We're only two games into the 2016 season and Orlando City fans are already at a crossroads. After a miracle comeback on opening day and a disappointing draw the next week, fans are looking for answers on how to right the ship. So far, much of the blame from the fans has been falling on two starters, Joe Bendik and Seb Hines. While some are quick to place the team's problems on their shoulders, I'm going to go into why those claims are a bit off base.
First off, let me just say this: Don't let your personal bias dictate your opinions. Yes, Tally Hall and Aurélien Collin are fan favorites and they played well last year, but just because you like them, it doesn't mean they should be starting. Hall was let go from the team after his second knee surgery in the span of about one year. It's unfortunate, but there's nothing the team can do on that point. As far as Collin goes, he just doesn't fit the playing style that Adrian Heath likes to employ in the back line.
I've talked to multiple people over the last few weeks in regards to Collin's playing status. The simple answer was that he wasn't a starter for the team anymore and that Hines out-played him for the starting role. The more complicated answer was that the way that Heath has employed center backs over the course of his time in Orlando, there really hasn't been anyone like Collin. Now that's not a knock on Collin, but when I say this, it means that his aggressive nature and natural tendency to play higher up the pitch than needed just doesn't fit into the way that Heath wants the defense to play.
The partnership of Hines and David Mateos was the one that was decided upon due to their different styles of play. Hines is a more physical defender and ball winner in the air, like Collin, and Mateos is a more tactical defender who likes to distribute out of the back. Tommy Redding plays the same way as Mateos, which is why the 19-year-old is currently starting instead of Collin.
As far as Bendik is concerned, the main problem most have with him is that he isn't Tally Hall. Bendik on the season has really not had much to deal with in terms of defending the net. He's faced only six shots on goal, three of which have gone in. One of those goals was a penalty, which he got a hand to. Another one was mostly a result of poor defensive marking on Joao Plata on the far post by Rafael Ramos, and the third a one-on-one with David Accam. You really can't blame any of those goals too heavily on Bendik.
Hines committed a foul in the box against RSL, which drew a penalty, and he was beaten in a footrace by Accam who is one of the fastest players in MLS. He's also made some big defensive stops, although that tends to be ignored when compared to the errors.
At this point in the season, just remember this: it's only two games in. At this point last year, Orlando was experiencing struggles early on and that was with the full starting XI and a healthy Kaká. Mateos should be back by April 3, which is the game after NYCFC, and that should give a better reading into how the defense works with everyone healthy. It's way too early to write off Bendik or Hines and say how Earl Edwards Jr. or Collin should be playing over them. If it comes down to early or late May and issues continue to arise, then by all means make a change if you're Adrian Heath.
But again, and let me repeat this for emphasis: we're only two games in. There are still 32 games left this season for Orlando City -- eight months of soccer to be played. Just be patient with this team and see how everything develops. At the end of the day, have faith that the team and Heath can make adjustments to get on the winning track, and we'll see what happens in New York on Friday.