Following the trade of Aurelien Collin to the New York Red Bulls, an already depleted group of center backs makes that position look like the potentially the weakest in the Orlando City squad. But with the young talent coming through, it'll be a strength in the near future.
The trade of Collin left three center backs on the senior team roster that see regular playing time for the first team; Seb Hines, David Mateos, and Tommy Redding. Just one suspension or injury puts the team in a hole, as was seen when Hines went down due to injury and Mateos received a red card. But there are three young center backs who will soon control the back line for the Lions in MLS.
Redding may not have come through the academy, but the 19-year-old hails from Oviedo, allowing him to qualify as a Homegrown Player. Of the three young center backs, none has made more of an impression than Redding, who has seen extensive minutes for the first team this season.
But everybody already knows about Redding. The two interesting subjects are Conor Donovan and Devron Garcia. A second-round draft pick in 2015, Donovan is known by Orlando City fans but hasn't been seen much. Just 14 minutes into his first MLS appearance last August against the Philadelphia Union, Donovan's season ended with a torn ACL. This season, he's making his comeback with Orlando City B.
Also with the reserves is Devron Garcia. The 20-year-old Honduran has represented his country at the U-17 and U-20 levels and came to the club from C.D. Victoria in his native land. Joining the team late, Garcia didn't see any action in OCB's first three games but dressed for the first time on April 16 against the Harrisburg City Islanders.
Garcia got off to a rough start with OCB, struggling to acclimate to the USL game, which culminated in his sending off just 18 minutes into his fourth start on May 1 against FC Montreal. But that seems to have been the turning point for the young defender. Since then, Garcia and Donovan have created a solid partnership, resulting in both being called up due to Mateos' suspension for the May 29 game against New York City FC.
At 28 and 29 years of age, respectively, it's unknown how long Hines and Mateos will remain with Orlando City. Eventually, both will move on and give way to the new generation of players. Luckily for the club, there is tremendous young talent waiting in the wings. And with two at 20 years of age and the other at just 19, there's still the potential of development for all three.
When Orlando City moved into MLS in 2015, Head Coach Adrian Heath spoke of the youth being brought into the club and that the club was building for the future. That's been no more apparent than at the center back position. So while Orlando City fans may be concerned this season about the center back pairing, fear not for the future because there are bright days ahead at that position.