We're just a little under a month away from the 2016 MLS SuperDraft on Jan.14. The SuperDraft isn't usually considered a major roster building tool for MLS teams, but as Orlando City fans can sure agree with, it provided a big return for the Lions in 2015 -- most notably with No. 1 overall selection Cyle Larin, the MLS Rookie of the Year, who finished the season with a team-high (and MLS rookie record) 17 goals.
The Lions also have defender Conor Donovan, a second-round selection that saw limited time with the first team in 2015 before getting hurt, and will probably spend most, if not all, of 2016 in USL with Orlando City B. And goalkeeper Earl Edwards Jr. showed a lot of promise behind Tally Hall last season. The third round pick will likely have a shot at winning the starting goalkeeper job this preseason.
Orlando City still has picks in all four rounds, and will select seventh overall when things get underway at the SuperDraft in Baltimore, giving the Lions a good shot at picking up another MLS-quality talent.
Being still a few weeks out, we don't quite know who will and won't be participating in the SuperDraft, but using the early big board projections we picked out four players that Orlando City should be targeting.
Brandon Vincent, Left Back, Stanford
The Stanford senior is projected to be a top 10 pick, and fits the mold of players that Orlando City likes to have. He's quick, a good defender, and can get forward and provide quality service into the box, making him a good fit for Adrian Heath's system. With Brek Shea and Luke Boden already on Orlando's roster, a season or two with OCB would be great for the young defender.
Eric Verso, Midfielder, Stanford
Verso is another Stanford Cardinal player to look out for. Also a senior, Vero can play in both the middle of the field and on the right wing, an area were the Lions lack any true depth, as we saw in 2015. Assuming Kevin Molino comes back healthy this season, he and Adrian Winter will take up most of the minutes on the right, meaning Verso will also benefit best from a season with OCB. His qualities, described by Ives Galarcep, make him sound a lot like a Molino-type player:
"mobility, technical quality and ability to set up his own chances."
Patrick Hodan, Attacking Midfielder, Notre Dame
Orlando City lacks true depth in the attacking midfield role behind Kaká. It's Pedro Ribeiro's true position, but they've been focusing on him as a depth striker. Lewis Neal mainly featured as the fill-in during Kaká's absences, but he's gone on to a new role with the organization now. Hodan could be the player that's brought in to learn behind Kaká and eventually take over when the Brazilian star's time in Orlando is up. Highly skilled and creative, he could be Orlando City's next No. 10 after some seasoning behind one of this generation's best.
Jonathan Campbell, Defender, North Carolina
I don't know if Orlando City will necessarily be targeting another center back after taking Conor Donovan in the second round last year, but should the Lions decide to go with one of the best players available, rather than need, with their first pick, Campbell would be a good choice. A center back could probably contribute to the team right away this season. The UNC defender spent time with the Sounders' U-23 squad this past summer and drew praise from scouts all around. Campbell's addition could give Donovan more time with OCB.
Those are just a few players the Lions could target in the upcoming SuperDraft. Who would you like to see in Orlando City purple?