After the past 18 matches and, most notably, the embarrassing rout on Sunday, Orlando City Head Coach James O’Connor needs to make some changes. It appears that some players do not want to be out there as much as others and this was a big reason for the loss to Chicago.
To counter this, O’Connor needs to put out a starting XI of players that deserve to be on the field — players that care for the team and the city. What the team looks like and how the team’s attitudes are behind close doors will say a lot, but based on game performances, this is who I think should be out on the field on Saturday.
A key with this starting XI, that is in a 4-2-3-1 formation, is youth and inexperience. This team will not win any championships but each player has something to prove. When they have been given opportunities they might not have had the best production but the energy and attitude has been there and after Sunday the starting XI should solely consist of players that are committed to the team and the organization.
Goalkeeper: Earl Edwards, Jr.
Joe Bendik is the greatest Orlando City MLS ‘keeper in its short history. However, 2018 Bendik has not been good. He continuously lets in poor goals and his latest mistake last weekend needs to be the last straw. He should sit the bench for the remainder of the season.
Edwards has done well when he has played. His distribution is outstanding and he continuously makes the saves that need to be made. The Lions have the worst defense in MLS and so goals are going to be allowed but overall he has done better than Bendik this season.
Defense: Mohamed El-Munir, Carlos Ascues, Shane O’Neill, Scott Sutter.
There are not many options on the back line because of lack of depth but this is currently the strongest back four. Carlos Ascues has been arguably the best player since he has been signed and needs to continue to play center back. El-Munir had energy on Sunday when others did not. Although he is oftentimes better moving forward than he is defensively, nobody else has proven they can play left back this season. O’Neill and Sutter consistently are solid players. Although they did not perform particularly well this past weekend they deserve to remain in the starting XI.
Defensive Midfielders: Dillon Powers, Cam Lindley.
Powers and Lindley are two players who do not play often but have the energy and heart when they are in. Lindley is just 21 and needs game experience to develop. Powers is a good role player who will do his respective job well. Don’t expect fireworks from either player, but do expect two guys playing with their hearts on their sleeves, and that is the best thing Orlando City can ask for at this moment.
Midfield: Yoshimar Yotún, Pierre Da Silva, Chris Mueller.
Yoshi needs to be in the starting XI but because Powers and Lindley deserve to start he is moved to left wing. Mueller always works his tail off and, if Orlando City wasn’t so bad he could’ve had a real shot a winning the MLS Rookie of the Year.
The outlier here is Da Silva. His first touch led to a Chicago goal on Sunday but for the rest of the game he did well. The ending of the match was set by the time he came in so the fact that the team didn’t turn around after his entrance isn’t a surprise. One of the main reasons he should be in the starting XI, though, is that it’s time for him to prove his worth. He is another player that has the heart but his on-the-field production needs to get there. He is just 20 years old but without games under his belt he will never make it in this league.
Sacha Kljestan also deserves to be playing, perhaps off the bench. This would likely cause Da Silva not to play though and Kljestan’s position on the team seems to be set. He’ll be back next year to lead a new pack of Lions and could come in as a sub on Saturday.
Forward: Dom Dwyer.
Dwyer’s form has obviously dipped this season but he is still one of the best players on the team and he continuously brings an energy and commitment to the team. There is no way that he should be dropped.
Bench: Joe Bendik, Jonathan Spector, Richie Laryea, Will Johnson, Tony Rocha, Cristian Higuita, Sacha Kljestan.
I mentioned Kljestan should come on as a substitute above and there are a few more players that should get game time. Tony Rocha has done well when given a chance, and Will Johnson is another leader will most likely be back next year. If Sutter won’t play, Johnson could even slot in at right back. Richie Laryea is in a similar situation as Da Silva, but his entrance would mean Mueller or Yoshi are on the bench and that can’t happen.
Overall, the most important thing is that the 11 players on the field come with an energy and desire and play with heart. Everyone knows that this team is not making the postseason and O’Connor is looking towards next year right now. For the remainder of the season, if players don’t show the desire to win, under no circumstances should they be back next year.