Orlando’s Benefits and Drawbacks of Having Talented International Players



"For Club and Country." This is the saying that U.S. Soccer has been using since March of last year and it has really taken off. While it applies to the U.S. National team mostly, it's a universal saying for anyone and any player that supports their country as much as their home club.

In the case of Orlando City, it can resonate with just about every player on the team. Almost everyone on the team has represented their club on the international stage, whether it be in the U-20s, U-23s or the senior level. At most recent count, nine players have earned caps for their senior national teams and 18 have made appearances for the youth national teams at some point in their careers.

Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath always stresses the importance of representing one's country, saying that it gives players good experience and can help them further their careers with the competition that they will face around the world. While that is all well and good for the individual players, it sometimes leaves the club a bit high and dry. With the way the MLS schedule works, games will continue to carry on, even through international competition breaks, something that we've written about quite recently.

The prime example of how this affects a team in the midst of the season was Orlando’s game at the Montreal Impact late in March. For that game, seven players were called up to represent their nation, including four starters at the time. With three injured players adding to the issues, Orlando was barely able to scrounge together a 15-man team to head up to Canada to face the Impact, a game in which the team drew, 2-2.

In the next few weeks, Orlando will again be faced with possibly losing Brek Shea, Cyle Larin, Darwin Ceren and Bryan Rochez for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, which will take place from July 7-26. With all of the constant international competition, mixed in with injuries, Orlando has had to compensate for losing some of their best players at random times in the MLS season.

Being an expansion franchise in MLS is tough enough, but with a roster like Orlando's, it makes it even tougher to get the team to gel, especially early on in the season. Orlando has been forced to trot out 12 different lineups through 14 games and, with the bulk of the season coming up, the Gold Cup looks to impair the team's chemistry.

While the benefits of international experience are important for individual players, for a team like Orlando City, in their current situation, it doesn't do them any favors. Give tons of credit to Heath for keeping the team competitive through these international spells, but, like our article earlier in the week said, MLS needs to take a good, hard look at their policy of playing during these specific dates. For Orlando's case, the sooner the better.


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