Orlando City has made multiple moves this offseason. Jordan Bender (18) and David Loera (21) have come in on homegrown deals. Andres Perea (19) is on a loan with an option to buy. The same can be said for Rodrigo Schlegel (22) and Antonio Carlos (26). The team has also brought in some strong pieces from the draft. Powerful forward Daryl Dike (19), versatile defender Jonathan Dean (22), strong midfielder Joey DeZart (21), and third-string GK Austin Aviza (22) were all added from the most previous version of the MLS Superdraft.
That's right, Orlando City have already brought in NINE new faces with two more players set to come in through rounds 3 and 4 of the Superdraft on January 13th. That isn't even counting the two unofficial buys in Junior Urso (30) and Pedro Gallese (29). At first viewing, the moves look very underwhelming. The only locked on starter out of the official incomings is Antonio Carlos; everyone else can be considered depth pieces. Whether that is a smart move for a team looking to make the playoffs for the first time in it's MLS history or not remains to be seen but one thing is for certain, Orlando is gearing up for the future.
Orlando's only incoming over the age of 22 is Antonio Carlos and even he is young for a player in his position (CB). At 26 years old, he has the opportunity to lock down a starting role with Orlando City for years to come. The same can be said for his defensive partner Robin Jansson who finds himself at 28 years old. With them anchoring the backline, we have a solid spine to build from. It seems that the plan is to have an experienced spine with youth sprinkled in the wide areas.
When looking at the starting lineup, if we add Urso and Gallese (who should be announced in the coming days), we will most likely line up like this:
Just look at that spine. The average age of our starting spine is 27.6 years old. That's a lot of experience to hold down the team. Now when you look at the wide areas, that's where Orlando City is placing their youth. The average age of the wide-area players is 25.5 and that is hugely skewed by Nani. That number would go down a little further should Michel overtake Mueller as the RW but I see Pareja wanting to give Mueller a go on the wing. With all of this in mind, it is clear what our plan was going into the transfer market. It was to upgrade key areas of the team and bring in youth players as depth.
The question that still needs to be answered though is this: what does Orlando City still need to do this offseason?
Starting in defense, there is one GLARING hole that needs to be filled and that is backup LB. While I (and many fans) liked what I saw from Moutinho last season, I think we should bring in a starting LB so Joao has more time to develop physically and mentally. The problem is, I don't see the front office targeting that area as a need. Kamal Miller showed last season that he is capable of covering in that area of the pitch and has done it several times already throughout his short career (both in Orlando and with the Canadian National Team). My assumption is that they will look to devote their time and resources to other portions of the squad that need fixing and stick with the Moutinho/Miller tandem.
The other concern for some is backup RB. It is no secret Orlando City fans aren't fond of Kyle Smith, no matter how hard I try to persuade them of his usefulness to the team. Thankfully, this hole seems to have been alleviated through the draft in the form of Jonathan Dean. While it has not been released on the podcast yet, I did an interview with someone who covers UCF soccer and I came away with the conclusion that Dean can do a similar job to what Kyle Smith did last year, which was to come into the team and do a shift wherever you are needed.
With Carlos and Schlegel being added to Jansson, De John, and Miller, I'd say CB has been taken care of. With that in mind, let's move to the midfield. In the CDM position, we have four players who will rotate throughout the season. My hope is that DeZart comes in and can be a player that gets similar game time to Dillon Powers last season, except not while earning $200,000 a year. If he can be a contributor, I would say we are set for CDM as we can also use Pereyra or Dean in that position as emergency options.
In the CAM position, we have Pereyra and Loera. I would like to see another CAM come into the team in case Pereyra continues to have injury issues as I don't see Loera having a major impact this season. That shouldn't be the case as those injuries occurred due to being rushed back into professional soccer but it's always nice to have that option. The choice for many here would be the forgotten man, Josue Colman. Unfortunately, we did not recall him during the December time frame that we could have and he is no longer an option. With him on a YDP contract though, I understand why he wasn't recalled. The good thing is that the new Cerro Porteno manager seems to be giving him a shot to find his form again.
Instead, we should look for a player who won't take up an international slot and won't mind being a rotation piece. My pick would be Colombian-American free agent Roger Torres. His contract just ended with Santa Fe in Colombia and has prior experience in the MLS with the Philadelphia Union. We would probably have to trade for his rights from Philadelphia but that shouldn't take a lot of GAM to do that.
When looking at the wings, we find loads of depth. Nani, Mueller, Michel, Robinho, Tesho, and Bender can all play on the wings and I have no problem with that set up going into next season. I'd like to see more production out of Mueller but if he and Michel can combine for double-digit goals, I would be happy.
Finally, we have the ST position to discuss. This one is definitely the most contentious of the bunch. With Dom Dwyer having his worst season in front of goal last year, Orlando fans have been quick to write him off next season. One thing I want everyone reading this to think about (and something I never previously thought of) is that Dom had a hamstring injury throughout the duration of February. When a player misses training camp due to injury, it is statistically proven across the world that the player in question struggles throughout the season. This is because they aren't fit when the season starts and must build fitness throughout the early phase of the season. When you couple that with being out for a month with his new baby, there is a legitimate case that he was not fully fit until the end of the season, where he looked closest to his best. When you look at it, Dom only played the full 90' SEVEN TIMES throughout the entire season. That shows me that he was not fit.
With that being said, it is clear we were looking for an upgrade in that position. We had a month-long pursuit of Argentian ST German Cano. My guess is we were only going to go after a ST who would be a CLEAR upgrade on Dwyer and that player was Cano. If you look around, there aren't many players who are available for cheap and would guarantee more goals (Yep. That means I think Dom will be here next season). SKC dropped almost $10 million on Pulido, a player who will probably get 16-20 goals next season. Dom has surpassed that mark before so I doubt the front office would want to spend loads of money on a player who can achieve just a little bit more than Dwyer can with us.
Speaking of spending, this is my final reason why I think we won't see a new ST come through the door. It is not smart squad building to have 2 DP's playing in the same exact position. I have maintained this standpoint throughout the offseason and unless another German Cano-type player becomes available, Dom Dwyer will be at the club next season.
If this is true, I will admit that I am excited to see how he performs under Pareja. Will he catch form and get 16-20 goals or will his poor form continue into 2020? I guess we will find out.
After all this being said, what would I do? I would look towards the free-agent market to pick up the 2 more senior players that I think we need. I already spoke about Roger Torres, who would not take up an international slot and has experience in the league, but what about LB. For me, this is where you can get creative. You can go all out and trade to NYRB for Kemar Lawrence (something like 1 INT slot, a first-round pick, and 150k GAM) or you can use our last international slot on a free agent. There's a long list of players who could come in from this list. Jefferson, Martin Olsson, Ivan Strinic, Franck Tabanou, or Ruben Lima could all come in on TAM deals and make an impact. Don't be surprised if one of these players does come into the team after the terms of the CBA are completed as there are talks that TAM will no longer be a part of the league. My guess is that the front office would want to wait and see what the terms are before signing another TAM player.
In summary, I believe we need a CAM and a LB to fill out the squad (after the announcements of Urso and Gallese of course). I think we should give Dwyer one last shot under Pareja and if he doesn't perform then it doesn't matter because he'll be out of contract and we can sign a new ST with plenty of cap space to work with.
What do you think Orlando City still needs to do this offseason?
'Til next time, this has been Gavin Rushnell and #VamosOrlando