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Why Wednesday Night’s Minutes Mattered

I believe the children are our future.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Seattle Sounders FC Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

“Come with me and you’ll be in a world of pure imagination. Take a look and you’ll see into [JOC’s] imagination. We’ll begin with a spin, traveling in the world of [his] creation. What we’ll see will defy explanation.”

If you don’t know, these are the famed (and a bit fractured) lyrics performed by Gene Wilder in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. This song has been stuck in my head since around 9:30 Wednesday night — about the time Orlando City posted its starting XI.

We all expected to see some rotation in the starting lineup as the Lions were to play their second match in only three days. I don’t think anyone was fully prepared to see that the entire starting XI would be different from what we saw in Atlanta. Many fans on social media didn’t hold back on their feelings regarding the new lineup. With it came a lot of our newest players earning some minutes. James O’Connor has been nothing if not consistent when it comes to inconsistent lineups, and this time it brought on a lot of our new guys.

I don’t pretend to know anything about how coaches make up their minds, but with Cam Lindley making headlines after being loaned out to Memphis and playing like he’s on fire, it’s clear that some of our guys need to see competitive game play to help grow their talents. Was now the time for that? Some say no, but the guys did a really nice job against a Seattle A team, in what should have been a 1-1 draw. It also gave some of the starters a chance to rest in what is a crazy chain of matches in such a short amount of time.

OCSC’s newest and underutilized members have something to prove. They’re fighting every day to show that they deserve to be on this team, that they deserve to start, that they’re value only has room to grow. Like it or not, the youth of a lot of Wednesday night’s players matters in a game that requires non-stop effort and physical exertion for 90+ minutes. It may also just be enough to light a fire under some veteran Lions to step up their game, lest they be replaced.

Here’s a quick list of what we learned or remembered about some of the Lions, a brief silver linings list, if you will.

  • Greg Ranjitsingh ain’t afraid of no ghost. Wait, that’s Ghostbusters. In his first MLS start, the keeper proved he’s not afraid to come off his line early to help stop a threat before it’s realized.
  • Danilo Acosta is fast and energetic. He brings a different style of play to the pitch that, with a little bit of on-field chemistry with others, has the potential to be explosive.
  • Dillon Powers can move on. Maybe it’s the meditation he practices regularly but even after he’d made a mistake it didn’t seem to fluster him. He makes up for those mistakes by trying a lot harder, by being a lot smarter, by being a self-starter. Oh, that’s Hamilton. Have I mentioned how exhausted I am after staying up for this match then working 10 hours?
  • Josué Colmán has made huge improvements over last year and likely all in training because he hasn’t been seeing a lot of minutes this season. He’s moving the ball with purpose and he’s looking up to connect! When he came out in the second half, he was clearly feeling down and likely being very hard on himself. If he’s holding all this in and not seeing competitive minutes, his game could suffer.
  • Santiago Patino proved he’s there to be a team player and not a one-man band.
  • Benji Michel is quick and creative but appears to lack the confidence and timing needed to finish. This could be a result of the lack of chemistry with the new team, or the fact that he needs time in those high-pressure environments to get where he needs to be.
  • Kyle Smith has seen a bit of playing time this season but appears to be getting more comfortable. Yes, he made huge mistakes but in his first seven MLS matches he’s yielded an 83% pass success rate. He did look tired late in the second half, so I was surprised to see Acosta come off instead of him.

“This team needs depth.” You see this posted all the time on social media. I believe JOC and Luiz Muzzi are working hard to develop with what they have, to ensure the depth is there. I’ll be honest, with the exception of Uri Rosell lighting up the field and my growing appreciation for Will Johnson, I’ve been left feeling a little bored with the same-old same-old. It was fun watching to learn something new about players.

The coaching staff knows what they have in the players they’re with daily, while we the fans don’t. We can’t be at training and see some of the things that were brought to light Wednesday. It’s encouraging to know that we have solid players waiting in the wings for you…nope, Hamilton again. In a team that is so often riddled with injuries we’re going to need these guys to be in their best form when they get called in, it’s my belief that high-pressure game play minutes is going to force them to reach their potential.