Orlando City is about a third of the way through its season and the results aren’t what many supporters and experts expected. There has been below-average play across the board, notably from Antonio Nocerino, as described by our own Gavin Ewbank.
Another position issue that isn't being widely discussed has been the right back spot and the play of Rafael Ramos. Ramos seems to have hit the sophomore slump in his second season at the MLS level. Ramos had his contract restructured after last year, and although his new salary number is not known, it’s fair to say the Portuguese defender got a raise over his league-minimum $50,000 last year.
The problem is he hasn’t been that good in 2016, and it’s time for Kevin Alston to be given an opportunity. Ramos has been caught ball watching and making questionable decisions. He's not currently playing at the level he was in 2015 and a spark is needed.
Ramos is on the MLS Best XI for ball watching. I promised you earlier in the year there would be examples if I made a bold claim. In all of these plays, Ramos is either ball watching, flat footed, or unaware of someone behind him. These mistakes directly led to goals.
Take a look at Joe Bendik's reaction near the end of the clip after Jacob Peterson's goal for Sporting Kansas City above; my guess is that it's directed to that right side of the back line. Ramos also had this blunder, which is a technical flub in clearing a ball correctly. A defending player’s body should never be facing the goal, as any bounce or deflection could go on goal.
Ramos has had his moments. He has matched his assist total from last year and we're only nine games into the season. Perhaps his offensive threat is keeping him on the field. But his defending has been inconsistent and the majority of his crosses have been wayward or blocked by the defending outside back. He rarely cuts inside or uses his speed to get to the end line, and teams are allowing him to stay outside.
Because of all of these factors, it's time to give Kevin Alston a look at fullback. Alston played 90 minutes in the controversial 2-2 tie with the New England Revolution in April, his only match of the season. He played okay, as he took a while to get into the game, but when he did, he was dangerous in the attack. The most popular proposal among fans for change is to bring in Adrian Winter or Luke Boden, but few are talking about a possible switch of Alston for Ramos.
At this point, why not? There are three games in nine days coming up, and my guess is we will see Alston at some point in a starting role soon.