For the second year in a row, Orlando City decided to announce roster moves the day before Thanksgiving, effectively cutting six players from the 2016 squad. The club announced that it has declined the options on defenders Kevin Alston, Luke Boden, Seb Hines and Tyler Turner, midfielder Pedro Ribeiro and forward Júlio Baptista, although the Lions left the door open for some of them to be brought back for 2017.
"We would like to sincerely thank all six players for their contributions to the club, some of whom have been with us since USL,” Orlando City Assistant General Manager Niki Budalic said in a club press release. “We will remain in discussions with a few of them about a possible return in 2017.”
It’s no surprise that the biggest exodus is from the back line, which leaked all season long for a club that allowed a league high 60 goals against. Giving up a league high in goals prevented the Lions from reaching the playoffs in Year 2 despite having Major League Soccer’s third most potent attack. Boden and Turner — both holdovers from the USL days — Hines, and Alston all find themselves off the City back line and out of work a day before our American day of giving thanks.
Hines, Boden, Ribeiro, and Turner are members of the original MLS roster, although Turner spent all of 2016 on loan with Orlando City B in the USL. Alston was essentially brought in to replace Corey Ashe, who himself was let go by the Columbus Crew. Ribeiro is the last of the club’s Expansion Draft picks to go, having spent most of this season rehabilitating from a back injury early in the season which required surgery.
Baptista leaves the biggest hole. The veteran Brazilian was an inexpensive backup striker who appeared in 23 games (five starts), and scored six goals with three assists, leading Orlando City in goals per 90 minutes (0.74).
Hines contributed four goals in 49 games (44 starts) across two seasons, and was essentially the only goal-scoring threat from the back line in 2016. The Wetherby, England native struggled with an ongoing knee problem, which may have effected his mobility at times and kept him out of the lineup for brief stretches.
Boden, a fan favorite, provided depth at multiple positions over two seasons but never quite excelled in any one spot. The 27-year-old Sheffield, England native scored one goal and added seven assists in 45 games (43 starts) over the last two years. He was with the club since its first year of USL play back in 2011 and made the jump with the club to MLS, playing in more than 130 matches for the Lions.
Turner, a player selected to the MLS Homegrown Game each of the past two seasons, also came up to MLS with Orlando City. He appeared in seven games (five starts) in 2015 but seemed overmatched in his 477 minutes of play, collecting 13 fouls, two yellow cards, and a red card. He didn’t register a goal, assist or shot in MLS. In 2016, he was loaned to OCB for the season, where he played in 26 games and tied for second on the team in goals, with four, and added an assist. However, he continued his habit of losing his cool, collecting seven yellow cards and a red card, leading the team in bookings.
Alston is eligible for free agency because he is over 28 years old with eight or more years of MLS service. As such, he may negotiate with any MLS club, including Orlando City. The Silver Spring, MD, native played in 24 games (21 starts) without a goal or assist, mostly filling in for the injury-plagued Rafael Ramos, who was nagged by a recurring hamstring issue all season. Alston showed flashes but failed to provide dangerous attacking play, mustering only four shots (one on target) all season and sending in crosses that were inconsistent in quality.
Ribeiro provided a few heroic moments in his 21 appearances (nine starts) with Orlando City. His goal and assist at Montreal last year were memorable, as was his stunning strike to tie the Columbus Crew. A hamstring issue in 2015 and his 2016 battle with a bad back, combined with a crowded depth chart, limited the Brazilian’s chances of making his mark with Orlando, although he seemed to find a home in a three-man defensive midfield entering this year. Ribeiro departs with two goals, two assists and 23 shots (12 on goal) in his time with City. He will be eligible for the MLS Re-Entry Draft held on Friday, Dec. 16 (Stage One) and Thursday, Dec. 22 (Stage Two).