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Is Orlando City Risking Injury for Mid-Season Success?

Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath has proven this season that he is willing to risk long-term injuries for mid-season success.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Despite the fact that Orlando City midfielder Brek Shea has been dealing with a groin injury which kept him out of the Gold Cup this summer, head coach Adrian Heath decided to play the international Wednesday night. Clearly looking uncomfortable, Shea asked to be substituted and was taken off in 39th minute. While Shea's injury may not have gotten worse Wednesday night, it brings into question once again Heath's choice of selection.

Selecting Shea over the past two games isn't the first questionable selection Heath has made. In early May, when Orlando City hosted Brazilian club Ponte Preta in a friendly, Heath made some surprising decisions. While some thought Heath would give a rest to stars such as Shea, Kaká, and Kevin Molino, all three played with the latter two starting.

In the 18th minute of that game, Molino went down without contact. Later it was revealed that Molino had a torn ACL, which would keep him out of action for up to nine months. While this could've happened in any game, the fact that it happened in a meaningless friendly raised questions about Heath's decision to play his key starters.

Shea's injury is one that has followed him around over the last few years. During his brief stint with Stoke City, the midfielder was often hampered by his groin, which contributed to his inability to break into the Potters' first team.

The nagging injury reoccurred recently while Shea was in a European camp with the U.S. national team. After playing against Holland, Shea didn't feature in the following game against Germany. It was later revealed that it was groin injury that kept him out against Germany and out of the U.S. Gold Cup roster.

On Tuesday night during the Orlando City Coach's Show with Adrian Heath, the Lions boss explained how the club became aware of the injury.

"When he came back from the last trip playing Holland and Germany, we had a medical report from the U.S. Soccer Federation," Heath said. "One thing they put on it is you're going to have to be careful with his groin area because he's got a problem there."

Following his trip to Europe, Shea joined his teammates in Charleston for their U.S. Open Cup match despite not dressing. It was reported that he was seen limping during the trip. After Wednesday night's game, Shea reportedly revealed that he had been running at about 70 percent during the week.

Shea spoke further about his injury Wednesday night.

"I have been dealing with this injury and it's a nagging injury and has happened since camp," Shea said. "Tonight it has had enough. It was more of a personal decision to come out of the game I don't want to make it any worse."

So with Shea visibly and publicly injured, why did Heath play him over the past two games? To his credit, the team did plan on sitting him for around 10 days following the Rapids contest Wednesday night. But that doesn't explain why he was allowed to play both in Montreal and at home against Colorado.

Orlando City currently sits third in the Eastern Conference and is favored to make the playoffs. If the Lions plan on advancing in the postseason, they will need the presence of a healthy Brek Shea. So it seems like an unnecessary risk to play the injured midfielder in the middle of the season against two teams where his impact is of less importance.

In a season where Orlando City has suffered greatly from costly injuries, it would seem as though Heath would be cautious with players nursing knocks. But whether it's playing starters during a meaningless friendly or playing an important figure clearly laboring, Heath has shown a tendency to risk potential long-term injury. Hopefully for Orlando City's sake, that risk won't determine their season.