One of the biggest issues for Orlando City SC entering next year is the roster situation at forward. There are currently three forwards on the Lions roster: Bryan Róchez, Jairo Arrieta and Danny Mwanga, with a rumored fourth on the way in the form of Carlos Rivas from Colombia. As of right now, there is no clear cut starter for the team. Each forward on the roster is a possible option for Head Coach Adrian Heath, but let's see if we can narrow it down a bit by looking closer at these players.
Róchez was signed earlier this month as the youngest Designated Player in MLS history. With his previous club in Honduras, he scored 29 goals in 59 games since he signed with them in 2012. He has also played in four games with the senior Honduras National Team.
While Róchez has a tremendous upside coming into MLS, he is only 19 years old. Depending on how he does with the team in the first few weeks, the coaching staff may look to some of the more veteran players on the roster to start games and use Róchez as more of a super sub until he can better understand the nuances of the MLS game.
Speaking of veteran players, Arrieta is the epitome of a consummate veteran. After spending nine years playing in Costa Rica, where he scored 71 goals with three different teams over that period of time, he made the move to MLS in 2012 and signed with the Columbus Crew.
In those two years in Columbus, he played in 67 games and scored 17 times. While those are not fantastic numbers, Arrieta is someone that Heath can rely on starting out the MLS campaign. He has experience in the league and knows some of the ins and outs of the league better than Róchez. It's very possible that he will be named the starter, but only for a short time unless he regains his form of 2012, when he scored nine goals in 18 games.
Mwanga is a player that has the most MLS experience of all the forwards on the roster. However, his career has not shown that his experience has translated into success. After being drafted as the first overall pick out of Oregon State in 2010, the Congolese player found immediate success in his first two years in the league with the Philadelphia Union. After 2010, he was a finalist for MLS Rookie of the Year and in 2011 he was nominated for the MLS All-Star Game.
But after that season, his career took a turn for the worse. After scoring 12 goals in 61 games for the Union, he was traded to the Portland Timbers. In 18 games with Portland, Mwanga only scored three times. He was then traded to the Colorado Rapids, where he played in 19 games and did not score. In the middle of his time with Colorado, he was loaned out to the New York Cosmos of the North American Soccer League (NASL), where he played in eight games, scoring once.
Now in Orlando, Mwanga can hopefully reignite the ability he put on display in his first two seasons in the league and be a contributor for the Lions. To start the season, however, he will probably spend his time on the bench.
Although he is not officially signed with Orlando, Rivas could be another player in contention for the starting forward position. The 20-year-old from Deportivo Cali scored 12 goals in 29 games after joining the club back in 2013. Even though he is not officially listed as a forward, it is possible he could make an appearance or two at the position. All of this, of course, is contingent on if he ends up signing with Orlando.
Looking at each of these players so far, it looks like it's going to come down to Róchez or Arrieta for the starting job. Both of these forwards will have their chances to grab the opportunity. We'll just have to wait until preseason to see who else arrives in Orlando and how the battle for the spot shakes out.