The U.S. Open Cup is just a day away for Orlando City, as they Lions will travel up to Jacksonville University to take on the Jacksonville Armada in the fourth round of the tournament. This will be the first competitive match for the Lions since the match-up in New York against NYCFC at the end of May, almost 20 days ago. With an MLS match just four days later, Orlando City may go a bit conservative against what is currently the joint last-place team in NASL.
This time last year, Orlando traveled up to Charleston to take on its old USL nemesis the Charleston Battery and came away with a wild shootout win, 8-7, on penalty kicks after the match finished in a 4-4 draw. Now with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, then-Lions' striker Danny Mwanga slotted away the game-winning penalty kick, which sent the Lions on to the fifth round of the Cup.
Fast forward one year, and Orlando has a bigger player pool to choose from, with some Orlando City B players eligible for the tournament, due to it being owned by Orlando City, the MLS club. According to the rules from the U.S. Open Cup handbook, teams are limited to certain players they can utilize during the cup match.
Teams entering the Open Cup shall use their official league roster as their Open Cup roster. Except as specified in this Policy or except as the result of discipline matters imposed by U.S. Soccer, all players on an official league roster will be eligible for Open Cup competition, regardless of any status (e.g. injured reserve) each player may have with regard to league competition.
In essence, all Orlando City players are eligible to play for the team in cup play, but the new wrinkle in the matches this year adds the benefit of having OCB around. According to the MLS rulebook:
MLS clubs may sign players from their USL affiliate to Short Term Agreements (up to four-day contracts) for CONCACAF Champions League, U.S. Open Cup, and exhibition matches. An MLS club may sign a player to a maximum of four short term agreements each season (maximum of 16 days).
The rulebook does not mention any limit to how many Short Term Agreements can be doled out at a time, so expect a few players from Orlando's USL side to be called up to play in tomorrow's match. The only other rule in terms of the roster is that only five international spots can be used each game. Clubs can pick and choose which international players can be used depending on each match-up.
Now, in terms of predicting the starting lineup for tomorrow's match, I essentially used last year's starting lineup against the Battery as a basis and added an OCB player or two into the mix.
In this instance, I ended up going with the same back five that started the Battery match one year ago. It's a safe bet that Earl Edwards Jr. will get the nod in goal, while Conor Donovan will most likely get the nod at one of the center back spots. The other spot could go to either Seb Hines, depending on his health, or Tommy Redding. I decided to go with Hines, figuring the team would probably save Redding for the match on Saturday. Luke Boden is another probable choice at the left back spot, while on the right side it's really a toss up. Tyler Turner could get the nod in this case, or Rafael Ramos -- who's been rehabbing from a hamstring pull -- may see some minutes to try and get him back into the groove of things. The safe bet here is Turner, simply due to the fact that Ramos still may not be ready to go yet.
On to the midfield where Servando Carrasco and Harrison Heath will most likely get the nod. Heath has been improving in his time with OCB and his most recent start with the first team in New York has him riding a good run of form as of late. Meanwhile, Carrasco will most likely get the start, unless Head Coach Adrian Heath decides to go with one of the internationals. We could possibly see Cristian Higuita, although unlikely, or even Antonio Nocerino, possibly to get him some much-needed game minutes to try and get him in better form.
The front four I took another stab at by sticking Carlos Rivas, who had a hat trick this time last year in the Open Cup match, on the left wing. In the center of the park, I went with rookie Richie Laryea, who has had his ups and downs with OCB this year, but is fully capable of helping run the attack. On the right wing, I decided to go with OCB midfielder Tony Rocha, who spent much of his preseason with the MLS side and has shown glimpses of potential out in Melbourne.
Finally up top, striker Hadji Barry would be the smart choice here. He's been on a good run of form lately and has speed up top that can help change the game.
This theoretical lineup only has two international players, Rivas and Laryea. The rest of the starters are either American citizens or are green card holders. That could leave three potential internationals on the bench, who could come in if needed as the game progressed on.
What do you think about this potential starting lineup? Who do you think makes the bench? Let us know in the comments below.