Orlando City dealt with more than its fair share if injuries in 2015 -- it felt like another man went down every other game. The injury bug hit hard on every part of the field, and was arguably the biggest factor in the Lions missing out on the playoffs.
And while the "disabled list," as you could say, saw many names grace its list, no injury was bigger than Kevin Molino's torn ACL in an early-May friendly against Brazilian club Ponte Preta.
Entering 2015, Molino was coming off his second USL MVP award-winning season in three years, during which he scored 20 goals for the Lions in their final third division campaign. Molino carried a heavy weight of expectations at the next level, playing alongside former FIFA Player of the Year Kaká, who he grew a strong connection with during the preseason.
However, just seven games into his debut MLS season, Molino tore his ACL, effectively ending his year and leaving a big hole for Adrian Heath to fill on the right side of the midfield.
Molino has yet to score in an MLS game for Orlando -- he did record one assist in his seven starts -- but you could feel that a goal would be coming soon enough, as adjusting to a much more physical league -- Molino was among the team's most fouled players before his injury -- was showing to be a bit of a challenge for the small-built winger.
Just being on the field affected games in many ways. Most importantly, his presence on the ball forced teams to take some of their attention away from Kaká, which of course gave him more space to run and work through defenses. The Kaká-Molino duo also gave us sexy plays like this:
And when Molino went down, so did a large chunk of Kaká's ability to work magic with his teammates, it seemed, because his connection with Molino was stronger than anyone else.
I don't expect Orlando City to make many big moves this winter. The team they had for most of the 2015 season was good enough to stay in the playoff hunt until the final day of the regular season, and that's with the many, many injuries, suspensions, and call-ups thrown at them throughout the way.
What will hopefully happen this winter, is that Orlando City will get Molino back and ready to play just slightly before or during the preseason. That gets them back one of the league's best chance-creators, statistically -- even for a while after his injury -- and their two-time USL MVP.
And that could be the biggest addition to Heath's side this off-season.