Orlando City’s midfield going into Saturday is a bit depleted. Cristian Higuita has earned yet another suspension due to yellow card accumulation, Will Johnson is still dealing with an ankle injury that could sideline him again, Yoshimar Yotun is away with Peru, and Richie Laryea is out with a hamstring problem.
That doesn’t leave too many options for Jason Kreis in central midfield.
If Kreis wants to stick with a diamond, he’s stretched thin. Antonio Nocerino is still good to go by all accounts, Servando Carrasco is ready and willing, Tony Rocha is available and made the bench for last week’s loss, and newcomer Dillon Powers is fresh off his debut in purple. Those options are limiting to say the least.
Powers is the only member of that quartet who has proven he can consistently play box-to-box in MLS. Nocerino has been limited to a holding role in almost every minute he’s played this season. Carrasco has been plugged in at seemingly every position in midfield in his time in Orlando but he’s dropped from consistent minutes to a bit part role over the past few months.
Carrasco is an interesting case. Last season, his first full year in Orlando, was his best in MLS. He set a personal best for appearances (31), starts (21), and tied his career high for assists (2). He wrote his name into Orlando City lore with his Hail Mary at the end of the season opener against Real Salt Lake that salvaged a miracle draw.
Opportunity was on his side again this year as he was thrust into the lineup early in the season with Higuita working his way back from injury and Will Johnson thrust into the right back role, appearing in eight of the first 11 matches. His goal against the New York Red Bulls sealed a victory. But he dropped like a stone from the rotation. He’s gone on to make just three appearances in the last 15 matches and has slowly been pushed further and further down the depth chart with the additions of Yotun and Powers and the emergence of Laryea.
But Servando could get another shot at cracking the rotation this weekend in a battle of depleted midfields. The New England Revolution have been without star attacking midfielder Lee Nguyen due to a hamstring strain (and is questionable for Saturday), may miss Homegrown Diego Fagundez due to a calf issue, and will already be without Kelyn Rowe due to a knee sprain even though he’s predominantly been deployed as a left back this year.
For a player that has been solid in possession this season, among the highest percentage of his passes on the team with 86.2% completion on a team that has struggled with giving the ball away in dangerous areas, it’s strange that Carrasco has not been given his chance sooner. As Kreis has said, Orlando has struggled to manage games late and has been incapable of holding onto an early lead.
But he may get his chance this weekend. Whether it’s in an advanced role ahead of Antonio Nocerino or as part of a familiar midfield pairing that earned so many points to start the year, Carrasco has the opportunity to prove to Kreis that he deserves a consistent place in this team.