A Roster Dilemma For Orlando

The Lions' gaffer has some difficult roster decisions to make.
by Chris Kimball   |   Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Purple Pride – column on Orlando City SC (OCSC) & the Orlando & Central Florida area soccer scene.

Following Saturday's 1-0 victory over the Charleston Battery, Orlando City coach Adrian Heath told reporters that he was faced with a "selection dilemma."

Heath was referring to Brian "Cobi" Span, the young midfielder who made his first appearance for the club as a second half substitute and immediately injected some badly needed energy into an otherwise frustrated Lions offense, and ultimately scored the winning goal.

Span came on in place of Aodhan Quinn. Quinn, formerly a 2014 MLS SuperDraft pick by the Philadelphia Union, has been solid and, not unimportantly, relatively mistake-free in Orlando's midfield. But the Akron graduate hasn't displayed much offensive flair or desire to put the ball on goal so far this season.

Quinn has by no means underperformed, but Span's immediate impact on the outcome of Saturday's match certainly warrants further examination.

The trouble is Span doesn't have a contract with Orlando City. The 22-year-old came to Orlando in early April on loan from FC Dallas. The Texas club retains the right to recall their player at any time, a right that they immediately exercised when they poached him from Orlando this week to start in a match for their reserve squad.

Thus, Heath's "dilemma": whether to stick with the player (Quinn) who was brought on board to start, possibly even next season; or, to go with the potentially hot player (Span) who may not even be around for this season.

It would appear to be an easy choice. If Span is impressing on the field why not keep him out there, isn't that why he's on the squad, after all? But the answer is not that straight forward.

This season is different. 2014 is something of a year-long open tryout for the team's inaugural MLS season. The preference should be to play and evaluate players who can conceivably help the squad down the road.

It's an awkward balancing act for the coach. On the one hand, Heath has stated that the goal this year is to win a final USL PRO Championship. Yet, when he's exasperated with his players, like after an underwhelming performance against Rochester in week 3, the Lions coach is also quick to remind us that "some players are playing for a little bit more."

Heath's decision on Span will provide insight as to which of these goals is the gaffer's higher priority, at least for now.

Forward thinking

To complicate matters, Heath also needs to find a way to extract production from his center forward. Corey Hertzog, the team's starting striker, has thus far been unable to put the ball in goal despite a multitude of prime opportunities.

It's not for lack of trying. Hertzog is a hard worker and solid route runner. He's also been an effective goalscorer in this league with the Wilmington Hammerheads. But in purple his finishing has been AWOL.

"Obviously Corey had a few chances again tonight, and a few chances last week," Heath observed after the Charleston match.

"We have to be mindful of the fact that I've played up front in my career. I know what it's like when things are not going for you. But if he keeps working hard, keeps getting himself in the right positions, I'm sure that will change for him."

Heath's display of patience for his slumping striker is commendable, it's part of what makes him a great coach. But should Hertzog be absent from the scoresheet much longer the gaffer will be forced to make a change.

The next man in line is Dennis Chin. The calls for Chin, a fan-favorite, to get the start have grown stronger with each passing week. But at present it appears Heath is unconvinced about elements of Chin's game.

Two weeks ago against Rochester it looked like Chin could break into the starting XI after scoring a goal as a late substitute. However, when asked by reporters if he was pleased with Chin's goal-scoring performance, Heath was unwilling to elaborate, and simply remarked "he scored a goal." Chin was not in the starting line-up the following week.

This week against Charleston, Chin again entered the game in place of Hertzog. Like Span, he was immediately involved in the attack and seemed to bring new life to the offense. But at one point Heath could be seen frustrated and waving his arms at the striker and shouting instructions at him.

Is Heath's prolonged patience with the slumping Hertzog, in fact, more a function of Chin's play than of Hertzog's? Only Adrian Heath knows the answer to that question.

NEXT UP: April 22  - Orlando City vs. FC Dallas Reserves, location TBA, TX. 8:00 p.m. EST. TBD.

Chris KIMBALL

Nationality:
USA
College:
William & Mary
Club Domestic:
Orlando City
Club Foreign:
Tottenham Hotspur
Christopher is editor of Orlando Soccer Daily, covering the beautiful game for central Florida. A retired music exec turned soccer fanatic, he landed in Florida via Paris & Boston. When not working he's usually chasing after his 2 sons or suffering after
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