This Saturday as our Orlando City Lions line up against a very good FC Dallas team, they will be without five integral parts of their early season success. Missing the match will be Kaká (red card suspension), Brek Shea (injury), Aurélien Collin (injury), Darwin Ceren and Cyle Larin (both on Gold Cup international duty). These five have played a combined 5,844 minutes and scored 17 of the team's 20 overall goals.
To say the club is undermanned in the face of a "perfect storm" of injuries, suspensions, and international call-ups might be the understatement of the season.
A few have even suggested that without Kaká the Lions don't stand enough of a chance for them to even make it to the game. Fortunately, these people are in a significant minority and have received substantial flak from the Orlando faithful.
Far from being a game that we should pencil into the loss column already, this might end up being one of the most important games of the season. I'm not sure if you've looked at the standings lately, but Orlando City sits in a very precarious third place in the Eastern Conference, level on points with both Columbus Crew SC and New England Revolution.
A win Saturday helps us keep up with two teams that don't look ready to start dropping too many points in the near future. A loss, and results going against us elsewhere, could see us tumble down the standings, perhaps below our inaugural rivals, New York City FC.
Somehow, some way, Adrian Heath and the boys need to conjure a win this weekend. These are the times that create heroes, and we need our collection of young guns and castaways to step up and find a way to get a result this weekend. Anybody that's seen Heath prepare his teams over the past five seasons knows he will have the club ready to go against FC Dallas.
As fans and supporters, this is our chance to show MLS that we aren't a cult of Kaká fan base. Just as the players will be asked to step up for this one, so too will all of us in the stadium. This is the game to bring the noise, to turn "The Wall" into a fortress. The Citrus Bowl needs to be the picture of absolute bedlam Saturday night.
The players lining up Saturday night will need the support, but these are all capable players. Look at the second half of the game against Salt Lake City. The minute Kaká went out, I knew this would be our first experiment in playing without him. Our Lions, playing the entire second half a man down, did the unthinkable in professional soccer. They attacked, and they looked dangerous.
Saturday night we will trade a packed and hostile Rio Tinto Stadium for a larger, supportive crowd at the Citrus Bowl. We will trade altitude for heat and humidity, conditions the team trains in, and can make even a team from deep in the heart of Texas melt. Saturday night, as we line up, feeling a little understaffed, each player will know in his heart that this is his moment to shine, to prove his worth, and to write a paragraph or two into the developing narrative of a successful inaugural season in MLS.
What do you think? Can the Lions step up big against FC Dallas despite missing so many key players?