Each week, we explore the ever-expanding narrative in the history of Orlando City Soccer Club. Each fan, player, coach, and front office employee has grown the story engrained in the heart and soul of the purple and gold badge, and each time the club takes the field, the story grows.
Last week’s match day had a clear winner, and it wasn’t just the Loons. Adrian Heath walked out of Orlando with his revenge enacted, and three points. As expected, Heath was welcomed to Orlando City Stadium with honor, dignity, and the respect he is due for his contributions to the club. As the match wore on, Heath’s confidence in his revenge was clearly apparent on the sideline. This confidence was definitely dampened by the injury to Kevin Molino, but his victorious moral was still clear in the post-match interviews.
Now that an entire paragraph of the Orlando City story has been dedicated to revenge against the club, let us talk about how the club let this happen and what the match looks like going into Yankee Stadium for another match on the diamond. Orlando’s early loss of Stefano Pinho in the first half was a heavy blow and likely the biggest culprit for the unraveling of the club that would follow. Jason Kreis would later admit that Mueller’s inclusion in the match was not at all in the game plan and caused a shake up in the lineup, leading to many players not sticking to their on-field positions.
The lack of a natural #10 didn’t help matters, as Richie Laryea did his best to create plays in the middle, even though his natural abilities draw him to the right. On a brighter note, El-Munir and Tarek continued to show their strengths to complement the back line despite the two goals allowed. Cam Lindley also gave another commendable performance in the midfield despite his inexperience. When a defensive midfield is only called upon to create two passes, he is actually doing his job. These bright spots provide hope for the depth of the club once more players come back into fitness. Yet, despite all the successes and issues, something was still missing.
Many have called the missing piece a lack of position play or the lack of overwhelming hustle, but the reality is Orlando City is, as I hinted at earlier, missing several of its heavy hitting roster players: Dom Dwyer, Josué Colmán, and Sacha Kljestan to name a few. Well, this week, Kljestan returns from his two-game suspension to finally don the purple and gold (or in this case, the debut of the new Origin white kit).
By the numbers, this could not come at a better time. Over the past three seasons, Sacha has generated six assists in Yankee Stadium, a feat that clearly makes him a game altering addition going into Saturday’s match. Sacha’s inclusion in the side will be the first step back to a healthy, full strength team that should allow Orlando City to come out of the slowest start in the club’s history. This boost should also provide the more impatient, cup throwing “fans” with more hope than has been available since Pinho’s injury.
With Pinho out for an unconfirmed amount of time and Dom Dwyer working back to fitness but doubtful for this Saturday, playmaker duties again fall to Just Meram and Chris Mueller. The unlikely front two duo need to use Sacha Kljestan’s experience and perceived confidence in Yankee Stadium to generate more players, which will allow the other midfielders and the back four to better hold their own space on the smaller pitch. We all know the history between Orlando City’s Jason Kreis and NYCFC, and we know that he will go into that house the same way Adrian Heath went into ours: looks for blood and more revenge to add to his previous victories against his former side. Between Kreis and Kljestan, another week of vengeance is upon us, and this time, Orlando City are the ones who have a score to settle.