Thanks... I guess: OCSC Makes Roster Moves

One of the harsh realities of professional sports is that there almost always comes a time when clubs have to part ways with players, or at least decide they will not actively work to retain players. On Wednesday of this week we learned Orlando City would make six such decisions. The club announced that they had declined to exercise the option on contracts for Kevin Alston, Luke Boden, Seb Hines, Tyler Turner, Pedro Ribeiro, and Julio Baptista. 

Some of the decisions made me a little sad as a fan, and some of them I think were necessary. But in the spirit of Thanksgiving weekend, I want to devote most of this column to saying what I am thankful for with these players as they begin looking ahead to what may be the next chapter of their careers.

Due to the age and experience level of the players, the announcement means that some will qualify for free agency and can negotiate new contracts with any MLS club (including Orlando City), while others would qualify for the MLS re-entry draft in December. It also means that it is very likely these players do not fit into the scheme or mold that Jason Kreis envisions for the club going forward.

Kevin Alston

  • Role: Defender
  • Years with OCSC: One
  • Gets my Thanks for: Being opportunistic in attacking situations. Alston always recognized when a break was starting for Orlando City, and he often raced along the sideline to get involved with the buildup in the attack and looked to help get the ball to one of the midfielders or forwards in striking position.
  • Thoughts on the Announcement: I'm not terribly surprised. Defense has been our weakest point in 2015-16, and we really need defensive specialists that are fully committed to the role. Alston plays where he is assigned, but I think in his heart he wants to help the team outscore the opponent instead of outdefend them, and that may have factored into the decisions.

Luke Boden

  • Role: Defender
  • Years with OCSC: Six
  • Gets my Thanks for: His long-range accuracy on passing from free kicks and set pieces. Boden rarely tried to go for glory for himself, but he was usually able to place the ball where someone could make a good strike at the net from his feed.
  • Thoughts on the Announcement: Boden's biggest liability on defense is his speed, or rather his lack of speed. MLS has some very fast strikers and midfielders that get involved in the attack, and if Boden tries to closely mark his man off the ball, then he can easily get outpaced when the opponent makes a break to chase a long pass or get involved in a sustained push forward.

Seb Hines

  • Role: Defender
  • Years with OCSC: Two
  • Gets my Thanks for: His skill heading the ball, especially on set piece opportunities. There was one international friendly match in 2016 in which Hines scored four goals from corner kicks by Kaka. And any time Hines was on the pitch when there was a corner kick, it was always exciting to see if the player taking the free kick could put it head high in front of the net where Seb could get his noggin to it.
  • Thoughts on the Announcement: Seb's biggest liability on defense is his tendency to get caught watching the ball and not the player he is marking. I've not done an exhaustive review of every goal OCSC has given up in the last two seasons, but my unscientific observation is that Hines tends to get himself out of position as much as nearly any other defender on the pitch, and it leads to a lot of easy chances where the opponent has multiple attackers facing off against the goalkeeper. So I think this was probably a necessary move.

Tyler Turner

  • Role: Defender
  • Years with OCSC: Two
  • Gets my Thanks for: Helping OCB make it to the playoffs in 2016. It was clear in the announcement of the first team roster for 2015 that Orlando City intended to build for the long-term, with a few veteran players sprinkled into a roster mostly built from young players with more promise than experience. As the second season in MLS got ready to start, it was clear that some of the young players had been rushed to the first team ahead of schedule, and would do better in the USL side where they could get more starts and more minutes.
  • Thoughts on the Announcement: I feel like we never got a chance to really see what kind of player Turner could be in MLS, and that makes me a little sad. I hope he can have success somewhere, as long as he doesn't enjoy too much success in matches against Orlando City.

Pedro Ribeiro

  • Role: Midfielder
  • Years with OCSC: Two
  • Gets my Thanks for: Securing the first MLS victory for OCSC. Years from now, Ribeiro will be still known for his role in Orlando City's first victory against the Houston Dynamo in 2015, where Ribeiro put both the ball and himself in the back of the Dynamo net to score the winning goal. Ribeiro was exciting to watch throughout the 2015 season. Then early in 2016 he suffered a back injury that required surgery and he never returned to the pitch for the club.
  • Thoughts for the Announcement: I am sad to see his contract not renewed, and I suspect it has as much to do with his missing so many games in 2016 as anything else. Jason Kreis really did not get a chance to see him play against any MLS competition in 2016, so that cannot have been a factor in Ribeiro's favor. As with Turner, I hope he will have an opportunity to continue his career and enjoy success.

Julio Baptista

  • Role: Forward
  • Years with OCSC: One
  • Gets my Thanks for: His immediate impact. Most players take some time to get acclimated to a team and find their role, but Baptista was a spark plug from the moment he took the pitch. Less than one minute after he first came into a match he drew a PK by forcing a pair of defenders to foul him inside the 18-yard box in front of the opponent's goal. Baptista had earned the nickname "The Beast" for his energetic and aggressive style of play on the pitch, and he always seemed to give the team a lift when he was inserted in the starting lineup or came off the bench.
  • Thoughts on the Announcement: While Baptista may be in the twilight of his professional career, I still think he has several seasons to play, especially if he can embrace the role of being a "super sub" where he primarily plays from the bench. Baptista scored six goals for Orlando City in 2016, so losing his production could be a concern, unless Jason Kreis is able to coax more offense out of players that underperformed in 2016 or bring in more scoring through drafts, trades, or free agency.

What about you? What are your thoughts on these announcements? Do you think the team made the right decision on these players, or are there any that you think they will come to regret letting get away? Let me know in the comments below!