Just in case you haven't followed the team lately, there is some concern about a depth chart doomsday scenario for Orlando City's roster this summer, with the U-20 World Cup and the Gold Cup scheduled back-to-back.
The U-20 World Cup begins May 30 and runs through June 30, and there was a possibility that as many as five Orlando City players could get called to represent their countries in New Zealand, although that worry has eased with today's U-20 USMNT World Cup team announcement. Let's take a look at who might leave and what kind of damage these potential call-ups will do to the Lions' depth chart this summer.
The Portuguese duo: Rafael Ramos and Estrela
Rafael Ramos and Estrela have already received call-ups this year, and both figure to get the call when Portugal makes its roster announcement Friday. Ramos' absence will hurt the most out of all five U-20 candidates, because he's the regular right back (when not suspended) and figures heavily in Adrian Heath's game plan. Tyler Turner will most likely take his spot now that we know he's not going to New Zealand, as he's done in the two matches Ramos missed earlier this season. As for depth at the position behind Turner, midfielder Eric Avila and center back Seb Hines can fill in at right back. Moving either one of those two will require some shuffling around, which might prove difficult since both are already proven starters.
Estrela's potential absence from the team won't mean much since Harrison Heath appeared ahead of him anyway at backup defensive midfielder. He hasn't received any playing time yet and might not get real action until the Gold Cup in July.
Orlando City's U-20 Americans
Tyler Turner and Conor Donovan both seemed likely choices to make the U.S. U-20 team, which would have done some serious damage to the back line, but in a somewhat surprising move, neither defender received a call-up on Thursday from the U.S. Under-20 Men's National Team. That said, Donovan has been named an alternate to the team and will travel to New Zealand with the U-20s, so he won't be in Orlando to provide back line depth.
Ramos is almost a lock for a Portugal U-20 spot, and Turner is his immediate back up at right back. Losing the top two right backs for the entire month would have meant moving a starter -- most likely Avila or Hines -- to right back, which would have left a hole in the midfield. Kevin Molino's injury caused Brek Shea's shift to the left wing, so the club would have had two of its fullbacks overseas while two are playing at other positions, so the fact that Turner wasn't selected is a bit of a blessing in disguise in that sense.
Donovan was the most likely of the two to make the U.S. squad, given that he had been called up twice by Tab Ramos over the past year, and he even chipped in the game-tying goal in a friendly against Qatar on April 21. Despite being snubbed for the 20-man roster, he's making the trip, which speaks volumes about his value to the national team and puts the squeeze on Orlando City's central defense depth.
Tommy Redding will become the emergency center back again (and there was always an outside chance Redding himself could get tapped to play in the U-20 World Cup) behind Sean St. Ledger. Okugo played the CB role at times in Philadelphia, but someone would have to take his place in the midfield. It seems like Orlando City has versatile players that can switch positions due to depth issues, but the Lions will not have to resort to these contingency options on the back line.
Rochez is the only one who's officially going to the U-20 World Cup as of right now. The Honduran is primarily a striker and has played a grand total of 58 minutes in four substitute appearances this season. The young Designated Player's absence will hurt because of the injury problems at his position. Pedro Ribeiro is out for a while with a hamstring injury, and who knows when Martin Paterson will get over his hamstring issues.
Rochez at the U-20 World Cup means it's Larin and Carlos Rivas as the center forward options for a month unless Paterson gets fit -- and, according to Adrian Heath, he is almost ready to join the team for full training. Despite Rochez's Honduran team traveling today to Uruguay for a few friendlies in preparation for the U-20 World Cup,he will be available for tomorrow night's game against the New England Revolution, according to our club source.
It's going to be interesting to see how Heath manages around the potential lack of depth this summer. He's already had to field a 15-man squad for one match this season. Let's hope the Gaffer has a few more tricks up his sleeve!