clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Club or Country: How Should Orlando City Fans Feel About International Call-Ups?

New, 5 comments

Orlando will lose a lot of talented players this summer to international call-ups. How the Lions respond to these absences will go a long way to determining the club's success in 2015.

Brad Mills-USA TODAY Sports

Some may consider it the price we've got to pay for playing soccer in the summer. You could say it speaks to the depth of talent on Orlando City's roster. Or maybe we're just unlucky?

Whatever the reason, Orlando City has been forced to make due with a patchwork roster more than once this season, something that only looks to become more of a problem as the summer wears on. With the U-20 World Cup, Copa America and Gold Cup all on the horizon, the club could be forced to make due with a roster missing many key players throughout the next few months.

It's a problem MLS fans are all too familiar with. Since the league follows an unconventional summer schedule, many teams lose players to international tournaments that take place while other leagues are in their offseason. You probably already knew this.

But it's remarkable how much Orlando City could be decimated by international call-ups this summer.

Kaká has already made Brazil's preliminary roster for the 2015 Copa America. Brek Shea, Darwin Ceren and Cyle Larin could all be lost to the 2015 Gold Cup. And the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand will take Bryan Rochez, Estrela and Conor Donovan (as an alternate) away from Orlando for an extended period of time.

To put those names in perspective, that leaves one active player on the club roster who's scored a goal this year. That would be Aurélien Collin, who plays defense (although some of these competitions have little overlap).

For a team that could be competing for one of the final playoff spots in the Eastern Conference in 2015, this kind of roster turnover could be devastating for the Lions.

What's so frustrating about international call-ups in MLS is that the idea of club and country gets completely turned around. Watching players you cheer for on the weekends representing their nation on soccer's biggest stage should be a thrill. But thanks to MLS scheduling, every time I see Brek Shea put on the stars and stripes, I'm not thinking about how great it is to see an Orlando City player on the USMNT. I'm thinking about who's going to replace him in Orlando.

Being asked to play for your country is one of the biggest honors in sports and should absolutely be a top priority when players are given an opportunity. This is not to say that players are making the wrong decision. This is to say it shouldn't have to be a decision at all.

But arguing about MLS scheduling is a fruitless endeavor and one that isn't likely to change any time soon. As long as teams play outside in Chicago, Toronto and New York City, MLS games in the winter months would be a tough sell. And I guess when the 2022 World Cup comes around, Don Garber is going to look like a genius when every other league loses their stars for the winter.

As an Orlando City fan though, it's a little hard to get excited when some of the most talented players on your roster are walking out the door for months at a time.

On the surface, Kaká's absence seems like the hardest to understand, considering he's at the age when most players are winding down their international careers. But the man is a Brazilian legend and the fact that he's still able to suit up for the Seleção at 33 is a testament to his skill and his stardom within his native country.

If anything, it combats the narrative that MLS is still a league where European greats are put out to pasture (at least until Lampard and Gerrard get here). If Kaká can still play a role on one of the marquee teams in international soccer, what does that say about MLS?

But the hardest part about dealing with the call-ups this summer will be losing the young guys. Normally, when the stars are busy representing their country, it's a chance to watch younger players shine. But the Lions will lose some young talent to the U-20 World Cup who have provided depth to key parts of the rotation.

However, it's hard to argue that the international experience these younger players will gain at the U-20 level won't pay dividends down the line. Larin is already shown remarkable form in MLS and could really turn some heads with a strong performance Gold Cup.

These absences will force Orlando to rely on veteran players such Collin, Seb Hines, Sean St. Ledger and Martin Paterson, and other players who will be with the club throughout the season. This will test the club's depth and may allow players buried on the bench a chance to shine.

While these absences will test Orlando's resolve in the short term, it could lay the groundwork for future success. Every good team needs bench players they can trust, but in 2015, Orlando may not have a choice.