The 2016 MLS season isn't too far off, with Orlando City slated to open up preseason training about five weeks from now. We still don't quite know what the Lions will look like after letting go of nine players last month and having yet to pick up one since then. But what the heck, we're a blog, so why not go ahead and make five bold predictions on the Lions' second year in MLS.
Kevin Molino Will Win Comeback Player of the Year
Molino missed all but eight games for the Lions in 2015, tearing his ACL in a friendly match in early May. The right winger will come back strong and ready to play in 2016, and I'm predicting he'll finish the season with at least seven goals and five assists, playing his way into the MLS Comeback Player of the Year discussion. If he can beat out Adrian Winter during preseason, Molino should be a very important piece for Orlando City next season.
Lions Will Make a Big Summer Splash
We all thought Orlando City would make major headlines this past summer with the signing of Mexican star Javier Hernandez, but alas it wasn't meant to be. However, 2016 brings new hopes and dreams, and more importantly, a boat load of new Targeted Allocation Money. The Lions are not shy about opening the check book for big players, and the new TAM -- which they'll have at least $1.1 million to use this season -- could come in very handy.
Dare to Zlatan, perhaps? Hey, a guy can dream.
Cyle Larin Avoids A Sophomore Slump
The 2015 Rookie of the Year will have a tough task ahead of him next season, having to follow up a 17-goal debut season with Orlando City. Larin, I think, will avoid the dreaded sophomore slump and have another great season in Orlando -- he probably won't hit 17 again, but 15 goals is still a very real possibility.
Orlando City Will Play A Playoff Game in its New Stadium
There's a been a lot of talk about Orlando's new stadium and when it will open since the club announced in May it will privately fund the project. The goal is the finish the stadium at some point next summer, and eventually move into the new stadium before the end of the season. If the club is on pace to miss the playoffs for a second year in a row, it wouldn't make sense to not finish the season in the Citrus Bowl and wait to properly open the stadium in 2017. However, I think Orlando City will make the playoffs, and break in the new home with a playoff game.
Kaká Will Be in the MVP Race
Orlando City fans expected a lot out of Kaká in 2015, and didn't quite get that from their captain. There was a clear sign of fatigue during the summer months, as the star midfielder hadn't scored since July 4, but I think he'll come back stronger and fitter in 2016 and be the leader Orlando City expected, helping the Lions to the playoffs, and even playing well enough to earn some MLS MVP chatter.
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What do you think? Do you have any bold predictions for 2016? Let us know in the comments below!