Last week was a monumental achievement for Orlando City, conquering a brutal stretch of three games in seven days by winning all three matches. It’s worth considering that Toronto FC, the San Jose Earthquakes, and Inter Miami are not particularly good teams and are all in terrible runs of form, but winning three times in a single week is incredibly difficult and Orlando got the job done.
These congested runs of fixtures are when squad depth is so valuable and rotation is key. Central midfield is one of the areas where that depth shines the most. In this last week of games, Orlando City was without one of its best midfielders in Sebas Mendez, who is still away with Ecuador at the Copa America. But Orlando was able to seamlessly cover for him thanks to Andres Perea. The 20-year-old midfielder has been a fantastic depth piece in his time for Orlando, playing every single match since the international break and providing cover almost everywhere on the field.
Perea’s running mate in central midfield, Junior Urso, has been another iron man for Orlando. Urso has played the third-most minutes of anyone on the team, only trailing defenders Kyle Smith and Antonio Carlos, who’ve played every minute this season. For a 32-year-old central midfielder, that’s pretty impressive from Urso. However, three consecutive starts took its toll on the Brazilian, with a sloppy performance against Inter Miami. If Orlando had to go the whole season with just Perea, Mendez, and Urso, it’d likely start to break down in the defensive midfield. Fortunately, there’s a little more in the tank for the Lions.
Uri Rosell was exceptional in his limited time last year, but has been out of the lineup for most of 2021 due to injury. The 28-year-old was subbed on for his first minutes of the season this past week, coming on in the 5-0 win over San Jose and then again in the 2-1 win against Miami. Head Coach Oscar Pareja is easing Rosell back into action and Orlando will have four starting caliber players for its two central midfield roles once he’s fully ready to play and Mendez returns. Add in 23-year-old Joey DeZart, and Orlando has another player who can provide solid minutes off the bench.
My only potential worry is having depth for specific roles. Urso does a lot of damage as a box-to-box midfielder, but who can replace that? Mendez does a lot of work in possession, but who can truly fill his role? Mauricio Pereyra, who I haven’t really considered in this due to his more forward positioning although he still plays centrally, creates a ton for this team and that playmaking is hard to replicate. The good thing for Orlando is that Andres Perea is effectively the answer for all three of those, while Rosell has shown he can excel in Mendez’s role.
However, the fear then becomes what happens if Perea is out. I don’t think he has a realistic shot for the Gold Cup this year, but if he were to go, that’s an enormous loss for Orlando. However, as it stands, Orlando still has a deep and versatile midfield group capable of withstanding even the worst fixture congestion.
I’ve discussed squad depth several times now, and it’s a real topic of conversation when a team wants to compete for multiple trophies. What’s impressive about Orlando is that the depth players on this squad have proven themselves as capable throughout the season so far. This is easily the best Orlando City roster since joining MLS and it’s clear why the team is one of the league’s best.