On the day before Thanksgiving, Orlando City has dropped a surprise on us, but not an entirely happy one. Today the club announced several roster moves which included players contract options not being exercised as well as some others being re-signed.
The most notable move of the bunch is the parting of ways with starting goalkeeper Tally Hall. Other players who had their options not exercised were veteran midfielders Lewis Neal and Eric Avila, forwards Danny Mwanga, Sidney Rivera and Adam Bedell, defender Corey Ashe, and goalkeeper Josh Ford. Midfielder Tony Cascio is out of contract as well, according to the team's press release.
The team did exercise options on goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr., defenders Luke Boden and Seb Hines, midfieldersServando Carrasco, Darwin Cerén, Kevin Molino, and Harrison Heath, and forward Pedro Ribeiro. This means that the aforementioned players will be back with the team for 2016 (unless moved via trade).
Combined, today's moves free up $903,029 in base salaries for the Lions to add new talent and increase the pay of some of the incumbent players who performed well in 2015. Hall was the most expensive player on the list, with a salary of $215,000 in 2015. Ashe ($180,000) and Neal ($112,500) also had salaries over six figures.
After healing up from tearing his ACL in 2014, Hall took over the starting role from Donovan Ricketts midway through the season. He finished the year making 23 appearances, playing 2,064 minutes, with 73 saves and allowing 41 goals. His final record was 10-8-5 in MLS play with six shutouts on the season.
The surprise loss of Hall opens the door for Edwards to take the starting role for Orlando this coming year, although it is probable that Chief Soccer Officer Armando Carneiro will look to sign a keeper. With Edwards and recent Homegrown Player signing Mason Stajduhar the only goalkeepers on the roster as of today, it should be interesting to see what the Lions do with the position this off-season.
Avila scored a goal and added two assists in his 21 appearances with Orlando City. Ashe was acquired in the summer transfer window and contributed three assists in just nine appearances, providing speed and attacking flair down the flank. Neal played every midfield position over the course of 21 games, registering one assist. Ford saw action in two matches, with one start, after Hall's injury, but was clearly not in Orlando City's plans. Bedell was loaned out overseas after his summer acquisition, and neither Mwanga nor Rivera were a factor for the Lions in 2015.
"We'd like to thank these terrific players for their significant contributions to the club's historic first Major League Soccer season," said Carneiro in a club press release. "We wish them the best of luck in their careers moving forward."
According to the club, Ashe and Avila will be eligible for free agency, while Cascio, Ford, Hall, Mwanga and Neal will be eligible to participate in Major League Soccer's Re-Entry process.
The following players were already under contract for 2016: defenders Aurélien Collin, Conor Donovan, David Mateos, Brek Shea, Tommy Redding, Tyler Turner, and Rafael Ramos; midfielders Kaká, Cristian Higuita, Estrela, Adrian Winter and Carlos Rivas; and forwards Bryan Róchez and Cyle Larin.