Happy New Year, Orlando City fans!
Now that the college football season is over, concluding with an official parade thrown by Walt Disney World this afternoon (Go Knights), it's time for fans in this city to turn to international football and see what our MLS side has been up to since the end of the regular season.
2017 Season a Disappointment
City fans were justifiably disappointed with the failure of the team to make the playoffs in 2017, especially after the team came out of the gate with such a strong performance and had vaulted to the top of the MLS standings before the end of April last year. It didn't help fans much that Cyle Larin followed up his worst-performing year in MLS with declarations that he really wanted to play in Europe--an opportunity that most fans believe needs to be earned by outperforming fellow competitors on the pitch and not by asking for a trade. And while it was no surprise given the team's performance, Kaka announced he was ending his tenure as a player with Orlando City at the end of the 2017 season and would not be back to play for the team in 2018.
Given all of that, fans were pretty adamant on social media that they expected Orlando City's front office to make some moves in the offseason. The team indicated they would be in negotiations, and they have been very quiet about rumors and targets until they were ready to announce final transactions. For the balance of this post, we'll take a look at the moves Orlando City has made to date, and what that could mean for the team.
What the Team Has Lost
At the time of this writing, Orlando City has confirmed the departure of three players from the 2017 roster. In December, it was announced that the LA Galaxy had selected California native Servando Carrasco in the MLS Re-entry Draft. As a component of the transaction, Orlando City received a third-round draft pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft.
Carrasco saw his minutes diminished in 2017, so hopefully, the trade means he will get more playing time with his new club. Carrasco is the kind of player who is fun to watch because he plays so hard every minute he is on the pitch, throwing himself into plays and giving every ounce of effort. Carrasco scored one goal on five shots in 2017 and completed 87.6% of his passes according to the football stats site whoscored.com.
Orlando City also lost two young players in another trade: Carlos Rivas and Tommy Redding. Rivas is a dynamic striker who does a lot of things well--except for putting the ball in the back of the net. Rivas has incredible speed and he is hard to dispossess from the ball when he gets it on his feet. Unfortunately, Rivas has a tendency to get over-excited when he gets in scoring position and often winds up putting the ball 10 or 20 rows up in the stands behind the goal instead of putting the ball in the goal. On the flip side, Rivas has scored some of the most impressive long-range goals that Orlando City fans have seen in the MLS era. In 2017, Rivas scored five goals on 76 shots and he registered two assists. According to whoscored.com, he also completed 68.2% of his passes. Importantly, Rivas was taking up a DP spot. Kaka occupied another DP slot for Orlando City. There was a lot of frustration with Rivas from the fan base--for a player with such potential, the maturation and harnessing of that potential into results seems to be taking an agonizingly long time. The trade perhaps is an indication that Coach Kreis hasn't seen enough progress in the off-season to warrant keeping the player on the squad to continue developing his game here.
Tommy Redding is a Home Grown defender from Oviedo who possesses speed, fearlessness, and a lot of raw talent. He is young and seems to have a bright future ahead of him. I was frustrated that he didn't get more playing time in 2017 because other defenders that received more minutes seemed to create unforced errors and commit bone-headed turnovers at the worst possible time leading to goals for the opposing team. Of the players that have been announced departing the team, Redding is the one I am the saddest to see depart. All three players have their attributes that make them valuable, but Redding was the one whose performance on the pitch was the most noticeable on a consistent basis relative to the other two players lost.
What the Team Has Retained
At the end of the 2017 season, several players did not have their options exercised by Orlando City. One of those players was Dillon Powers, and the club has now re-signed him to a new deal as of mid-December. The team also extended its contract with Dom Dwyer, signing him for a three-year contract and reassuring fans that he would continue to be here and bring his dynamic speed, unbridled passion, and intensely physical and emotional style of play to the pitch for several more seasons.
What the Team Has Gained
Orlando City has so far added six or seven new names to the roster. From other MLS clubs, Orlando City has added RJ Allen (NYCFC), Jose Villarreal (LA Galaxy), and Sacha Kljestan (NY Red Bulls). From Miami FC of the NASL, Orlando City has signed Stefano Pinho. If the name is familiar, Pinho was the player who scored the goal to knock Orlando City out of the 2017 US Open Cup competition.
From the Serbian Super League, Orlando City has signed Libyan-born Mohamed El-Munir, continuing to expand the cosmopolitan and global makeup of the roster. Finally, from USL side Saint Louis FC, Orlando City has signed goalkeeper Adam Grinwis.
As of this writing, the Orlando Sentinel reports that Orlando City has also signed Paraguayan midfielder Josue Colman, but that has not yet been officially announced by the MLS or the club.
By far the biggest name added to the roster is former NYRB Captain and USMNT stalwart Sacha Kljestan. Kljestan brings strong MLS playoff experience and a fiery, physical style of play that supports the dynamic energy of striker Dom Dwyer and defender Jonathan Spector. Kljestan was the assist leader for MLS in 2017, recording 17 assists on the season. This total represents more than half the assists by the entire Orlando City roster last year and greatly improves the opportunities that our strikers should have to get quality chances to put the ball into the net.
Speaking of putting the ball into the net, the top scorer among the players signed by Orlando City is Stefano Pinho, who scored 17 goals in 2017 with Miami FC. No player for Orlando City scored more than 11 goals all season last year, so adding a hot striking foot to the club should provide an infusion of scoring that Orlando City fans will especially want to see this season after watching UCF lead the nation in scoring on the gridiron.
See below for a summary of the available stats on the players that have been added to or left the team. The stats are taken from the MLS, whoscored.com, and club websites.
------------------- 2017 Stats ----------------------- Player Sent/Signed Pos Goals Assts. Shots Blocks Tckls Saves Pass % ======= =========== === ===== ====== ===== ====== ===== ===== ======= RJ Allen Signed DEF 0 3 6 2 31 -- 89.6% Stefano Pinho Signed FWD 17 4 68 2 12 -- 84.4% Dillon Powers Signed MID 0 0 8 3 38 -- 88.2% Servando Carrasco Sent D-MID 1 3 5 1 23 -- 87.6% Mohamed El-Munir Signed D-MID 0 0 -- -- -- -- -- Jose Villarreal Signed FWD 0 3 5 1 8 -- 68.9% Sacha Kljestan Signed MID 2 17 44 2 43 -- 79.1% Carlos Rivas Sent FWD 5 2 76 0 13 -- 68.2% Tommy Redding Sent DEF 0 0 2 6 30 -- 83.0% Dom Dwyer Signed FWD 9 2 74 5 13 -- 62.8% Adam Grinwis Signed GK -- -- -- -- -- 61 77.2% Josue Colman Signed (?) A-MID -- -- -- -- -- -- -- Totals +23 +18 +122 +8 +79 +61
Upcoming on the Blog
The 2018 MLS schedule has been released, and in the coming week, we'll look at a few matchups that are intriguing on the calendar. The Lion's Teeth is also getting a facelift for 2018. Byt the time the MLS season kicks off, there should be a new look to the blog, and we hope it's one you'll love!