It's been a long off-season for Orlando City -- and it has felt even longer -- with the club undergoing several big changes -- most of it happening in the front office, where the chief soccer officer and vice president of development both left, two member of Adrian Heath's coaching staff were replaced, two top academy coaches departed, and nine players were cut following the 2015 season.
On the surface, this is the very same club you supported in 2015, but underneath it looks pretty different, you could say.
Preseason training is underway and the Lions are still trying to fill some big weaknesses on their roster. The club has only added two players this off-season -- goalkeeper Joe Bendik and right back Kevin Alston -- and if you think that alone is enough to make this club better than it was last season, well, it's not.
Here are three areas the Lions should address before the start of the 2016 season if they want to reach the playoffs in Year 2:
The team is still very much in need of a veteran forward to pair with/behind Cyle Larin. Bryan Rochez will probably see enough time off of the bench or in USL action with OCB, but the team needs an MLS-experienced striker that can fill the void when Larin is away with Canada or, God forbid, gets hurt. Orlando City didn't have that in 2015, and it hurt them for parts of the summer when Larin went on his epic scoring drought.
The Lions are just one major injury from being in a tough situation yet again this season. Kaká is apparently back in Brazil's national team picture and could miss time due to the Copa America Centenario this summer, and, as it stands, the Lions don't have a true central attacking midfielder on the roster to fill in for him. Kevin Molino played a lot of center attacking mid for the Lions in USL, when he scored 21 goals in 2014, but any injury to him or Adrian Winter on the right side leaves them very exposed. The club picked up Richie Laryea in the SuperDraft, who could certainly help the problem to a degree, but he'll likely spend most of the season playing in Melbourne unless he has a sterling preseason camp.
I've been saying this all winter, and a lot of Orlando City fans feel the same way: a high-quality center back to pair alongside Aurelien Collin will go a long way towards taking this team to the next level. Seb Hines and David Mateos are quality defenders, but at Mateos' price the club could do better, I personally believe. Too bad they missed out on Omar Gonzalez.
Those are the areas where I see shortcomings headed into preseason camp. What are your concerns for 2016 at this point?