In the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, Orlando City selected Conor Donovan, a promising defender out of North Carolina State. At the time he was drafted, he had only spent one year in college before turning pro, making him one of the many young players to grace Orlando City's inaugural roster. Donovan's first year with the team didn't go as planned, after his first-ever start with the MLS side ended abruptly after only 14 minutes, having torn his ACL and sprained his MCL and meniscus.
After spending much of the off-season in rehab, building back strength and lateral movement, Donovan was able to get some much-needed playing time with Orlando City B. He was able to play a full 45 minutes in his first action since the injury on May 1 against FC Montreal. Up to this point, Donovan has now played in six matches for OCB, going a full 90 minutes in four of them. He even managed to score his first professional goal two weeks ago up in Charleston in a 2-1 victory for the Lions.
While it's only a half dozen games under Donovan's belt, he has been looking better and stronger defensively every game. While there hasn't been a shutout to his credit, it could be attributed to such a young back line in general. Individually, he's been smart in terms of making tackles, tracking runners, and blocking shots. He's also shown good offensive prowess inside the box on set pieces, getting his head on the end of crosses in the box.
There's no question that Donovan will be with the MLS side at some point in the near future, but that time could be sooner rather than later. Orlando City's defense has been less than stellar on the season, with only one shutout to its credit and a slew of missed opportunities, mental mistakes, and nervy moments for the Lions' back four.
Heading into next week's game against Toronto FC, Orlando will be without Seb Hines, who picked up his fifth yellow card this past weekend, suspending him for the upcoming match. While David Mateos and Tommy Redding will most likely be the starters, it's very possible that Donovan is called up to provide depth for the Lions. He had been previously called up at the end of May for the NYCFC game, though he did not make an appearance. Having said that, if things continue the way they are and the Lions continue to let up crucial goals, Head Coach Adrian Heath could decide to mix things up in order to get results.
So, with things not working out in the back line the way that most would have hoped, is it a stretch to see if Donovan could shake things up and provide some stability and ability to the defense for the first team? Let me know what you think in the comments below.