Orlando City has had a miserable 2021 season in terms of staying healthy. Virtually every key player for Orlando City has been on the shelf with some kind of knock at some point during this MLS campaign. Now, just as the Lions were finally seeming to turn the corner and get just about everyone back, some names have been added to the availability report ahead of Sunday’s trip to Philadelphia.
The Lions were already going to be without captain Nani and midfielder Andres Perea, who each got sent off Wednesday against CF Montreal. Nani picked up two yellow cards in a short span to try to prevent two counter-attacks and got his marching orders. Perea also tried to stop a counter and was judged to have cost Montreal a clear goal-scoring opportunity, although Antonio Carlos may have been able to get into position to make a play.
Wednesday’s game was even more costly than the loss of those two players (and three vital points), because two more players went off injured in the match. Silvester van der Water asked to come off shortly before the end of the first half and was replaced by Mueller in the 41st minute. Mueller himself only made it to halftime before having to come off after tweaking his ankle in fewer than 10 minutes of action. While Mueller was added to this week’s availability report as ‘questionable,’ van der Water’s name does not appear.
That doesn’t mean the Dutchman will be in the lineup. Major League Soccer doesn’t seem to have any real interest in enforcing any kind of accountability or transparency when it comes to injury news and each team is left to its own devices. Some teams are specific and diligent about reporting, while others...not so much. Count Orlando in the latter category. If van der Water isn’t on the report, it means nothing. Other players have not been on it and have not dressed throughout this season.
If neither van der Water nor Mueller can play, the team’s attack takes a serious hit, as that leaves just Benji Michel and Alexander Alvarado as the only healthy natural wing players, although Tesho Akindele can play there if needed. Going a little deeper down the roster, Jordan Bender or Wilfredo Rivera could also play wide. Taking a hit to this position group ahead of a match without Nani — or Perea, who has also made a few rare appearances in that role — is less than ideal for Orlando.
In central midfield, there is mixed news. The good news is that club upgraded Sebas Mendez from ‘out’ to ‘questionable’ ahead of this match. The flip side of the coin is that Uri Rosell is back on the availability report (questionable).
Like Rosell, left back Joao Moutinho is back on the availability report as questionable after not dressing Wednesday. Orlando City is in better shape to withstand that absence (if it happens) because both Emmanuel Mas and Kyle Smith can play that spot if Moutinho is unavailable.
Forward Alexandre Pato and backup goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar remain out.
The Lions may head north without a few starters and with a thin bench, but whoever plays will have to step up their game to snap the club’s two-game losing streak against a desperate Union side.