Orlando City SC's roster is close to being complete and we have a solid look at who Adrian Heath will have at his disposal for the 2015 MLS campaign. There are still a few players that need to be officially announced and there still may be a few other players coming in, but any new additions won't change the team's makeup very much.
The roster could be described in one word: young.
Of the 29 players on preseason roster, Orlando City's average age is 24.4. Three players over age 30: Ricketts (37), Neal (33), Kaká (32)— Paul Tenorio (@PaulTenorio) January 21, 2015
With an average age of 24.4, Orlando City currently has one of the youngest teams in Major League Soccer. Of course, some of the younger players may go out on loan, so the average might change before the start of the season, but there is a good chance the Lions will be the youngest in the league.
Only Kaka (32), Neal (33), and Ricketts (37) are over the age of 30, so experience will be scarce in the inaugural year. It is inevitable that Heath will need to rely on some of the unseasoned players.
Investing so heavily in youth is a risky game, especially when the first season is so critical for a club. Much of Orlando's fan base will be established in 2015 and an unsuccessful campaign could cause some of the new fans to lose interest.
On the other hand, a young breakout player is one of the most exciting narratives in soccer. So, if just a few of the young Orlando players defy expectations and become successful right out of the gate, the Lions could be a real hit for MLS fans.
Having these promising players at such a young age means their value will only increase over time. While some of these players will simply plateau and become role players for the club, others will develop into valuable assets that can either lead the club or be sold for profit.
Paul Tenorio recently sat down with Orlando City GM Paul McDonough, who spoke about the youth philosophy.
"I think being a first-year team we're trying to balance winning now and building the club for the future," McDonough said. "I think some of the players that we have signed, or are trying to sign, allow us to do both. But to sustain a good team in this league you need to have allocation money, and that means you have to sell players. If we can sign a Bryan Róchez and some of the other guys we're trying to get, develop them and sell them, that'll put the club in a really good position in the next couple of years."
It will certainly be interesting to see if this strategy pans out for McDonough and Orlando City. Although the first few seasons could be a grind, the long term health of City's future is in a great position.
If Orlando was part of the 2014 MLS season, its current roster would have been the youngest in the league.
|1. Vancouver Whitecaps||24.58||Marco Carducci (17)|
|2. Columbus Crew||25.30||Wil Trapp (21)|
|3. Sporting KC||25.34||Erik Palmer-Brown (16)|
|4. FC Dallas||25.41||Kellyn Acosta (18)|
|5. Philadelphia Union||25.47||Zach Pfeffer (19)|
|6. D.C. United||25.48||Michael Seaton (17)|
|7. Toronto FC||25.54||Jordan Hamilton (18)|
|8. New England Revolution||25.66||Diego Fagundez (19)|
|9. Real Salt Lake||25.80||Jordan Allen (18)|
|10. Houston Dynamo||25.84||Bryan Salazar (19)|
|11. Colorado Rapids||25.88||Charles Eloundou (19)|
|12. Chicago Fire||26.09||Grant Ward (19)|
|13. LA Galaxy||26.10||Bradford Jamieson IV (17)|
|14. Chivas USA||26.23||Caleb Calvert (17)|
|15. Montreal Impact||26.43||Maxime Crepeau (19)|
|16. Portland Timbers||26.47||Alvas Powell (19)|
|17. New York Red Bulls||26.95||Matt Miazga (18)|
|18. Seattle Sounders||27.17||Aaron Kovar (20)|
|19. San Jose Earthquakes||27.31||Tommy Thompson (18)|
What do you think? Is Orlando City building a club that can win now, or is it too young to compete in its first season?