Are you anxious to know how Orlando City SC will do in its inaugural season in Major League Soccer? Us too!
Rather than wait patiently for March 8 to roll around, I've decided to try my hand at clairvoyance! Here are five bold predictions for Orlando City in the 2015 MLS season.
1. Orlando City Will Finish 2015 With More Losses than Wins
This one is difficult to write, but let's face it, the history of expansion teams in MLS speaks for itself. There have been 11 expansion teams to previously enter Major League Soccer, and only two (Seattle and Chicago) can say they had more wins than losses in their inaugural campaigns.
But wait! Orlando is already a successful soccer club! Surely that will ease their transition into MLS?!
Maybe, but Orlando City will have no more than four starters any given week who played with the club in USL Pro. Realistically, it may only be two or three most weeks. On top of that, they're playing in a stadium that's been completely rebuilt since they last played there in 2013.
Could City still sneak into the playoffs? Maybe, but success in 2015 for Orlando City will be based more on attendance and popularity in the city than wins and losses.
2. Orlando Will Start Four Different Forwards Before the All-Star Break
Hard to say if this is a good thing or a bad thing, but it's what I expect to see from Head Coach Adrian Heath. As of now, Danny Mwanga, Carlos Rivas, Bryan Rochez, and
Jairo Arrieta Martin Paterson are all likely to get a start up top at some point in Heath's 4-2-3-1 system. I wouldn't be totally shocked if even Kevin Molino or Brek Shea get a look at some point.
All four forwards have the potential to be starting strikers in MLS, but none have necessarily proven that they deserve that role in 2015. I believe they will each have a chance to do just that.
3. Brek Shea Will Be an All-star
Welcome back to MLS, Brek! Shea was an MVP candidate in 2011 when he played his last full season for FC Dallas. Look for a return to that form, as Shea will be anxious to redeem himself after an underwhelming 18-month spell in England that saw him miss out on the 2014 World Cup as well.
The question I don't have a bold answer for is whether Shea will play on the wing or at left back. The Orlando coaches have been unwilling to commit, which leads me to believe they expect to try him at both spots. Orlando have more depth on the wing with the addition of Colombian Carlos Rivas, but I believe Shea is more naturally a winger than a fullback. I expect him to play both positions, and it may be that injuries and the needs of the team dictate where he plays more than Shea's actual play itself.
4. Kaka Will Struggle Early
This is not what you want to hear about a man whose salary is higher than the rest of your team combined. Still, I think MLS will be a difficult adjustment for the Brazilian. In watching him for AC Milan in 2013-14, Kaka had adopted almost a Pirlo-esque role for the Italian giants. He sat deeper in the midfield and looked to create, rarely covering much ground with the ball himself.
That role will change for Orlando City. Kaka will play centrally as the second-most forward man in Heath's 4-2-3-1. He will need to run at defenders and challenge defensively to slow counter-attacks. Additionally, MLS is more physical and less technical in general than the Italian Serie A.
Kaka was known as a more physical and speedy player in his prime, so it remains to be seen just how much of that he can channel at 32 years old. I do believe he'll be a success for Orlando City, and may still lead the team in assists in 2015, but don't be surprised if it's a rough first half of the season for the Brazilian.
5. Orlando Will Finish Above .500 At Home
While I'm not predicting an incredible record for Orlando this year, I do believe the Lions will be over .500 at home. I'd like to say that's entirely due to the incredible fans, but there are actually three other factors to consider: Heat, travel, and turf.
Orlando immediately becomes the hottest locale in the Eastern Conference, with D.C. a distant second. Additionally, it's a long trip to Orlando for almost every MLS team. Finally, while I'm against playing soccer on turf in general, Orlando should have an advantage in that they'll be used to the bounces and rolls of the Citrus Bowl turf in 2015. New England is the only other team in the Eastern Conference to play on turf.