Predicting Orlando City SC’s starting lineup for the season opener against D.C. United next Saturday might not be an easy task, as the club has released little to no information about each of the preseason friendlies and scrimmages the team played. However, one thing is for sure: Sacha Kljestan will not be on the field.
The veteran midfielder was punished by MLS with a two-game suspension after the incidents between the New York Red Bulls, his former club, and Toronto FC during last year’s Eastern Conference semifinals and he will be permitted to return to play in the third week of this season, when the Lions face New York City FC on March 17.
Even though Orlando City does not have a pound-for-pound replacement for Kljestan, Head Coach Jason Kreis has some options he can explore while Kljestan’s not available. Assuming that Oriol Rosell, Yoshimar Yotún, Justin Meram and Josué Colmán are all set to start, here are some of the alternatives Kreis could evaluate:
The rookie has been one of the sensations of preseason, displaying impressive versatility, chance creation and finishing skills. He would not necessarily be deployed in the No. 10 position, but could be a great option to play underneath the striker, which will likely be Stefano Pinho filling in for Dom Dwyer, with freedom to move outside the box and beat D.C.’s center backs with his pace.
Pierre da Silva
The Academy product could benefit from an opportunity in the season opener to take his next step in the transition process for the senior team after playing only one MLS minute in 2017. Pierre would most likely fill the left winger spot, pushing Justin Meram to a more central position, a role that’s not his preferred, but one where he eventually played for Columbus Crew SC.
Bringing Johnson’s veteran stability to the table would result in a more conservative system. The Canadian would line up alongside Rosell in front of Orlando’s box with Yotún playing in more of an offensive role. With Yotún’s passing ability, the Peruvian international can be a difference-maker and set strikers up really efficiently.
Which of the options do you like better? Any other ideas? Share your thoughts with us in the comments box!