Orlando City's release of defender yesterday came out of left field for most of the Lions faithful. A guy who had started 14 of the team's matches and looked to be slotted for the starting 11 for tonight's match-up with Columbus Crew SC, was now dropped from the team altogether. This move also comes after Orlando loaned their two young center back prospects Conor Donovan and Tommy Redding out to USL clubs.
This means that for the game tonight, Orlando will only have two natural central defenders available for selection -- Aurelien Collin and Seb Hines.
While the recent addition of former Real Madrid product David Mateos to the team, the move dropping St. Ledger to free up an international roster spot seems well founded. However, the timing of the move, a day before an important match, seems inconvenient, with all things considered. There's also the fact that usual starting right back Rafael Ramos has been injured since he hurt his thigh during before the New York City FC game. So, not only will Orlando be short on depth at CB, but Tyler Turner looks to be the only right fullback for Orlando tonight.
This leaves only Corey Ashe or Luke Boden -- whichever doesn't start -- as an available defender for the game tonight. The way that Orlando's defense has been playing recently, this game has the makings of a defensive nightmare for the Lions.
Columbus, as we discussed in our match preview yesterday, is in pretty good form as of late and is 3-1-1 since losing to Orlando in the U.S. Open Cup at the end of June. With dynamic players such as Ethan Finlay, Federico Higuain and Kei Kamara, the Lions will have their hands full trying to shut them down for the full 90 minutes.
When you have the league leader for goals in Kamara and MLS leader in assists in Finlay, you need to bring your best game to the table, and the way July went for Orlando, they really need this game to have a favorable result.
Now, with Head Coach Adrian Heath back on the sidelines after his one game suspension, he can hopefully mastermind a game plan that will give the defense the ability to play the full 90 minutes, without having to overwork themselves. In other words, you may see a very defensive minded lineup on the field come tonight, in order to balance out the Crew's attacking prowess.
All we can do now is hope tonight's game is not a continuation of July's woes.