Ordinarily in a World Cup-style tournament the final group game when you’ve already clinched a spot in the knockouts would be an opportunity for a head coach to rotate their squad and rest up for the next round.
But the fact that Monday’s game against Orlando City SC at 8 p.m. will count for more than first place in Group A changes that approach for both Jim Curtin and Oscar Pareja.
“The way this is set up in such a unique way, which is actually a good thing, you’re fully motivated to get a result now in this game,” Curtin said on a video call with media Saturday. “Orlando sees it as three points in the league, we see it as three points in the league. I think we’re both going to field our best teams and it’s also good from the standpoint of staying in a rhythm.”
Curtin will be without Jose Martinez after the midfielder was handed a one-game suspension and an undisclosed fine for violent conduct when he kicked out against Jose Reyes after a hard challenge in the 40th minute. Martinez wasn’t shown a second yellow in the game, but his suspension was applied by the Disciplinary Committee.
Curtin said the team saw no reason to appeal the decision.
“Jose takes a pretty good knock to the head, you know, he hits the ground really hard,” Curtin said of the play. “His natural reaction is he still feels contact from from an opponent, and his reaction was just kind of almost like a get off emotion. Unfortunately, with that, his foot did strike the guy kind of in the groin area. So it’s one where in speaking with some people on the disciplinary committee and speaking with Ernst it didn’t make sense to appeal.”
Veteran Warren Creavalle is the next man up after being used as a sub off the bench in the first two games. Curtin didn’t mention Matej Oravec in his comments. The offseason transfer acquisition was expected to compete for a spot in central midfield but hasn’t seen the field yet in 2020.
Curtin isn’t expected to make any other changes to his starting lineup from Inter Miami unless he switches Jakob Glesnes with Jack Elliott. He said Michee Ngalina has returned to full training and Andrew Wooten is getting closer to being able to train fully.
For players who haven’t had an opportunity to play like outside backs Matthew Real and Olivier Mbaizo and others like Oravec and homegrown midfielder Cole Turner it’s a matter of them being ready if needed. Curtin has used both Mbaizo and Real as late substitutes in more advanced positions before so that’s also a possibility for them.
“When I go all through the midfield and I go out through the backline, I’m completely comfortable going to quote unquote number two on the depth chart,” Curtin said. “We have a pretty deep squad when we’re called upon to use it, which we will do I’m sure at some point in this tournament.”
Monday’s game kicks off at 8 p.m. If they win and capture Group A they’ll play on Saturday, July 25 at 8 p.m. against the third place finisher that advances from Group C, D or E. If they drop points and finish second in the group they would face the second place team from Group C at 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 25.