As first reported by Orlando Sentinel writer Alicia DelGallo, Orlando City backup goalkeeper Josh Saunders will be sidelined for the rest of the season following a cervical disc herniation. The club officially announced the news this afternoon that the 36-year-old will undergo surgery on Monday.
The Lions acquired Saunders on Jan. 27 in a trade with New York City FC. The goalkeeper has yet to make an appearance in an MLS game for Orlando City but did make one start for Orlando City B in the USL and started the club’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup loss to Miami FC.
Saunders conceded three goals to Stefano Pinho in the 3-1 Open Cup loss and conceded one goal in his lone appearance at OCB to the Rochester Rhinos in June in a 1-1 draw. Saunders had been brought in to back up starting goalkeeper Joe Bendik, allowing Earl Edwards, Jr. to see regular playing time at OCB this season.
After spending all of last season on the bench backing up Bendik, Edwards will return to the senior team to back up the club’s star goalkeeper. Edwards has turned heads this season at OCB, recording nine clean sheets in 22 games. He’s conceded 20 goals so far this season and is currently tied for second in the USL in saves (74) and second in shutouts, one behind San Antonio’s Diego Restrepo.
Replacing Edwards as the starting goalkeeper at OCB will be second-year backup Jake Fenlason. The 27-year-old made two appearances last season, including one start while starting goalkeeper Mark Ridgers was away, defeating the Charlotte Independence, 2-1, for his first professional victory on May 28, 2016. He had also previously come on after Ridgers was sent off on May 4 vs. FC Cincinnati in a 3-1 loss. Fenlason has played in one OCB game this year, conceding one goal in a 1-0 loss at Toronto FC II on June 14.
OCB will also be waiting for Homegrown product Mason Stajduhar, who is returning from an injured quadriceps. The 19-year-old is still probably a few weeks away from seeing the field but has been training on the side.