The city of Orlando is famous for attracting tourists from around the globe with its many theme parks and attractions. Apparently, the city's soccer team is taking on that same international flavor.
Looking at the current roster, 14 of 20 Orlando City players hail from outside the United States. Further, on the coaching staff, only assistant Ian Fuller can call himself a Yankee.
It's certainly no oddity to see a good number of foreign-born players on an MLS team, but a bit of research shows that Orlando has taken it to an extreme. In fact, the Portland Timbers are the only other Non-Canadian team where foreign players make up more than half of the active MLS roster.
It's important to note that being born outside of the U.S. doesn't necessarily make you an "international" by MLS standards. MLS requires teams to use a prized "International Roster Spot" for each "international" player on their team. However, seven of the international players on City's roster are considered domestic players by MLS standards and therefore don't require one of said slots.
So, is this a Fox News-worthy conspiracy to take our jobs and bring Ebola into the country? No. No it's not. In reality, one must only look as far as Orlando's coach and its star player to find the answer for the glut of international talent.
In the former, we have Adrian Heath. There's no mystery here, as the Everton and Stoke City man has brought in three English players thus far, including the return of Lewis Neal, who Orlando sought out in last week's MLS Expansion Draft. In addition, coaches Paul Shaw and Anthony Pulis from the U-23s and the academy, respectively, are both UK natives.
However, I believe the true motivation behind many of the team's international signings may revolve around their most highly paid player. And let's face it; at $7.2 million a season, Kaka probably deserves a bit of catering to!
Since Kaka's signing, Orlando has acquired three players fluent in his native Portuguese (Rafael Ramos, Estrela, and Pedro Ribeiro). Further, City clearly sought to sign a striker who would fit well with the Brazilian. In practice, that meant ignoring more "American-style" strikers like Eddie Johnson and Kenny Cooper, and instead targeting players like Bryan Rochez and Jairo Arrieta, from Honduras and Costa Rica, respectively.
Should any of this be a cause for concern for Orlando City fans? Absolutely not! Soccer is an international game, and any country that seeks to limit that (ahem, England) is putting themselves at a disadvantage. Further, Orlando's clear focus on personality and character in the expansion process so far transcends nationalities. Trinidadian Kevin Molino became a fan favorite during his time in USL Pro; Kaka is internationally renowned for his charitable giving and speaks four languages; and Salvadoran Darwin Ceren has earned the captain's arm band for his country's national team.
Orlando City should and will continue to bring in top-class talent from across the globe, and it should be our goal as fans to make players of every nationality thankful they chose to come play in Orlando, each and every time they step on the pitch.