Orlando City's first ever mid-season MLS transfer window closed a little over a month ago. As the clock called time on the club's plans, none of the big names that had been bounced around the transfer rumor mill landed on the roster. Orlando did make two last minute signings in central defender David Mateos and winger Adrian Winter.
Mid-season transfers are a difficult endeavor. Bringing new players into an established team mid-season will inevitably work against even the best of players. Couple that with the pressure of being brought into a side needing you to produce something on the field quickly puts new players in an unenviable position. The Orlando City side that Mateos and Winter came into were in desperate need of reinforcements, giving both players an opportunity to make the starting eleven relatively quickly.
While the success of a transfer window takes time to adequately judge, how have these two players looked in the short-term? What has the first month taught us about these players' chance to contribute in the coming seasons?
The former Real Madrid youth product will want to forget his first two games in Orlando City purple, a 4-0 loss to Seattle and a 5-0 loss to Toronto. Still, with the form the club had been in for the month of August it would be difficult to hang both losses on the new defender. Going into Saturday's contest with the Chicago Fire, Mateos was averaging 2.2 tackles per game (slightly above fellow center back Aurélien Collin's 2.1 tackles per game). According to WhoScored.com, Mateos has averaged a 6.43 rating in his five games.
If you look at a 6 as being an average game, then a 6.43 points to a solid start to Mateos' Orlando City career. On the field, Mateos has looked good without being fantastic so far. Chemistry is essential to central defense, having to know where your goalkeeper and fellow central defender are going to be, plus understanding the players in the defensive midfield and on the wings. This is the type of relationship that builds over time, but it seems to be starting to form for Mateos and company.
Last weekend's game, an overall good one by Mateos, did end with a bit of drama. An altercation with Sporting Kansas City striker Dom Dwyer saw the new Orlando City man end up with a fine for embellishment. While I'd never want to defend such actions, imagine being a new player in a new league, looking to contribute to a team effort, you might do something equally stupid. Hopefully lesson learned in this case.
Of the two final day signings, Adrian Winter has made more noise. Since Kevin Molino went down early in the season, Orlando has been desperately seeking a right wing threat. Winter's Orlando City career began with an eighteen minute cameo in the Aug. 8 draw at home against the Philadelphia Union. His first two starts were, as with Mateos, the 4-0 and 5-0 losses on the road to Seattle and Toronto.
Two goals against Sporting Kansas City have highlighted the early days for Winter at the club. His pace and work ethic have been apparent from the stands, while his post-game comments have been sparked with a humble smile and the right words about winning as a team. Not much to complain about there for an Orlando City supporter.
Winter's darkest day was in that 5-0 loss to Toronto FC when he picked up his first career red card. Again, I won't defend Winter's second yellow; it was certainly deserved. Playing right back for the second week in a row due to red cards from other Orlando City players, Winter did exactly what every player is taught to do when the goalkeeper is out of the box and you are the only player between the ball and the opponent: make the foul and hope for the best on the line. With the game already at 4-0, maybe this wasn't the play to make, but you can't fault Winter for making the play that was best for the team in the moment.
Orlando City's Paul McDonough didn't land the big names the supporters might have expected, he also didn't pull the trigger on a panic buy. It wasn't the type of transfer window that makes fans' minds dance with anticipation or fill Wall Street Plaza for a player unveiling, but it also has brought two solid pieces that stand to contribute in the long term without wasting the club's resources and strapping them with a dud of a player for seasons to come. Both players have come into a depleted team and found ways to contribute right away, a difficult task in even the best of times.
If a month's worth of games are any indication, both seem set to have a solid Orlando City career and will help give the team depth and different options moving forward.