Orlando City will play six matches across all competitions in the month of May. That is a very congested schedule with all the matches carrying potential impact on the season or even the possibility for winning trophies.
Here is what the May schedule looks like:
- Saturday, May 6 at CF Montreal
- Tuesday, May 9 at Charlotte FC (U.S. Open Cup)
- Saturday, May 13 at Columbus Crew
- Wednesday, May 17 vs. New York City FC
- Saturday, May 20 at Inter Miami CF
- Saturday, May 27 vs. Atlanta United
As you can see, there is very little rest for the Lions in May, and that means roster rotation will be critical for success. Let’s look at some factors Orlando City will need to deal with over this month.
Currently, Mauricio Pereyra and Luca Petrasso are the only players listed as out on the player availability report. Not having the captain isn’t ideal but as we saw against the LA Galaxy, it wasn’t the end of the world either. Petrasso not being available certainly hurts the depth at left back, though Kyle Smith is available to start or back up on either side of the defense.
Duncan McGuire was back in training this week, and should be ready to come off the bench, or even start matches as the team moves through the schedule. The key is for the club not to suffer more injuries as the matches pile up. That is where depth comes into play.
Orlando City is deeper this season than in the past and as such may be able to navigate through the fixtures without as much dropoff in talent level. It was harder during the first part of the season, when dealing with the Concacaf Champions League matches, because so many of the players were new and didn’t have much time training or playing together. That is no longer the case.
There’s no reason Pedro Gallese can’t play every minute of every match, though he may not. It’s possible Oscar Pareja will give Mason Stajduhar some minutes in the midweek matches. There are three capable center backs in Antonio Carlos, Robin Jansson, and Rodrigo Schlegel. Fullback isn’t as good with Petrasso out, but is still manageable, depending on how well Rafael Santos plays, and I’m certain Alex Freeman is itching to get more than two minutes with the first team.
Despite the absence of Pereyra, the midfield is in pretty good shape. Defensively, Orlando City has the best young defensive midfielder in Cesar Araujo, and Wilder Cartegena is looking better as well. Offensively, Facundo Torres is showing signs of life, and Martin Ojeda is showing his class — he’s just trying to dial in the goals. On the left side, Ivan Angulo is a speedy counterpoint to Torres and Ojeda. The quality of the backups like Dagur Dan Thorhallsson, Gaston Gonzalez, and Felipe Martins make substitutions less stressful.
Up top, the trio of Ercan Kara, Duncan McGuire, and Ramiro Enrique bring different skill sets to the striker position, but also added flexibility. Kara got his first regular-season goal against the Galaxy, and McGuire already has three of his own. Now, Enrique needs to open his account.
I won’t say for certain that Pareja won’t play three at the back, but it makes more sense to play four at the back, so he can rotate through his three center backs. It is also the formation that the club is most familiar with and that can lend confidence. I’m expecting more of the 4-2-3-1 we’re used to.
Having all three DPs on the pitch at the same time was nice, and I’m certain it will happen again. However, with such a hectic schedule, don’t be surprised if they don’t overlap quite as much. One or two DPs on the pitch isn’t as good as three, but it’s much better than none. Look for Pareja to spread them out, with the capable backups mixed in throughout the month.
That’s how I see the challenges being dealt with this month, but let me know your thoughts in the comments below.