Neal injury Return

ORLANDO – Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath is actually looking forward to the coming problems facing his roster.

Several key pieces of his team are nearing their returns, though they’re still at least a week away.

Striker Pedro Ribeiro, who injured his hamstring early in Orlando City’s 1-0 loss against D.C. United on April 3, has been training with the team and will be available for selection for next week’s matchup with Columbus Crew SC, according to Heath.

“We were wondering whether to take him (to San Jose) over the weekend but we’ll probably leave him behind,” said Heath after training on Thursday.

It’s also more than likely that star defender Aurélien Collin will be available when the Crew SC comes to town. Heath said it’s “probably too early this week” for Collin to make his return against the Earthquakes. The Lions have been without their mainstay on the back line since the 67th minute against D.C. United on May 13, but his absence didn’t cause any problems in City’s win over the L.A. Galaxy.

Midfielder Lewis Neal could also get some playing time against Columbus. Neal has been out of action since Orlando’s 1-0 win at Houston on March 13 with a neck injury that’s limited his participation in training. Neal started City’s first two games of the season on the left side of the midfield against NYCFC and Houston.

Heath faces the dilemma of deciding which players, if any, to move from the starting XI. Since struggling through the earlier portions of the schedule, Orlando City’s play has improved significantly, especially at home. Choosing who to start and who to sit is an unenviable task, but one Heath would rather tackle than the problem of not having enough players for selection.

The availability of such quality players will help the Lions try to avenge their disappointing performance in Columbus earlier this season. Perhaps equally as important, City will be playing in front of their passionate fans in the Orlando Citrus Bowl, a place Martin Paterson believes can be a “fortress.”

Heath won’t let on to what he’s considering, but time will tell how The Gaffer uses these added chess pieces at his disposal.