There’s an old saying -- dance with the one you came with. For Orlando City, right now that means trying to win games with the set of fullbacks the team currently has in place. I’m not going to speculate on any potential moves the club might make in the near future, just look at the players here currently and their strengths.
(If you want to read more about the moves the team should make, Sean Rollins has an excellent piece right here at The Mane Land.)
When the starting XI is announced each week, we know we’re getting some combination of the following guys on defense: Brek Shea, Kevin Alston, Seb Hines, David Mateos, Tommy Redding, Luke Boden, and Rafael Ramos. And honestly, those players are good enough that they should inspire some confidence in the team, especially with Joe Bendik manning the goal. At different points this season, each has played exceptionally well. The problem has been lapses in concentration and inconsistent quality.
Both goals that Toronto FC scored last weekend were due to defenders not knowing their positions. On the first, Shea was marking his man when everyone else was playing for the offside ball. Had he been properly positioned, Jordan Hamilton is probably getting flagged and the goal is off the board.
Then there is the second goal. Kevin Alston loses track of his man, ball watching on Sebastian Giovinco and Justin Morrow taps in an uncontested shot. Now it’s easy for us to say keep your eyes on the man and not the ball, but in that situation, late in the game and holding on to the lead, Alston needed to know where Morrow was. There’s just too much at stake not to.
Orlando City won on Saturday obviously, but going forward, how can the Lions win with these guys? Some might argue with me, but I feel we’ve got to play to their strengths. Shea, Boden, and Alston have proven to be good on the opponent’s side of the field with crosses and hustle plays. Hines’ head is like a weapon itself on set pieces. Even Mateos uses the long ball very effectively to set up scoring chances. Having attacks start from the back up are essential in grabbing goals against other, more sound defensive squads.
There are very offensive defenders (no pun intended...I think?). Orlando City’s offense as a whole has been very good this year, so maybe we need to embrace that fact all-out. Get the fullbacks moving forward as soon as possession is won and create that very high line past midfield. Allowing them to run free will create a lot of counter opportunities for the other team, but that’s already happening now. The hope is, however, more pressure is added on the opponent’s defense and even more goals are being scored. A 3-2 or 4-3 victory is the same three points as a 1-0 game. I’m sure Bendik wants more clean sheets, but a win is a win in a tightly grouped Eastern Conference.
The MLS Secondary Transfer Window is coming up (July 4-Aug. 3), so only time will tell if the club will actively seek out defensive help. In the meantime, the team has a daunting schedule ahead of it and in order to stay in the playoffs, three points are essential each time out.
They might not be the defenders you want, but they’re the ones we’ve got. So, let’s dance.