Here's a sentence I never thought I would write: Orlando City will be without their captain, Kaká, on Saturday when they host FC Dallas after the Brazilian picked up a straight red card in Saturday night's 1-1 draw at Real Salt Lake.
Kaká was shown the red for what referee Sorin Stoica described as "violent conduct" after he appeared to have stepped on the leg of Javier Morales. Replays clearly show Kaká not only hardly put his foot on Morales, but was in the position to step on him only after tripping over the ball.
Orlando City has reportedly decided not to appeal the decision to try to get their captain back for this weekend, so Adrian Heath will have some decisions to make when fielding a starting XI against a very dangerous Dallas side.
The Lions will have to play without Brek Shea, Cyle Larin, and Kaká on Saturday, three of the team's most dangerous attacking weapons -- on top of Darwin Ceren being away, too. It should go without saying that there is no one on this roster that can "replace" Kaká, which is where Heath has to think about his choices.
The most likely scenario would see Lewis Neal start as the center attacking midfield in Kaká's place, with Carlos Rivas and Eric Avila keeping their places on the wings behind Pedro Ribeiro up top. Neal's not going to threaten defenses or draw two and three defenders at any given time, but he can control the ball and make passes to those around him that help Orlando City create chances.
Ribeiro has been used exclusively as a forward by Orlando City this season, but most probably don't know that his primary position was attacking midfielder. Not many people expected to see this much of Ribeiro this year with the Lions coming into the season, with so many options up top. Injuries and international call-ups have changed things, and now Kaká's backup midfielder is a regular starting forward.
In this scenario, you start Ribeiro in the center attacking spot, put someone quick and dangerous up top, like Carlos Rivas, then slot Lewis in on the left wing. You lose Rivas' speed on the wing, but you keep it up front to exhaust the Dallas back line, with Ribeiro playing hold-up in the midfield.
This one you can probably count on as the least likely, but I wouldn't completely throw it out. I've noticed more a than couple of times this season, Rivas likes to force himself into the middle of the field and play in the center. Heath could make the change before Rivas does, keeping Ribeiro up top with Neal on the left. Having Rivas play the middle would draw more defenders in to have bodies on him, while opening up space on the flanks for Luke Boden and Rafael Ramos to make their runs.
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What do you think? How should Orlando City line up this weekend? Comment below!