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Heath Pearce Not Signing with Orlando City: What it Means

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While the Lions have apparently inked forwards Jairo Arrieta and Danny Mwanga, fellow MLS Expansion Draft pick Heath Pearce will not be signing with Orlando City and will seek opportunities overseas.

Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City SC has reached contract agreements with forwards Jairo Arrieta and Danny Mwanga, but veteran defender Heath Pearce won't be joining the Lions, according to a report by Paul Tenorio of the Orlando Sentinel.

Pearce is exploring options overseas, and Orlando City owns the defender's MLS rights. The Lions selected Pearce with the 13th pick in the expansion draft. Pearce made $100,000 last season with Montreal.

Why won't Pearce be signing? The usual reasons.

What does this mean for Orlando City?

Well, it's a significant loss. Pearce is an experienced MLS veteran with more than 100 games in the league. He's a three-time MLS All-Star who has played for FC Dallas, Chivas USA, New York Red Bulls and Montreal Impact.

Last season, Pearce overcame previous injury concerns, starting 20 games, appearing in three others and logging 1,822 minutes.

Beyond his experience, Pearce is a versatile player, who could have plugged in to any of Orlando's back four spots and provided quality minutes. Not many teams have such a luxury. Pearce's presence would have allowed Orlando to absorb injuries to any of its back four without a dip in quality.

His time with the U.S. Men's National Team also made Pearce a player that many fans knew and could identify with. While I won't go so far as to say he would have moved the needle with regard to ticket sales, it certainly wouldn't have hurt to have two USMNT pool players (Heath and Brek Shea) in the lineup regularly.

Finally, his impact will be felt in the development of the young Lions defenders. Pearce would have helped show guys like Tommy Redding, Tyler Turner and Rafael Ramos how to be professional MLS defenders.

We'll have to trust General Manager Paul McDonough and Head Coach Adrian Heath to find a suitable replacement. There is some depth on the back line, but it is young and untested. And we still don't know how Gustavo will translate to the MLS game.

Remember the MLS Expansion Draft? The signings of Arrieta and Mwanga and parting of ways with Pearce is the last bit of business remaining from that Dec. 10 event.

Three of the 10 players Orlando City selected from other MLS clubs -- Jalil Anibaba, Mark Sherrod and Eric Gehrig -- were immediately dealt for assets (mostly picks, but Anibaba was swapped as part of the Aurelien Collin deal). In all, Orlando City comes away with six players (Arrieta, Mwanga, goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, and midfielders Tony Cascio, Pedro Ribeiro, and Lewis Neal) and two draft picks.

While that's not a bad haul, losing Pearce hurts.

UPDATE:

HP-DM