On Sunday night Orlando City was able to display the same 18-man team as the previous game against LA Galaxy. Generally this would not be a surprise considering that the Lions thrashed the defending champions 4-0 at the Citrus Bowl. But this was the first time Adrian Heath was able to do so this season.
Orlando City's roster problems have been well documented. Earlier this season in Montreal, the team was only able to dress 15 players due to injuries and international call-ups. As soon as players returned from injury, more would be injured, causing continuous changes in the lineup. But Sunday night against the San Jose Earthquakes, Heath was able to write down the same starting lineup and bench as the previous week.
While this was the first time the Lions have been able to have the same team as the previous week, it's only the second time they've had the same starting lineup. Back in April Heath was able to write in the same starting 11 in back-to-back games in Portland and Columbus but that soon changed when right back Rafael Ramos was sent off in Columbus.
The importance of this cannot be understated. Players get used to playing with one another and gain the ability to anticipate each other's tendencies. With an often changing lineup they aren't able to do this.
It's even more important for a new team like Orlando City. While the club has been around for four previous years, only eight made the jump to MLS. And of those eight, only three have started regularly.
The frequent change in the lineup is something Heath laments as he believes strongly in starting the same team. Fans got used to seeing the same players week in and week out during the club's dominant USL Pro days. "Players drop themselves," Heath said matter-of-factly during this week's coach's show. "Your performances keep you in the team."
Heath continued by emphasizing the importance of having the same lineup each week. "We've had a situation where we haven't been able to pick the best team or the same team because every week something crops up and it's not helped us."
While Heath took an unchanged lineup to San Jose this weekend, that lineup will change again next week. Brek Shea was sent off in the 51st minute for a tackle on Sanna Nyassi which will cause him to miss next week's matchup against Columbus Crew SC.
One thing that Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath believes in strongly is that players' playing time is determined by their play on the field. This is why the team's USL lineup rarely changed. But many players' time this season has been dictated by injury rather than their on-field performance. On Sunday night, after their dominant performance against the LA Galaxy, the Lions dressed the same 18 for the first time this season. It's something Heath hopes will be a regularity soon.