Orlando City has a pretty big task ahead on Sunday. The Lions have to try to take three points from a good Sporting Kansas City side at home to stay in the Eastern Conference playoff race -- and they may have to do it without their captain and their best defensive midfielder.
City has been a haunted ghost ship full of sprains, strains, tears, muscle pulls and more this season. Every time a player comes back from injury, it seems like two more go down. Seriously, is this team cursed? Has anyone checked to see if the new stadium is being built over an ancient Timucua burial ground? I digress...
I checked in at training this morning to try to get a read on who might be in or out this weekend. In the portion of practice that was open to the media, Kaká wasn't around and Corey Ashe was jogging by himself off to the side. The club could be without both, as well as defensive midfielder Darwin Ceren (knee) on Sunday. This makes sense, because Brek Shea and Harrison Heath are nearing their returns.
"Corey, Ricky, Darwin are all day-to-day," said Head Coach Adrian Heath after practice. "We'll have a better idea tomorrow. We'll have a little light session tomorrow and that will give us an idea of where we are. I would think they're questionable but we'll give them every conceivable bit of time we can give them in the hope that they'll be ready."
Just reading between the lines here, but based on today, there probably needs to be a great deal of improvement for any of the three to have a shot at making the 18 on Sunday.
On the flip side, there's Shea and Heath's son, Harrison, also known as "H."
"Brek's coming on very, very well," Heath said. "I'm looking forward to hopefully getting him in the team. He'll come into the thoughts for this weekend. We'll see how he reacts (to his training workload). For Brek it's a case of we're upping his training every day and seeing if there's much reaction the following day. So far, so good.
"H was out at practice. He's upped his training. I don't think he's far away from a game. I think this weekend will be too quick for him but he's certainly getting himself back and ready."
Carlos Rivas was not taking part in the attacking drill in the portion of training that was open, so it's possible he also has a minor knock. Or he could have just been rested, as was striker Cyle Larin, who watched that portion of training from a bench off to the side. Larin returned from the Canadian national team two nights ago, after facing Belize twice in five days. It was a long flight in from Belize on Wednesday.
"Cyle's had enough playing and traveling and it's important that we let him have a little bit of time to get himself recovered because he's played an awful lot of football at this moment in time," Heath said.
Despite potentially being shorthanded yet again, the Lions have no choice but to try to go after all three points. The team has played better at home than on the road, but the Lions will still need a huge effort Sunday to defeat Sporting Kansas City.
"We'll deal with (the injury situation) the best we can. We'll pick a lineup to try and win the game," said Heath. "I'm always confident that we can do that. I have every faith in this group. I keep saying that. As I said before the Chicago game, I think this group is capable of winning four games at home. I still think we're capable of winning the next three games at home. And if we do, and we can pick up a point or a game away from home, who knows?"