What can the additions of Gustavo, Carlos Rivas and Cristian Higuita tell us about Orlando City SC and how Head Coach Adrian Heath is constructing his inaugural MLS squad?
There are probably a lot of inferences we can make, but herein we'll drill down to just three takeaways from City's three most recent additions when considered alongside the roster as a whole and the players the team has brought on board (to date).
Heath isn't reluctant to rely on young players
With nine players aged 23 or younger, Heath has shown he's not afraid to lean on youth in the short term to build a team for the future.
Carlos Rivas (20); Cristian Higuita (20 until tomorrow), Tommy Redding (17), Tyler Turner (18), Harrison Heath (18), Bryan Róchez (19), Estrela (19), Amobi Okugo (23), and Rafael Ramos (20) are on the current first team. Some of those players-Okugo, for example-will play roles with Orlando City, while others may spend at least parts of the season with the club's USL Pro affiliate in Louisville.
The Lions aren't afraid to give someone a second chance
By signing Gustavo Silva Conceição, a 28-year-old defender who has played mostly in Brazil's B league, the Lions are betting that Heath's coaching and system will transform a player who couldn't stick with Flamengo into a rock to protect Donovan Ricketts, Tally Hall, and his goal.
By the time a defender is 28, he pretty much is what-you-see-is-what-you-get. Orlando City is betting that a solid B-level Brazilian can become a dependable MLS starter. Heath and his veterans, Aurelien Collin and Heath Pearce, must help Gustavo transform into an MLS defender.
Orlando City is putting more trust in players born outside the U.S.
Just eight of Orlando City's players were born in the United States: Tony Cascio (Gilbert, AZ), Josh Ford (Liverpool, NY), Tally Hall (Renton, WA), Okugo (Hayward, CA), Pearce (Modesto, CA), Redding (Oviedo, FL), Brek Shea (College Station, TX), and Tyler Turner (Meriden, CT).
No, that doesn't mean Heath and General Manager Paul McDonough are down on Americans. They've invested quite a bit in Shea and are entrusting vital roles to Hall and Okugo, after all. It may only mean that more of the players they put on their current wish list hail from foreign soil. And that can change. It may mean that few worthy Americans were available in the current transfer window. Or it could be coincidence.
It doesn't really matter why; it's just a fact that the club will start the season with relatively few American-born players. The good news is that several of City's first teamers have green cards and don't count against the club's 10 international slots.
It will be interesting to see what else is done between now and the start of the season. Clearly the team is running out of international slots. More can be acquired, but it seems more likely the foreign spending spree is coming to a close. We're nearing the final roster at this point.