Orlando City reels over ‘unnecessary absences’ ahead of Cincinnati matchup

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Centerback suspensions because of yellow card accumulation have been a recurring theme for Orlando City.

Coach Oscar Pareja acknowledged that ahead of Friday’s game against FC Cincinnati at TQL Stadium. Robin Jansson will miss action because of suspension.

“We’ve been suffering unnecessary absences in the games because of yellow card accumulation,” said Pareja. “We have to first take responsibility and know there has been unnecessary actions from us, and we have to discipline them [internally] because we need to have our players available for these games.”

Kickoff is slated for 7:30 p.m. and will broadcast locally on FOX 35 Plus.

Pareja added that the officiating has to be better when issuing sanctions.

“We also have to hope that our officiating keeps getting better,” he said. “They can’t react too soon in giving yellow cards that are not necessary and undeserving and for us to play our part and be more disciplined to prevent key players from playing in these games.”

It’s the third time Jansson will miss a game for the Lions because of suspension – two because of yellow card accumulation and once because of a straight red card he picked up during the season-opening game Feb. 27.

The Swedish centerback missed the away game in Montreal on May 7 for the first five-accrued yellow cards. The Lions lost that bout 4-1.

Jansson won’t play at Cincinnati because of the additional three he accrued warrants a $500 fine and a one-match suspension. That eighth yellow was picked up for dissent during last weekend’s game against the Houston Dynamo.

Rodrigo Schlegel, the club’s other rotating centerback, has been in a similar scenario as he missed the Houston match because of yellow card accumulation.

With regular starter Antonio Carlos slowly coming back from a hamstring injury and questionable for Friday’s game, outside back Kyle Smith has filled that void in the defense.

“Our fans, our club and our league needs us to be on the pitch,” Pareja said. “That’s why we’re here. The referees as well have difficulties but we’re going to take ours and avoid these unnecessary absences.”

Smith has been embracing his new unofficial role playing in the middle of the defense.

“It’s been fun learning a new position and studying film and growing as a player,” he said. “Robin has helped me out a lot. Both times I’ve played [centerback] I’ve played alongside Robin, so he’s been great at communicating and showing me where to be.”

Goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, who’s been perhaps the most affected by the absences, is confident with how Smith has performed.

“Kyle is a complete player who always helps in a position that’s not his,” said Gallese. “He’s always ready to help us and he’s a great player, a fundamental piece for us and he’s going to do a good job against Cincinnati.”

With Smith expected to play the role again alongside Schlegel, the third-year Orlando coach recognized the players’ determination and positive attitude despite their difficult situation.

“It’s recognizing that versatility and that commitment that Kyle Smith has had with this franchise,” Pareja said. “His professionalism is incredible. I say it without doubt that he’s one of the best professional players that I have worked with. Kyle is there in the sunny days, rainy days, and bad days and I have to recognize that attitude and commitment.

“We have no problem lining him in any position in the back because of his defensive characteristics, his intelligence and the way he reads the game.”