Is it Time to Bench Ruan?

Mar 19, 2022; Carson, California, USA; Los Angeles Galaxy forward Raheem Edwards (44) steals the
Mar 19, 2022; Carson, California, USA; Los Angeles Galaxy forward Raheem Edwards (44) steals the / Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City right back Ruan is an enigma. Few fullbacks in MLS can do what the 26-year-old Brazilian does for the Lions. His pace and ability to get into good offensive spaces make him more of a pure winger than a fullback much of the time. On the right flank, it is usually just Ruan providing any kind of width, and many Orlando City attacks flow directly to him on that side.

With that in mind, and the fact that I penned an article praising how integral he is to the side less than a month ago, why are we discussing benching Ruan?

For all the good spots Ruan gets into, he's woeful with the ball more often than not. The amount of chances that die in with his final ball are innumerable. He has 19 crosses this season, and none have been accurate. To his credit, he did have what should've been counted as an assist against Montreal, but that's it through four games.

Defensively, he's a problem as well. Some of it is due to him getting so high up the right flank, but Ruan leaves a lot of space to be attacked down his side of the field. And even when he's not exposed going forward, his defensive positioning and awareness leaves a lot to be desired. Against the Galaxy, Kevin Cabral was able to repeatedly attack Ruan, both with and without the ball, and would've scored if he were a player not named Kevin Cabral.

Right now, for all of the good positions he gets into, Ruan isn't providing much offensively, and his defensive woes are asking a ton of Antonio Carlos at center back. It may be time to give Kyle Smith a run out, even just for a game or two to see if it makes a difference.

Smith has limited pace and isn't going to bomb down the right flank, but he's much more reliable defensively. If Orlando plays a proper winger on that side, either Facundo Torres as an inverted winger or Benji Michel, then the more defensive Smith could work. Orlando could even play Ruan as a winger and Smith as the right back, but that'd be a limited offensive lineup.

This is all a bit reactionary and frankly over-reactionary. Ruan is a defender first, so his final ball is always going to lack, and with Antonio Carlos on the backline, Orlando can afford to take risks with Ruan's positioning. Through four games, Orlando is rock-solid defensively and Ruan's been one of the more consistent players in and around the box. But if he doesn't start to turn that positioning into real danger, and if the backline can't cover his mistakes, it'll be time for Oscar Pareja to make a decision at right back.