As we count down to the new year of 2015-Orlando City SC's first in MLS, and say goodbye to 2014, it's time to look back at the club's 10 best moments of the year.
In late September Orlando City got its first "win" over fellow expansion club New York City FC by winning the right to choose the preferred draft in which to select first. Selecting the lucrative Expansion Draft gave the club the opportunity to pick first from the list of unprotected players from all the active MLS teams.
NYCFC took the first pick in the Allocation Draft, giving Orlando City the chance to pick first in the MLS SuperDraft featuring college players. A miscue on the part of New York coach Jason Kreis saw him pass over the chance to have the best allocation spot for a player coming up from the lower divisions of the American soccer pyramid.
Drafts are notoriously hard to determine the success of in the moment. There are multiple variables to consider, and many of them are not evident for a season or two. Injuries, break-out seasons, falling out of form, or how a player fits into the system can all determine just how successful Orlando City was with its picks in the Expansion Draft. With their first pick they controversially took veteran goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
A clue to how little Orlando City wanted to leave to fate may have been signaled by the Lions' activity during the half-day trade window, in which they added a few key pieces, allowing them to not have to rely so heavily on the Expansion Draft to fill out their roster. The SuperDraft will be held Jan. 15 after a five-day player combine.
Winning the first choice in the Expansion Lottery is worthy of being number eight in our top ten moments of the year for a couple of reasons.
First, getting a first shot in at NYCFC will continue to build the expansion rivalry, and Orlando City supporters were happy to see the club bring home Orlando's famous ping-pong ball luck. (See Orlando Magic and the NBA Draft history.)
NYCFC's miscue on their picks came off as extremely unprofessional and was just one highlight in a long string of concerning trends in the lead-up to that club's first season. Needless to say, it made Orlando City look all the more professional in the face of the Manchester City-backed rival.
Second, picking Ricketts might not have been popular in the moment, but the club's reasoning has seemed to settle critical supporters down for the time being. At the end of the day, none of the major names were picked by either club, and both walked away satisfied with a nice mix of talent and experience.
It may be hard, if not impossible, to judge a winner in this draft roulette. If the inaugural season is ultimately unsuccessful, then the Expansion Draft might be seen through "what could have been" glasses. If the Lions find themselves fighting with the top half of the Eastern Conference in September, we may never give the draft a second glance.
For convenience, here are the results of the Expansion Priority Draft:
- MLS Expansion Draft: First Pick
- Allocation Ranking: Second Pick
- MLS Super Draft: First Pick
- Discovery Ranking: 21st Pick
- USL Pro/ NASL Player Priority Ranking: First Pick
- Waiver/ Re-Entry Draft Ranking: 21st Pick
- Lottery Ranking: 20th Pick
- Designated Player Ranking: Second Pick
Here is a look at who we picked and some initial thoughts on the Expansion Draft.
Check out the rest of our top 10 Orlando City moments of 2014:
10. Kevin Molino breaks the USL Pro goal-scoring record
9. Postseason USL Pro honors for Molino and Luke Boden