Yoshimar Yotun has been one of the most important players for Orlando City SC in the 2018 Major League Soccer season. Entering his second year with the Lions, the Peruvian midfielder is one of only four players to remain on the field for each of the 630 minutes Orlando competed in 2018 so far, Yoshi leads the team is assists, with four, and has been the center piece of Head Coach Jason Kreis’ system.
According to WhoScored.com, the 28-year-old leads the Lions in passes per game (65.7) and he’s second in both key passes (2.3) and dribbles (2.4). Last weekend, against the San Jose Earthquakes, the Peruvian was huge again, assisting in two of Orlando’s three goals.
“Yoshi’s been a really, really solid and consistent performer for us this entire season,” Kreis said following the San Jose match. “He came in last year and, I think, adjusted to the league as quickly, if not quicker, than any person I’ve ever coached. So to see him taking a step on at the beginning of the season doesn’t surprise me in the slightest and I think he has some more to offer still.”
However, the Lions probably won’t be able to count on his skills for much longer. A standout on Peru’s national team, the midfielder is expected to be part of his country’s roster in the FIFA World Cup and that could keep him out of Kreis’ plans for a while.
National teams have until May 14 to submit their squads for the World Cup and players are expected to report to training shortly after that. With the tournament happening until mid-July, Yoshi could miss as many as nine MLS matches in the period.
In the worst scenario, Yotún would still have three more matches with Orlando before he heads back to his native country to prepare for what will arguably be the highest moment of his career, but the Lions should get ready for his absence sooner rather than later.
Kreis doesn’t have a player on the roster with the ability to replace Yotún’s skill set at the center midfielder role, but the coach has quite a few capable options to experiment with.
One of them is Spanish midfielder Oriol Rosell, who played his first match for the team last weekend. Uri is not as offensive minded as Yoshi, but he brings very good passing skills to the team, making him an option to make up for the Peruvian’s absence from a possession perspective.
The most likely option would be having Rosell paired with wither Cristian Higuita, who is regaining his space on the team after a couple of good matches, or Will Johnson, who is playing consistently since the start of the season.
Kreis, however, could opt to keep the Colombian and the Canadian side-by-side in the midfield, which would have the team in more of a defensive formation. In that scenario, Sacha Kljestan would probably have to drop deeper for the ball in order to control the team’s pace. Cam Lindley, Dillon Powers and Richie Laryea would be less likely options to fill Yoshi’s shoes.
Yotún’s absence will be felt by Orlando as it would be on any other team in the league, but the Lions have decent options to at least minimize it and good momentum to try and experiment how the team could look like when the Peruvian is gone.