Substitutions in soccer, as well as any sport, are supposed to change the game for that team. There should be a noticeable impact from that new player that has been brought on, and if there isn’t, then it is essentially a waste of a sub. Orlando City has a history of this, as players coming off the bench just haven’t had as big of an effect on the match as they should.
On Sunday, the substitutions did not produce big, but Orlando was playing with 10 men, so the fault cannot lie solely with them. In fact, Stefano Pinho could have scored the game-winning goal if he had not been tripped, which led to Will Johnson holding on to the ball for too long and Wayne Rooney making an amazing play.
No Lion has come off the bench to provide a goal or an assist since the 5-2 loss in Vancouver on June 9. In that match, Tony Rocha came on in the 61st minute and Dom Dwyer was brought on in the 64th minute. Orlando proceeded to get its first goal of the match, which tied the game at one, seconds after Dwyer entered — a goal on which Rocha assisted. Dwyer then got a consolation goal in the 94th minute.
Since then, the subs have done almost nothing, at least statistically. In Orlando’s win against Toronto, the Lions went up early in the second half. To help secure this lead, James O’Connor brought on Dillon Powers and Donny Toia, and then later Pinho in up top for Dwyer. The Lions gave up a stoppage-time goal at the death, but got the three points.
This was one of the only times that O’Connor has been able to make defensive substitutions, as Orlando has not been ahead and the attacking players have not done their jobs. For that, some of the blame also falls on the new head coach and his staff. But he needs to have at least one player that can provide a spark off the bench.
The issue is that no matter who is called in, players aren’t producing. Since that Vancouver loss, 16 different players have come in off the bench and none have provided an assist or scored a goal. If none of these players can do the job, then perhaps it is time to use even more depth.
Richie Laryea broke out last year after impressive performances with OCB led to him getting a chance in the first team. He was then the spark off the bench that helped Orlando. Pierre da Silva is another option who could provide a lift for the team. Both are inexperienced players, which is why they haven’t seen the field, but right now is the time to experiment.
It also does not help that players like Yoshimar Yotún and Sacha Kljestan are not playing right now, but even when they have been playing the bench options were not good enough. The Lions brought in no help in these areas during the summer transfer window, and maybe they need to look into the free agency market to find a super sub. But, whatever they decide to do, it is a glaring need the club must address.