To say that Orlando City SC was shorthanded at the start of the 2018 MLS season could be an understatement. The Lions missed several important players in the first matches of the year due injury or suspension and Head Coach Jason Kreis had a true puzzle to solve every week.
Now, six weeks down the road, the scenario is completely different. The Lions not only left the early struggles they had behind, but also have most of their roster available for selection, putting Kreis in a position every coach dreams about — the one of having too many options from which to pick.
With Orlando coming off three straight victories, it should be a no-brainer to assume that Kreis would keep the team’s lineup intact for next Saturday’s match against the San Jose Earthquakes. But that might not be the case.
As the week progresses, the head coach will have three important decisions to make regarding the upcoming match:
Is Johnson going to play right back?
Midfielder Will Johnson played a big portion of last week's match as a right back as Scott Sutter was injured and his replacement, RJ Allen, went down after just 29 minutes. It's wasn't Johnson's first time in that role and he did well, denying David Accam space in flank.
If both Sutter and Allen are still unavailable when Saturday comes, would Kreis just keep the Canadian there or could he try something different? The only conceivable options would be Donny Toia and Victor 'PC' Giro, who are both left-footed players however.
Will Rosell get his first start?
Spanish midfielder Oriol Rosell was part of Orlando’s game day roster for the first time last weekend and, considering he’s already cleared to play, it shouldn’t take much longer for him to go an entire match. The question here is: should he be plugged into the starting lineup immediately?
A great passer, Rosell will certainly add a lot to the team when he’s on the field, but Orlando has gotten good performances from other defensive midfielders and that makes Kreis' decision harder. Will Johnson is having a consistent start of season, but he could be pushed to the right-back spot. Cristian Higuita, in the other hand, played his best match for the Lions in a while against the Union and could probably benefit from a start.
Who will play on the wings?
Before the start of the season, Justin Meram and Josué Colmán were the front runners to start on the wings, but their spots were jeopardized early in the season by rookie Chris Mueller and forward Stefano Pinho. They both were on the field when the Lions turned things around against the Portland Timbers and were kept in the starting lineup against the Union last week.
While Mueller, who scored in the last two matches, seems to be the most likely option to fill the right wing, on the left side the dispute is open between Meram and Pinho. The veteran started on the bench against Philadelphia, but he came in and created good opportunities, so that and his larger MLS experience could earn him his starting spot back against San Jose.
What do you think? Which would be your choices if you were in Kreis’ shoes? Let us know in the comments box below!