Orlando City opens its 2017 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at home tomorrow night against the North American Soccer League’s Miami FC. If you have never heard of the U.S. Open Cup before, or need a refresher on the rules, Michael Citro answered some basic questions about one of the oldest soccer competitions in the country.
Although Major League Soccer teams typically rest the majority of their starting XI, the winner of the USOC earns a spot in the CONCACAF Champions League, so MLS coaches must balance their teams so that they rest the first-choice players, but also put out a competitive team.
For Orlando City, this undoubtedly means that some of the OCB-loaned players will play a part in any cup run. Who Head Coach Jason Kreis will call up still remains a mystery, but let’s take a look at some possibilities.
Some notables that will definitely miss out are Cyle Larin and Will Johnson, as they have been called up by the Canadian National Team. Joe Bendik and Scott Sutter are also near locks to rest, as they have played over 1,000 MLS minutes so far. In addition, Kaká will not start as a measure to preserve his legs for Saturday when the Lions take on Montreal, but he will probably be on the bench and could make an appearance around the 60th minute if the Lions are losing.
Here are some of the potential lineups Kreis could roll with tomorrow night:
This lineup is strong defensively, with youth players in the attacking roles. The back four of PC, Leo Pereira, Tommy Redding, and Rafael Ramos could easily be the back four in an MLS game. Servando Carrasco is also fully capable of playing 90 minutes week in and week out in MLS, and playing him as the holding midfielder will solidify the defense.
Moving forward there is Pierre Da Silva, Richie Laryea, and Hadji Barry, all of whom have been excelling with OCB this year. They all three will play for Orlando City in the future, and this time with the Lions could prove vital in their development while also helping the Lions right now.
Luis Gil and Giles Barnes provide some veteran and first-team experience.
Kreis could also go with the 4-2-3-1 and try to secure the midfield and focus on defense first. Similar to the formation above, this back four has the potential to feature in MLS. Donny Toia and Redding are both starters, while Ramos and Seb Hines were the starters last year.
Josh Saunders is a veteran goalkeeper who has yet to see any playing time in MLS this year, but started for NYCFC in the recent past. However, his recent start for OCB suggests that he will see the field tomorrow instead of Earl Edwards, Jr.
Barry as the lone striker with Laryea underneath has been a success in the USL this year, and so it could pop up in the USOC. With Laryea pushing forward, Barnes and Matías Pérez García will look to control the midfield and will swap sides with each other over the course of the game, trying to find the holes in Miami’s defense.
The odds of this happening are slim, but the five-back system has great potential. Ramos and PC will play wingback roles, moving into the attack when the Lions are in possession. Cristian Higuita and Tony Rocha are both able defend and attack convincingly, and if they can communicate with each other well, they will control the middle of the field. An attacking three of Da Silva, Gil, and Carlos Rivas has the potential to produce goals.
On the defensive side, Orlando City will have what will look like a back six, with five defenders and one of the defensive midfielders sliding back for coverage.
This one has a 1% chance of happening, but Kreis could use individual pieces of it. If nothing else, this will leave OCB highly shorthanded for its Canadian road trip, and OCB Head Coach Anthony Pulis might resort to putting on a purple jersey himself. This is as youthful as the team could get, though, with the average age of just 22 years old. MLS clubs can sign up to three of their USL players to short-term deals, and this lineup would use all three — Danny Deakin, Scott Thomsen, and Jordan Schweitzer.
There are parts of this that I really like, such as Edwards in net and Deakin getting some first-team action, but Miami is no pushover and this team will not be competitive enough to guarantee a win. Pereira wouldn’t be best utilized as a fullback and Thomsen is more suited to the left side, but this illustrates the club going about as young as it could.
Could this XI pull out a W? Absolutely, but there are too many ifs involved. However, do not be surprised if some of these OCB players are in the 18.