Happy New Year, everyone! I’m trying to get excited about the return of soccer season, but I’m finding it a little difficult if I’m being perfectly honest. I’m tired of year after year of being told to expect the team to break into the playoffs only to find them waste another year of futility and mediocrity.
Tonight marks the first open pre-season match of 2019 as OCSC faces NYCFC at Orlando City Stadium at 7:30 pm. In this past off-season I have purposely avoided most of the news of the club because I don’t want to get my hopes up or feel too disappointed by finding out who the club signed, who they released, and who they retained since the end of last season.
New Year and New Faces… Again
I feel like Orlando City’s roster has more turnover year to year than most college teams, and it’s not because players are being drafted to a better league or graduating from the program. Most of the time it feels like players land in Orlando as a way to end whatever kind of career they had with a whimper and a slow slinking off to retirement from the game with very few exceptions. Let’s take a look at who is back and who is new for 2019.
Returning to the roster for 2019 are the following players. Next to each one I have my one-sentence assessment of their time in Orlando City Purple so far.
Cristian Higuita - The Colombian has underachieved: he shows flashes of promise but he has not been nearly as productive as he should have been.
Pierre Da Silva - The homegrown player is mostly an unproven benchwarmer, and it would be nice to see what he can do with more minutes.
Mason Stajduhar - One of the few inspiring stories on the team; his battle back to play against cancer makes me want to see what he can do between the pipes.
Will Johnson - Johnson’s disagreeable attitude on the pitch, his lack of pace, and his brushes with the law off the pitch make him the “crazy uncle” of the roster.
Dom Dwyer - Dwyer has been a huge disappointment if I’m being brutally honest; it’s also honest to say it’s not all his fault since he’s been surrounded by a roster of underachievers.
Dillon Powers - Like Da Silva he’s been mostly a benchwarmer and has been unimpressive in his moments on the pitch; the headband he favors reminds me of a rec league player.
Sacha Kljestan - If he were a horse he’d either be put out to stud for breeding purposes or be loaded on a truck headed to the glue factory.
Adam Grinwis - I don’t remember if he ever played a minute in 2018 behind either Joe Bendik or Earl Edwards, Jr., so it’s time to see what he can do.
Josue Colman - In his first season he was largely unproven; his play time was inconsistent and that can’t have been helped by the change of coaching staff at midseason.
Cameron Lindley - Lindley was loaned out for part of last season so we really didn’t get to see much from him in his three appearances last year.
Oriol Rosell - He came into 2018 unfit to play and worked his way into playing form, but he never became the kind of contributor the club needs.
Chris Mueller - Mueller was just about the only bright spot on the roster for 2018; if 2019 is the first year of a complete club rebuilding, then the brain trust on Church street had better realize this is a guy you can build a club around.
Lamine Sane - Bundesliga credentials didn’t help him fare very well in his first MLS campaign as he underachieved and failed to improve the defensive back line.
Shane O’Neill - O’Neill played over 1000 minutes in 13 matches, but he largely went unnoticed but that could be said for just about every defender on last year’s roster.
Carlos Ascues - Ascues signed midseason and showed flashes of promise, but the defender was in a horrible back line and it’s hard to know how he will fare with a (possibly) better defensive corps.
Below are the new players on the roster along with a little blurb about where they were before being in an Orlando City kit.
Tesho Akindele - Akindele came from FC Dallas, where he spent the last few seasons after earning MLS Rookie of the Year honors in 2014.
Joao Moutinho - Moutinho was the first pick in the 2018 MLS draft and was traded to Orlando City from LAFC for Mohammed El-Munir.
Jhegson Mendez - Mendez was signed from Ecuador after playing 81 games in their Serie A league and earning five caps with the Ecuadoran National Team.
Benji Michel - Michel grew up in Orlando and was signed from the University of Portland to a Homegrown Player contract; before college he played with the Orlando City Developmental Academy and at Montverde Academy.
Alex De John - De John is a New Jersey native who has spent his professional career in Europe, last playing two seasons in the Swedish Swedish Allsvenskan league with Dalkurd FF.
Santiago Patino - Patino was drafted 3rd overall in the 2019 MLS Super Draft after playing for FIU in college.
Ruan Teixeira - Ruan comes to Orlando City for 2019 from Brazilian side Ponte Preta, and hopes to be part of a new-look, rebuilt defensive line.
Greg Ranjitsingh - Ranjitsingh is reunited with his former Louisville City coach James O’Connor after being signed from the USL side.
Kyle Smith - Smith is also reunited with coach O’Connor after coming from Louisville City in the offseason.
Danilo Acosta - Acosta comes to Orlando City from Real Salt Lake, where he appeared in 12 matches with 10 starts in 2018.
With the above players there are 25 of a possible 30 roster spots filled on the team. There are rumors of several other players coming to Orlando City as of this morning. The two most prominent names among those are…
Brian Rowe - Rowe is a long-time MLS goalkeeper who played for the Vancouver Whitecaps FC last season.
Nani - Nani was a star with Manchester United and has most recently played in Portugal with Sporting CP.
Forgive me for not getting overly excited about any of the moves, but we’ve seen the Kaka and Cyle Larin and Dom Dwyer acquisitions, drafts, and trades have a lot more hype than substance, so I prefer to sit back with a skeptical eye and make these new players prove to me they were worth being traded for by producing goals, earning wins, and getting us in the damned playoffs.
Anything less is absolutely unacceptable.