As the final whistle blew in Saturday's match between Orlando City and Columbus Crew SC, many home fans left the Citrus Bowl frustrated. After playing 74 minutes up a man following Michael Parkhurst's ejection in the 16th minute, fans were left confused and angry that Orlando could not capitalize on the advantage they were given.
Fans sounded off on social media, citing various reasons why Orlando should've won. One of the most popular reasons seemed to blame two of the Lions' youngest players on the pitch, forward Cyle Larin and winger Carlos Rivas.
Larin, who was just beginning to get comfortable in the league up top as a forward, took a small step back on Saturday. Officially, the young Canadian took five shots, two of them being on target. The big stat missing is the zero in the goals scored column.
In the 72 minutes that he played, Larin had ample opportunities to score, including a one-on-one with the the keeper and a complete whiff on a ball sitting in the box in the 59th minute. While many fans seemed to be upset with Larin, Rivas appeared to generate the most frustration.
In his first start as a left winger for Orlando City, Rivas played 66 minutes and took six shots, two of which were on target. The young Colombian took three shots from outside the box that never really challenged the keeper, but rather frustrated the fans. Rivas also had a "culmination moment" where, in the 52nd minute, he missed a rebound shot from Larin by hitting the crossbar from a few yards out.
Both Rivas and Larin had bad games and that's understandable. It happens. In Larin's case, he had been performing well up to last week, so many feel that he can bounce back from this setback.
In Rivas' case, however, fans are less than enthused whenever they see him on the field. They feel that he always seems to hinder the team and always seems to do something to bring on a head shaking moment from the City faithful. So, after Saturday's game, they were left questioning why Rivas was kept in the game for as long as he was.
With the younger players of Orlando City being the future of the organization, Rivas was in a position where he was originally to be one of the top five signings of the off-season. At first, he was slated to be the starting left winger, however, multiple injuries put that plan on hold. In fact, this past week marked his first time he has had consecutive weeks of training since the season began.
With all of that time missed -- time that would have been spent on the training grounds and in the preseason games building chemistry with the team -- Rivas was not able to develop due to being sidelined with injuries.
Anyone who has played a team sport can say that team chemistry doesn't happen overnight. It takes hours during practices and games to build relationships and trust with your teammates, both on and off the field. Especially in soccer, that chemistry is imperative for young players that haven't had much time in practice and who have left their family and friends at a young age after being with the same team throughout their years growing up. This is Carlos Rivas in a nutshell.
OCSC Head Coach Adrian Heath had a choice to make on Saturday night. Let Rivas get some needed playing time against a 10-man Columbus team, or sub him out after 40 or so minutes, possibly messing with his psyche more than the injuries and lack of playing time already have.
Putting all that into perspective, Heath made the right call, even though it meant Rivas had to work through his difficulties and shortcomings. It's something that the left winger desperately needed, especially with usual starter Brek Shea going off to play for the U.S. Men's National team for the next week or so.
While people may be calling for Rivas to be permanently benched, I honestly don't see how that will do any good. Orlando has invested in this young kid out of Jumandi, Colombia. They believe that he has the potential to be a great player in this league. But in order to become that great player, he needs to be able to play and work through his struggles.
It's all part of the process of having a young team. There may be times where the younger players make silly mistakes or make you want him to never play again. All they can do is learn from their errors and become better because of it.
In terms of Rivas, I believe that he will achieve the level of play that the coaches know he can reach, but it may take more time for him to get there than most fans will be satisfied with. All I can say to the fans is to have patience with this young team. In time, they will live up to expectations.