Luck has not been too kind to Orlando City this season. With injuries consistently piling up, the Lions' roster has been pushed to the limits as the depth gets thinner and thinner.
That problem showed again on Saturday night for Orlando City.
Coming off of a terrible performance against New York City FC six days earlier, the Lions returned home for a big must-win match against the Columbus Crew. Looking for an answer to fix the club's recent struggles, and left with few options due to injury, Adrian Heath shifted his lineup to a 4-3-3 with Luke Boden in the left-wing slot, and Corey Ashe at left back.
The changes would have seemed extremely odd to anyone unfamiliar with the circumstances. Regularly starting left winger Carlos Rivas sat out with a groin injury. Another midfield winger, Lewis Neal, is trying to shake an Achilles knock.
The questionable decision to start Boden up top worked out for Heath in the end (don't most decisions he makes work out in the end?), as Bodz and Ashe played extremely well with each other on the left side, combining for three assists in the 5-2 victory.
"I thought Bodz was outstanding on the left hand side because Carlos Rivas, who has been doing real well has now suddenly tweaked his groin," Heath said after the match. "If it wasn't for bad luck we wouldn't be getting any luck."
Nearly perfect with his passing in the first half, Boden was effective throughout the match for Orlando City, getting up and down the left side of the pitch. His work with Ashe, one of the most underrated players on the pitch, was a big part in the team pulling out the victory.
"Bodz has played there before (on the wing)," Heath noted. "He played there as a youth kid at center midfield. He's an intelligent footballer, I thought he got better as the game went on, actually. Toward the end he was cramping up. I thought him and Corey were excellent."
The good performance presented another problem for Heath to face in the coming weeks -- it's a good problem, nonetheless, but a problem. When Rivas gets back to 100 percent, and eventually Brek Shea, too, Orlando City will have a handful of quality starting options to play down the left side.
Boden played really well at left back when Shea was forced up into the midfield following Kevin Molino's injury. Rivas was gradually getting in better form at left wing when Shea got hurt. And now Ashe is playing well for Orlando City, just a couple of weeks after being acquired from the Houston Dynamo.
Heath must figure out how to shuffle the lineup, while risking one of his players losing form. The recent addition of Adrian Winter on the right wing means we probably won't see Rivas moved over to allow Boden and Ashe to continue playing beside each other.
With Rafael Ramos now dealing with an injury, too, we could see Ashe moved over to the right back slot, putting Boden back in his natural back line position. Ashe originally came in as a depth addition for the fullback spots, with possibly a chance to push Ramos for the starting job, as well as Boden.
And we haven't even peeked into what Heath will have to do when Shea returns later this season.
Whatever he does, it'll be interesting to see how Heath approaches the left side of the field this Wednesday, when the Lions travel up to Canada to take on a favorable Toronto FC. All of it probably depends, however, on whether or not Rivas is healthy enough to play.