Is Orlando's Roster Deep Enough?

The Lions' second squad is becoming an area of concern with MLS expansion on the way
by Chris Kimball   |   Wednesday, May 21, 2014

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

Orlando City has a busy month of May.

The club finds itself in a stretch of 10 games in just 32 days, the result of some quirky league scheduling, exasperated by a pair of friendlies, and U.S. Open Cup competition. With pressure to win every game and appear "MLS-like", it's also a stretch that will effectively test the team's roster depth for the first time this season.

So far the results have been mixed. For all the team's success this year Orlando's bench is still a work in progress, as was displayed on May 9 and 10 with road games in Pittsburgh and Rochester, New York, on back-to-back nights. With most of the starters having played in the first match, head coach Adrian Heath opted to field a "B Squad" of largely bench players on the second night. The results were underwhelming, if not disastrous. Without the usual starters on the field, City produced its worst 45 minutes of the season, perhaps of all time. The offense barely managed to get the ball past midfield in the first half and failed to create a single shot on goal.

It became so bad that after just 31 minutes Adrian Heath was forced to make his first substitution, bringing in Tyler Turner who had played the full 90 minutes the previous night. He would later have to bring in four more usual starters to stabilize what turned into an unsightly 1-1 draw. The level of drop off from the starters to the bench players had been shockingly exposed.

Eking out a draw that night felt vaguely like a victory. But not having the luxury to rest starters in May comes at a cost that accrues until September.

Orlando City is dominating USL PRO at the moment. The club has a comfortable six point lead in the standings and an undefeated season in the works. But should key players fall out of form, or should their be a rash of injuries, one wonders if the next players in line will be ready to meet the team's lofty goals.

It should not go unnoticed that there have been a few bright spots emitting from the bench. When team captain Rob Valentino went out with an ankle injury, Justin Clark slotted in impeccably for several games and provided solid support on the back line. Team veteran Anthony Pulis has been a dependable midfield option, performing well as both a late sub and spot starter. Struggling striker Corey Hertzog recently recorded a brace against the Ocala Stampede in U.S. Open Cup play, ending a long scoring drought that could potentially turn his season around. And reserve goalkeeper Carl Woszczynski has looked sharp in limited action.

The roster also got a potential boost last week with the news that Bryan Burke, the excellent right back who had been sidelined for seven months following a severe leg injury, was finally making his return to the line-up. If Burke can recover his 2013 form he'll provide useful competition for the young Tyler Turner for the starting right back spot.

Overall, however, there doesn't appear to be enough competition at many positions to either keep the starters honest or fill in dependably when required. The budget restrictions of being a 3rd division soccer club are no doubt partly to blame. But the players themselves need to seize the opportunity of playing for Orlando City during this pivotal season and run with it.

The reality of playing for Orlando is that the club is expected to compete for every trophy: the Commissioner's Cup, the USL PRO Championship Trophy, and even the U.S. Open Cup. Whether they achieve these goals could very well come down to the performances of the squad's role players. So far the club has avoided the worst. But as the season wears on Adrian Heath will need to lean more heavily on his bench players. Here's hoping they're up to the task.

NEXT UP: May 21 - Orlando City vs. Charlotte Eagles, ESPN's Wide World Of Sports Complex, Kissimmee, Florida. 7:30 p.m. EST. YouTube live stream.

May 23 - Friendly: Orlando City vs. A.S. Roma, ESPN's Wide World Of Sports Complex, Kissimmee, Florida. 7:30 p.m. EST. 

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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