July 7 marks the beginning of the Gold Cup, a bi-annual tournament consisting of national teams from North and Central America, as well as the Caribbean. This date is important for Orlando City fans, because that is when two of the team's starting 11 will be competing in that competition and will be gone for multiple games.
Midfielder Darwin Ceren will be representing El Salvador and Cyle Larin will be playing for Canada. Both countries, in fact, play their first group match against each other on July 8.
There is also the injury of midfielder Brek Shea that the team will need to deal with. He will be evaluated over the next few days to figure out the extent of his groin injury, however, it seems that he will miss the same amount of time as Ceren and Larin, if not more, and in fact would likely be playing in the Gold Cup if not for his injury.
Now the question becomes, who will replace these starters for the next few games?
In the defensive midfield spot that Ceren will be vacating, it seems that Lewis Neal will most likely be a lock for that position. His defensive minded play and his awareness in that position were on display against D.C United, when he last played in that position. Even Adrian Heath made sure to mention his great play in that position in his post-game press conference. There could be a game that sees Amobi Okugo playing in that spot, but it depends on the match-up. If the opponent requires a more physical approach, Okugo would be the most likely to start, but a faster playing team would probably warrant Neal getting the start.
For Larin's replacement, the popular choice would be for Pedro Ribeiro to reclaim his starting position up top. While he is technically gifted for a 6-foot-3 player, his speed doesn't work well to get the offense flowing like Heath usually likes it. Now that Carlos Rivas is showing some growth and prowess in his most recent games, I think that Heath could start him up top. We saw how dangerous his speed can be after his game against Colorado, so putting him up top would give the opposing defense nightmares.
The only issue with that scenario is that with Shea out and Neal most likely playing in the midfield, there really isn't anyone capable of playing that left wing, which is why Rivas will most likely stay on the left.
There's also the often forgotten Bryan Rochez, who could be in play for the starting striker position. Although he has taken some time to develop and get accustomed to playing in the U.S, he showed a lot of growth during the U-20 World Cup when he played for Honduras. The upcoming games would be a perfect time for Heath to give him some playing time.
So, essentially, my prediction is that Neal will replace Ceren, Rivas will replace Shea, and Ribeiro will replace Larin. Now that I've given my opinion, what do you think?