Orlando City had two debutants on Saturday in Conor Donovan and Tommy Redding. The youngsters were called in to reinforce City’s backline and their combined efforts resulted in the Lions’ sixth clean sheet of the season.
Donovan got the start at center back alongside veteran defender Aurélien Collin. Despite playing well in the opening portion of the game, his debut was cut short just ten minutes in after he went down with a left knee injury while making a tackle. He was able to walk off the pitch under his own power, but his night was over.
On came Tommy Redding.
What a surprise it must have been. Barely 24 hours ago, Redding was in Wilmington, North Carolina on loan with the Hammerheads of the USL. With Seb Hines scratched at the last minute, Redding was needed to provide depth on defense.
It was a night they would’ve preferred to gain three points, but to earn a clean sheet against a formidable opponent in Philadelphia, the positives aren’t always best reflected in the standings.
“Sometimes you take something from the game and that’s what we’ve done. [We’ve] taken a clean sheet. Tommy Redding did smashing when he came on. I thought that was a huge boost for us,” said head coach Adrian Heath.
Redding was a boost all night, but he was also the savior late on. With Philly pressuring in the 71st minute, Redding came up with a huge header to save what would have been a goal to keep the game level. On a night when he made some spectacular saves of his own, City’s goalkeeper Tally Hall was most impressed with Redding’s.
“He made a header and it was probably the biggest play of the game. The absolute greatest save was [his] and he did it a couple times. He came in and looked like he’s been doing it all year,” said Hall after the game. “Calm and composed, he came in and was phenomenal.”
Collin was impressed with his young partner – as were all his teammates. At just 18, Redding showed the confidence and composure of a player with years of MLS experience, and yet he’s barely played 80 minutes.
“He showed a lot of maturity for his young age, but we know him. At training it’s the same so not surprised but very proud and very happy for him,” said Collin.
Redding’s recall on such short notice barely gave him time to get back to Orlando and his family was still in Wilmington while he made his debut.
“I know they were watching,” he said, “and I know they’re proud of me.”