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Healthy Players’ Returns Are Exactly What Orlando City’s Back Line Needs

After numerous combinations and injuries, Orlando City’s back line may finally reach full strength.

MLS: Portland Timbers at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As most Orlando City fans know, the defensive portion of the starting 11 has been different almost every week this season. Injuries and suspensions have not helped by any means with the likes of Jonathan Spector being out with injuries for most of the season, but some good news came through a few days ago that may finally show the light at the end of the tunnel for the back line issues that Orlando has dealt with.

Scott Sutter has been out for about two months now, but he gave the Lions some great news via Twitter on Saturday.

The Swiss defender has seen limited action this season, making only four appearances along with 311 minutes played, but the 32-year-old is a veteran presence that the back line has been lacking with Spector and Lamine Sané both being sidelined. The injury to Sutter has forced many different players to play at right back, including Will Johnson, who has limited experience at the position and is a natural midfielder. RJ Allen has also been placed at the position in various stints.

The Lions have placed 11 different back lines on the pitch in 15 MLS matches. The right back position has been played by three different players: Scott Sutter (four appearances), RJ Allen (four) and Will Johnson (seven). Mohamed El-Munir has been a consistent option at left back with only one full and one partial missed appearance, while Donny Toia and Tony Rocha filled in. Center back has been a revolving door, with Amro Tarek (11), Sané (eight), Spector (five), Chris Schuler (three), Rocha (two) and Allen (one) all filling in at some point.

The ideal back line has to include El-Munir, Spector, Sané and Sutter. El-Munir has had a solid first season with the Lions so far and has proved to be a pretty good signing. Spector needs no introduction and having your captain on the pitch will definitely boost confidence for a team that desperately needs it. Sané has European experience and has mostly played well when he has been on the pitch this season, despite seeing the most partners on either side. Sutter is again a veteran presence who could take the load off of Allen and Johnson and allow the latter to move back to his normal midfield position. We have only seen this back line once, in the 3-2 victory over the Portland Timbers back on April 8, and it played well for the majority of the match to help Orlando achieve the come-from-behind victory. (Neither goal against came in the run of play.)

This back line would help Orlando City tremendously. Joe Bendik has struggled as of late with the numerous back lines he has dealt with on the six-game losing streak. Here are those starting back lines, which were first brought up in the Jason Kreis firing reaction piece earlier this week.

  • Mohamed El-Munir, Amro Tarek, Lamine Sané, Will Johnson vs. Atlanta United.
  • Mohamed El-Munir, Amro Tarek, Lamine Sané, Will Johnson at Toronto FC.
  • Mohamed El-Munir, Tony Rocha, Chris Schuler, RJ Allen vs. the Chicago Fire.
  • Donny Toia, Tony Rocha, RJ Allen, Will Johnson at New York City FC.
  • Mohamed El-Munir, Amro Tarek, Chris Schuler, Will Johnson at the Vancouver Whitecaps.
  • Tony Rocha, Amro Tarek, Jonathan Spector, RJ Allen at the Montreal Impact.

Clearly Bendik has had to guide many different bodies over the losing streak, so getting a consistent view of the same guys for a couple games wouldn’t hurt for the goalkeeper to have. Also, players such as El-Munir and Sutter help fuel the offense and create scoring chances for an offense that has also struggled.

An ideal back line can and will help the Lions improve. Orlando has proven it can play solid defense, even in losses, and the back line helped fuel most of the wins for the Lions. Sutter’s return ultimately means the back line is getting closer to 100%, and when that happens, the Lions will have numerous healthy options to give Bobby Murphy and their new head coach. The back line is arguably the most important unit in terms of this team’s success. Once the back line’s issues are behind them, Orlando can again continue to improve.

These are some notable defensive statistics that I feel need to be mentioned.

  • Orlando City is tied for most goals conceded with San Jose Earthquakes and Montreal Impact, with 31.
  • Orlando ranks last with D.C. United and Seattle Sounders with only one shutout.
  • Orlando has given up two goals or more in 11 of its 15 matches.
  • Joe Bendik ranks 19th in MLS with 42 saves.

None of those stats are fun to hear nor fun to look at.