Now that the MLS SuperDraft is (almost) over, Orlando City SC finally has a full roster. While the three new draft picks for Orlando are most likely going to be loaned to Louisville City FC, the majority of the roster has a split.
There are some positions where the starters are pretty much a given, but there are other positions where it's a toss up as to who could start in the first game. So, lets break it down by the most debated positions and work out who is the best fit to start.
This is a position that isn't really debated, but instead causes confusion. Out of the five strikers on the roster, (Martin Paterson is expected to be announced soon) not one of them really stands out as a starting striker. The two newest Lions, Cyle Larin and Akeil Barrett, are young and inexperienced professionally, having just come out of college. Veteran MLS forward Danny Mwanga has been out of form since 2012, and has bounced around three different clubs in that time, including a loan to the New York Cosmos of the NASL.
Paterson is a veteran forward in England, but has also underperformed in the past few years. Many fans of his current club, Huddersfield Town, were fairly happy when they heard that he was leaving the club, which isn't very encouraging. Then there's the young Designated Player, Bryan Róchez, who is pretty much an unknown when it comes to his play. We know he can score and he has a lot of potential to become great, but that's about the extent of it. So looking at the situation as a whole -- it is complicated, to say the least.
My verdict for starting striker is Róchez. He may be young and inexperienced, but the team didn't spend a DP slot on him just for kicks. If the coaching staff and the team believe in him, he is probably the best bet to start.
In Adrian Heath's 4-2-3-1 formation, he has two defensive midfielders. Amobi Okugo has already locked up one of those two spots, but the other is up for grabs. The popular vote for starting in that spot would be Darwin Cerén, who started the majority of the season last year in USL Pro.
However, newest signing, Cristian Higuita, who has yet to be formally announced by the team, could possibly take that position away from Cerén. Not too much is known about Higuita. There really aren't any stats that exist online or analysis of his play that could be used as a basis.
That's why Cerén is my pick for the starting position. He already has a year under his belt playing in Heath's system and he did a pretty good job at that spot throughout the season and he is more advanced than Estrela. It makes sense looking at it from the outside, but you know the coaching staff already has a good idea of what they have going into preseason.
We talked about this a few days ago briefly in an article about what position Orlando was lacking in. If any postion was lacking, it would be the fullbacks. Before all of the signings over the last few months happened, Luke Boden and Tyler Turner were favorites to win the jobs.
However, with the addition of Brek Shea into the mix, as well as Colombian winger Carlos Rivas, the confidence that they would start began to dwindle. During Brek Shea's press conference back in December, Adrian Heath mentioned that Shea could line up as a left back, depending on future signings. Now that Orlando has brought in Rivas, who was a highly regarded talent, that move looks all the more likely.
While I believe Shea would be more dangerous playing in the midfield, he will still make his way up the touch line for attacks many times throughout games. If this comes to pass, the situation for Boden would be quite unfortunate solely due to him being with the team since the beginning and having started almost every game since 2011. Originally, it looked like the trend was to continue, but at the end of the day, Shea seems to be a better option as of right now.
On the opposite side of the field, the right back starting position is between Tyler Turner and Rafael Ramos. Ramos joined the Lions last year from Benfica and was able to play a few games due to an injury to Turner. In those few games, Ramos displayed his ability to speed past players and dribble around them. He definitely has a lot of potential. With that being said, Turner is most likely to get the job. Having played the majority of the year at the position due to an injury to Bryan Burke, he impressed Adrian Heath and even prompted him to say that,
"We’ll see who we bring and take it from there, but he put himself in good position with his play at the back end."
If Turner has indeed earned Heath's confidence over this past USL Pro season, then it would be hard to say Ramos would overtake him as potential starter.
With preseason starting next Friday, Jan. 23, the players will be able to compete for the starting positions and possibly give the coaches something to think about over the next month. There are always variables that can be thrown into the equation, but what I've written above is hopefully a fair assessment of what's to come.
If you think differently than I do, leave a comment down below and let me know who you believe is the best for the job.