The CONCACAF Gold Cup is in full swing, and the knockout round is set to begin. The United States Men’s National Team won Group B, while the Canadian National Team finished as runner-up in Group A. As the group stages ended, teams could make up to six changes, and the Lions came out at a disadvantage because of them.
The most obvious impact to Orlando City is that star striker Cyle Larin has been called up to his Canadian side. Orlando just got the former MLS Rookie of the Year back on the field, but now will have to once again cope without Larin.
To make matters worse, the Lions’ next two games are against MLS newcomers Atlanta United. Brad Guzan was part of the U.S. squad, but with Tim Howard and Jesse Gonzalez reporting to camp, Guzan was sent home to make his first impact on his new club. This means that Orlando will have to play the expansion side on July 21 without its leading goal scorer, against arguably the second-best American goalkeeper.
Lions fans could take small comfort in the fact that Will Johnson has not been called up, and will continue to play for the MLS side. Also, this should only impact Orlando City for the first Atlanta match, and Larin could be back with the team for the second game. However unlikely it is, if Canada happens to make it to the final, Larin would most likely stay in the Canadian camp between matches.
So, in the short term, Orlando City is at a disadvantage. Long term, it is better for the Lions, though. Players will once again be forced to step up in Larin’s absence and gain valuable minutes. Whether it is a younger player like Hadji Barry or Richie Laryea, or a veteran like Giles Barnes, Lions Head Coach Jason Kreis will be looking to see who can step up.
Finally, while there are a few negatives, Orlando City players got a much-needed rest over the international break last week. With such a hectic recent schedule, the Lions will have benefited from the break and there should be a different energy to the team on Friday because of it.