Yoshimar Yotún will probably be the only Orlando City SC player to compete in the 2018 FIFA World Cup and the first player in club history to do so while being a Lion. This is obviously great news for the Peruvian midfielder, who is expected to be part of his team’s return to the big stage after 36 years, but how good is it actually for the club he plays for?
At the same time that the chance of competing in the most important soccer tournament in the world will probably make Yotún improve and his market value increase, it will also force him to miss significant time with Orlando in a very important season.
Yoshi might be deservedly delighted to have helped to qualify Peru for the first time in 36 years. The last time the South Americans competed in the World Cup, in Spain 1982, he was still eight years removed from his birth.
The satisfaction of being part of something so important for his country will obviously reflect on Yotún’s motivation in 2018. The 27-year-old midfielder probably cannot wait for next year to come so he can finally live his childhood dream.
Competing against the best in the world can play an important role in his development as well. The Peruvian clearly has all the technical tools to be a great player and the maturity he will certainly acquire in Russia can be all he needs to unleash his potential.
A couple of good performances can also increase his market value tremendously. Peru is not among the top-seeded teams in FIFA ranking, so they will have to play one of the world’s heavyweights early in the group stage. Imagine how a goal against Germany or an assist on a game-winning goal against Brazil or France could impact his status.
From these perspectives, it looks obvious that having a player competing in the World Cup is great for his club, but that’s only half of the story. There are also some potentially negative factors connected to this situation that could make the Lions wonder if this is a good deal or not for the team.
The first one is the fact that the World Cup will justifiably be Yotún’s top priority in 2018. That can mean that, even if unconsciously, the Peruvian can take a step down in the first half of the season as he prepares for the biggest tournament of his career.
Also, his call-up means he will be away from Florida for a portion of the year. The World Cup is disputed within a month, between mid-June and mid-July, and national teams usually start their preparations one month before their first matches.
Major League Soccer has not released its 2018 calendar yet and we don’t know how it will adjust to the World Cup schedule, but the last time it happened, in 2014, the league had only a two-week break during the tournament. Most of the teams played seven or eight matches in the period, meaning Yotún could potentially be out for almost 25% of the regular season, not considering other additional dates of the calendar reserved for international friendlies.
The fact the United States didn’t qualify for the World Cup makes the Peruvian’s absence even more remarkable since most MLS clubs won’t have important players called up this time.
Considering the current rosters, it’s fair to say that only the Seattle Sounders (with Uruguay’s Nicolas Lodeiro, Sweden’s Gustav Svensson and Panamá’s Roman Torres), the LA Galaxy (with the Mexican brothers Giovani and Jonathan Dos Santos), the Montreal Impact (with Switzerland’s Blerim Dzemaili and Belgium’s Laurent Ciman) and the Vancouver Whitecaps (with Peru’s Yordi Reyna and Costa Rica’s Christian Bolanos and Kendall Waston) would be severely impacted by the World Cup.
The World Cup is the top of a player’s career and it is amazing to see an athlete from your club taking part of it. However, that can also mean that he will be out for a while and, as Orlando will enter next season trying to erase three unsuccessful seasons, it should prepare accordingly to be without its Designated Player for a big chunk of the year.