The year of 2017 has not been a good one for Seb Hines. After making 49 appearances for Orlando City SC during his first two years with the club, the defender had to accept a pay cut to re-sign with the Lions and underwent a knee surgery in March that prevented him from experiencing any Major League Soccer action so far. However, as May came, it looks like the fortunes of the 28-year-old defender could be changing.
It all started with the fact that Hines reached the final stage of his rehabilitation process, expected to last up to six weeks, as The Orlando Sentinel reported last week.
“It was very frustrating having it in there. But, having it cleared out has done a world of good. My range of movement is a lot better. I’m a lot more confident and comfortable during training and games”, Hines said.
The defender has already played for Orlando City B in two USL matches as part of the process to regain his fitness and he has amassed four clearances, three tackles and two interceptions over 122 minutes, and was selected for the league’s Team of the Week. He was also suspended, though, thanks to a reckless challenge.
When he’s in good shape, Hines will have to face one of the most challenging steps of his comeback: earning himself a spot in Head Coach Jason Kreis’ lineup. The task at first looks really complicated, as Jonathan Spector, Jose Aja, and Tommy Redding are all having great performances and helping the Lions have one of the best defenses in the league early this season.
However, with Redding out for the next four games as he was called up to the United States U-20 Men’s National Team for the 2017 FIFA U-20 World Cup in South Korea, Kreis was left with only Spector, Aja and 21-year-old Brazilian Leo Pereira as options at the center back position.
As Pereira was promoted from OCB to help fill a spot in central defense — although he played his first-ever MLS match Wednesday against the San Jose Earthquakes — Hines seems to be the most logical option to back Spector and Aja up in case of injuries and suspensions.
Considering the Lions will play four games over the next three weeks and that both Spector and Aja have already faced physical issues this season, it’s not unlikely that Kreis gives at least one of them some rest during this stint, as he did against the Quakes, when Spector didn’t play and Hines made the 18 for the first time in 2017.
After the recent struggles, Hines could finally be handed a good opportunity to prove his value for Orlando City again soon. If he makes the most of it, his 2017 could become a lot better.