To the roar of the Orlando City faithful and a quick but notable chant of "Winter is Coming" from the supporters' end, Orlando's new international man of mystery Adrian Winter made his MLS and Orlando City debut on Saturday night against Philadelphia.
Coming on in the 72' minute for another new arrival, Servando Carrasco, Winter instantly showed the pace and tenacity the Orlando City fans and staff expected from his resume in Switzerland. A couple of good runs and a decent -- but not on target -- shot gave the support just enough to get excited about the new Lion.
There are a few factors to consider with Winter's first appearance and ongoing acclimation to the squad. First, the Swiss attacking midfielder hasn't played a competitive game since May 29, when he came on as a sub for FC Luzern's final game of the season. He made 31 appearances last season, 16 of those being starts for Marcus Babbel's side. He scored once last season.
Throughout his career at Luzern, he was a regular starter and generally good for a handful of goals each season. Maybe the most important stat for nervous Orlando City fans, Winter never saw a red card during his tenure at Luzern.
There will be plenty of adjustments for Winter as he acclimates to both the style of play in MLS, his Orlando City teammates, and the hot, humid weather in Orlando. This is Winter's first club outside of his native Switzerland, having played previously for Red Star Zürich, Wil, and St. Gallen, before playing for FC Luzern.
Major League Soccer will be quite a different experience for the Swiss player. As he mentioned in his recent Orlando City bio, "I hear it's a league where you fly a lot," in reference to the extensive travel players endure across the U.S. and Canada for away games. The relative size of Switzerland keeps most away trips to only a couple of hours on a bus.
While the Swiss league is a good, competitive league, it's certainly notches just below the larger and more popular leagues in Europe. Even Orlando City's near 30,000 fans in attendance is three times the number of fans Swiss clubs average.
Overall, when you factor in the considerations of his recent arrival in a brand new country to a new team, his months off of playing, and the all-important Floridian climate, it wasn't a bad debut for Winter. He brought energy, pace, and a bit of flair on the right side of the pitch that the team has been lacking since Kevin Molino was injured early in the season. He connected with three of his five passes as well -- not bad for a guy still integrating into the team.
Orlando City's scouting network and Adrian Heath have a good track record of both finding players that are off the radar of other clubs and utilizing a player's talents within the team's system. If one substitute appearance is any indication, Winter could be a good pickup for the Lions in a transfer window that lacked the acquisition of the star power some Orlando fans expected.
It will take a few more games to see exactly how Winter fits into life with the Lions, but I'm sure he knows there's every chance he can forge a great career with Orlando City.