Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath trusts and commits to his starting lineup each week. It's something that's become well known about the Englishman. But that trait, while sometimes beneficial, can be harmful as it was Saturday night.
Having been sent off a week prior against the San Jose Earthquakes, Orlando City starting left midfielder Brek Shea was suspended for the team's return home against Columbus Crew SC. With veteran Lewis Neal returning from injury, Heath started 21-year-old Carlos Rivas. It quickly turned into a tough night for the young player.
Rivas was very poor on the night for the Lions. Offensively he had trouble holding onto the ball, being easily pushed off and losing possession. While he got himself into some dangerous attacking positions, his shots were well off target. He also continued his trend of going to ground too easily, leading to a late first half yellow card.
Defensively, Rivas wasn't much better. After getting deep into the attacking end, he failed to fulfill his defensive responsibilities, leading to chances for the opposition.
Following his disastrous first half, it was thought that Rivas would be replaced at halftime. However, when the second half began, Rivas was disappointingly back on the left side and it didn't get any better. In the 53rd minute, Rivas was given a golden opportunity by receiving the ball three yards out but somehow managed to hit the crossbar.
Despite Rivas' struggles, Heath stuck with the kid as the downward spiral continued. After 66 minutes, he was finally replaced by striker Martin Paterson. But the substitution came too late for a player that had been without question the worst player on the field for much of the game.
In the 61st minute, Kei Kamara gave the 10-man Crew a 2-1 lead which they would hold until an 89th minute equalizer by substitute forward Pedro Ribeiro. Had Heath made the move to replace Rivas earlier, there would've been a greater chance that a replacement would've finished one of the multiple golden chances wasted by Rivas.
This is not to say that the disappointing result is Rivas' fault alone. Several other players failed to connect on advantageous opportunities throughout the game. But the fact that he stayed on the field as long as he did is an example of a habit of Heath's that could return to haunt the Lions in the future.
Ideally for Orlando City, Heath will learn from this mistake Saturday and in the future will be more willing to substitute players that, for whatever reason, are not showing quality on the night. Against the Crew, Orlando City gave up two points that would've come in handy placing them in a strong position moving forward. Instead, they left the Citrus Bowl with what-ifs. Hopefully for the Lions, Heath can change this potentially negative habit soon.