Orlando City's first season in Major League Soccer is officially over, and unfortunately that ending has come a little bit sooner than anyone would have liked.
The club had high hopes to 'defy expectations' coming into the season, building a rich and expensive roster with the goal of becoming the first expansion club since the Seattle Sounders in 2009 to qualify for the playoffs in Year 1.
Well, this roster didn't achieve the ultimate goal of making the playoffs, finishing in seventh place in the Eastern Conference, just narrowly missing out on a playoff spot on the final day of the regular season, but that doesn't mean this team needs to be blown up to try it all again in 2016.
Orlando City's biggest deterrent in 2015 was its roster depth, which viciously caught up with them plenty of times this past season with injuries, call-ups, and suspensions appearing at almost every step of the way.
With that in mind, here are some things Orlando City must look to improve on in building their roster for Year 2 in MLS.
This might be the biggest problem to solve this winter. Like I said, Orlando City was stretched very thin for most of the season, and ultimately it might be what cost them a playoff spot the most.
Do you guys realize how many games Danny Mwanga featured on Adrian Heath's bench? The answer is a lot.
Orlando City B will be a huge tool for the Lions starting next season, and it'll afford them some extra options if needed, but if also assures them that they won't have to fill their bench with younger players like Harrison Heath, Tommy Redding, and Tyler Turner on a game-by-game basis. The team doesn't just need depth, it needs experienced depth -- guys that can come off of the bench and know they can make a difference, compared to a young gun with a handful of MLS minutes under his belt.
The MLS schedule is rough -- if you didn't already pick up on that this season -- and having a deep, experienced bench can go a long way in winning in this league.
Better Center Back To Pair With Aurelien Collin
The most important part of a good defense is having a strong center back pairing in the back line. Adrian Heath was forced to used a more than a handful of center back pairings this season, with Sean St. Ledger, Seb Hines, and David Mateos all getting regular minutes at some point with Aurelien Collin (Redding and Conor Donovan also had their short-lived moments at one point before injuries ended their outings).
Heading into the 2016 regular season, Orlando City needs to find another high-quality center back to plant alongside Collin.
The Lions are not shy when it comes to spending the cash, and they even have all of their Target Allocation Money to play with if the right move presents itself.
Find A Veteran Forward To Back Up Cyle Larin
Again, this was another big problem for the Lions in 2015.
After trading Expansion Draft pick Jairo Arrieta away to D.C. United during the preseason, Orlando City relied exclusively on young and inexperienced forwards for the entire season. It looked like the club was coming close to acquiring Chicharito during the summer transfer window, but that deal didn't pan out and the club had to continue relying on Cyle Larin and Bryan Rochez down the stretch.
After an historic 17-goal rookie season this year, Larin will likely come into the season as Heath's No. 1 option up top, with Rochez also in the mix. Hopefully, they'll have at least one veteran striker in camp, too. Too many times this season, we saw Larin playing poorly or looking out of gas, and the options on the bench weren't enough to even be considered an upgrade.
He doesn't have to be a designated player-caliber striker, but an experienced MLS vet to push Larin.
Add Another Veteran Right Back
Rafael Ramos did a lot to make a name for himself in 2015, both good and bad. The good: he was one of the league's top right backs early in the season, showing everyone around MLS just why Orlando City signed him from Benfica's youth team in 2014.
The bad, however: his temper showed -- a lot. Ramos picked up two red cards this past season, along with five yellows, and was constantly finding himself in the sights of the referee. Ramos plays well, and he plays hard -- but sometimes too hard -- and that can cost him and his team at times.
More so, when injuries come up -- which they did a couple of times -- it leaves Orlando City very thin at right back. Corey Ashe and Brek Shea -- two left backs -- saw time on the right, as did another rookie, Tyler Turner, who wasn't as impressive in his limited number of minutes on the field.
Whether they bring back Ashe and use him more as Ramos' backup, or bring in a true right back to fill that role, Orlando City needs to add more depth at that position this winter.
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What do you think Orlando City needs to improve on this winter? Comment below!