Today is the last match of the season. I don’t expect a win, and I’m not even sure the match will be worth watching as a fan—most of us already know the players we each think are worth bringing back next season and the ones we’d rather not see wearing purple again. I doubt a single match is going to do anything to change anyone’s mind.
Match Within The Match
The most intriguing part of the game today is what happens to the Match Within The Match standings. My season ticket group and I play a game every year that we call Match Within The Match. The rules are that we pick two players each from the Orlando City game day 18 that the coach announces before the game, and we get three points when our player scores a goal along with one point for our player getting an assist. We decided to exclude the goalkeeper because even on bad games most of the keepers get 4+ saves and it would be easy to run away with the competition by picking the goalkeeper every week.
This year with a low amount of scoring our standings are tight going into the final match of the season. In third place my friend Chris has 41 points. In second place my buddy Trace has 44 points. And leading the competition this year I have 46 points, with my most recent score coming from Sacha Kljestan’s PK winner last week.
Today Chris, being in last place, will have the honor of picking first. Then Trace will pick second, and I will have the third and fourth picks. Then Trace will have the fifth pick and Chris will have the sixth pick. The winner gets dinner at Shula’s compliments of the other two players. I know—we play for high “steaks” (rimshot please).
With such a prize on the line, I have a vested interest in the team not scoring any goals. But I’m also a fan of the team, so I want to see us win—as long as the guys I pick are the ones putting the goals in the net.
Looking for a Roster Overhaul
Since before Jason Kreis was fired earlier this season I have not been happy with the level of effort this team is showing. Granted, I was excited and enthusiastic when they won six in a row to start the year, but since then the team as a whole has pretty much fallen off a cliff and become lazy, disinterested, unorganized, and incompetent. I have come to the point where the only thing that matters to me is how consistent the players are, and I care nothing about their history or their reputation. That leaves me with only five players I would absolutely re-sign for the 2019 season and a number of others that I am on the fence about.
Top Players to Return for 2019
Chris Mueller - the rookie plays hard and has a high soccer IQ. He can fit in with any system the coach wants to play, and his passing, shooting, and defensive play gets better every year.
Dom Dwyer - Dom is the leading scorer for the team and he is both the emotional leader and the hustle leader on the team. He is a favorite of the fans who have followed the team since the early days because his style reminds them of the scrappy, hard-nosed, aggressive style that defined Orlando City’s USL championship teams.
Yoshi Yotun - Our lone World Cup participant from 2018, Yotun is one of the best passing and defending midfielders on the team. He plays hard and like Mueller he has the soccer IQ to thrive in any scheme and formation the coach may draw up.
Mohamed El-Munir - The Libyan International has been fun to watch since the opening match of the season. When the defense allowed a breakaway chance by DC United’s Darren Mattocks, El-Munir chased him down the pitch for 60 yards and executed a beautiful slide tackle to knock the ball off of the attacker’s feet without committing a foul. And after 2000 minutes played this season, he still leads the team averaging 3.4 blocks per 90 minutes. I will admit that kind of blazing effort has not been on display all season, but El-Munir has been moved all over the pitch and tries to find a way to contribute no matter where he is deployed.
Amro Tarek - The Egyptian International is another new defender that I have appreciated from his ability to block passes and shots. He leads the team with an average of one block per 90 minutes through 1607 minutes played on the season.
Scott Sutter - Sutter is a player who quietly manages to find himself in the right place at the right time. He has 3 goals and two assists this year, but his contributions often show up only when you watch the little things he does from game to game. He’s another player who gives full effort every match and deserves to be brought back.
Players on the Watch List
Beyond the six players above there are not many that I would put on my “watch list” as players that I would not mind having back. After realizing that this team had already checked out for the season when the coaching change was made, James O’Connor has simply been toying with lineups to find out who will work well together and who is just dead wood on the roster. If I were in his shoes, these players would deserve some additional consideration.
Josue Colman - They gave him the 10 jersey in the off-season, but he hasn’t been in the Starting XI consistently this year in favor of the aging Sacha Kljestan.
Carlos Ascues - He’s the newest addition to the roster and so far I like what I see from this player.
Cristian Higuita - I used to dislike this player as a hothead, but over the last two seasons my appreciation and respect for his ability has grown. I’m not sure he’s being deployed in a role that he can be the most effective, and I’d love to see the coaches find a way to put him in a position where he can shine week in and out.
Cam Lindley - Lindley is another rookie this year, along with Mueller. He has not had the chance to play as much as Mueller has, and I like the effort I see from him when he does play.
Players that Need to Go
The players who are not on the two lists above don’t really deserve to come back in my opinion. Most of them just make way too many mistakes or are lazy and inattentive when they are on the pitch. There are a few exceptions to those generalizations and I will detail those.
Jonathan Spector - Spector is the epitome of the player who will sacrifice his body for the sake of the team, and that style of play has finally caught up to him. After being named Captain for 2018, Spector has only managed to play in 13 games and has registered barely 1000 minutes on the season. He is too prone to injury at this point in his career to be worth wasting a roster spot and first team salary on him.
Sacha Kljestan - Kljestan has a reputation as a player that helped the Red Bulls reach the playoffs for many years in a row. But it’s been clear why they traded him away—he’s become slow. He can’t keep up with opposing attackers or defenders from his midfield spot, and he’s a liability because those faster, younger players on the other team can just get around him.
Earl Edwards, Jr. - Edwards has suffered enough years of his career on this horrible team, and he deserves a chance to be a starter on a team that can contend. I think there’s enough need to overhaul our offense that we may not be blocking a lot of shots next season. I’d like to see Edwards go play for someone that’s going to give him a good shot to reach the playoffs next season.
As far as everyone else on the roster is concerned, the only reason they should darken the door of the team offices after today is to pick up their final paychecks. For the players that did not travel with the team today, I would send them a mass e-mail announcing they were fired as soon as the game kicks off today.
For the players not named above that did travel with the team, they should be fired in the locker room after today’s match and given vouchers for economy flights on Jet Blue or something. I wouldn’t even allow them the privilege of flying back to Orlando with the rest of the team to emphasize the point to the players who are left what happens when guys don’t pull their weight.
I don’t know how much I will write about the team in the off-season. The lack of collective effort from the team this year has left me very disappointed and not feeling terribly motivated to write about them much if they’re not going to prove they care about winning.
When it comes to sports I may write a little bit about UCF’s football team depending on how they do. I am enjoying the long winning streak, but I’m half expecting them to lose every game because I’m not sure how long they can keep this up. I will also continue my daily social media posts about sports history and birthdays.
Speaking of daily content, I will also continue my daily “Tailgate Tune of the Day” posts of upbeat, fun songs that I discover through various means. If you know of an independent or local artist whose music you would like to have featured, let me know and send me a link to where people can listen to (and buy) their music online.
And you may have seen a new item pop up on the lionsteethblog.com main menu in this last month. I’ve done a soft launch of my DM Inspirator blog, which is focused on tabletop RPGs like Dungeons & Dragons (D&D). In fact, several of us who are fans and offer our commentaries on Orlando City will be playing a D&D game during the off-season. I haven’t decided if we will have any kind of public outlet for that game (in terms of a podcast or twitch feed), but we do have room for a couple of other players if anyone wants to join us. Direct message me through twitter or facebook if you are interested and want details on this custom game I’m putting together.