted prospect in the USMNT system, and he should be able to turn on the jets against Toronto if need be.
If he hopes to contain a player like Formica Atomica – "The Atomic Ant" – Turner will have to be able to keep up with him. With the exception of Ramos, the Lions back line will be at full strength on Sunday, meaning Turner should be able to cheat up and play tight defense on the wings. He's got to pressure Toronto attackers into playing long crosses around the box, something the Lions can deal with defensively. Someone like Giovinco or Altidore getting loose in space would be a different matter.
Offensively, Turner should look to use his inexperience as an advantage.
Toronto will likely be occupied with the Lions' more famous offensive weapons, players like Kaká and Brek Shea. There's no reason the young right back shouldn't be able to get a few open touches in the box with the Toronto back line occupied elsewhere. Turner will likely stay home most of the night, but he shouldn't be afraid to go for goal if the opportunity presents itself.
When it's all said and done, Turner should approach this game with a nothing to lose mentality. He's not going to knock Ramos out of the starting spot, but there's no reason Turner can't turn a few heads for club and country in front of a packed house at the Citrus Bowl.