Orlando City head coach Jason Kreis is having a busy off-season. According to MLSSoccer.com, the Lions boss spent some weeks in South America after the end of MLS regular season scouting players and talking to possible targets for 2017.
Kreis visited Argentina, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, and Brazil, where, of course, he took some time to visit Atlético Paranaense, the Lions’ new partner. Although the agreement between the clubs was defined by Orlando as a “technical partnership,” the coach admitted that there are ongoing talks to bring some players from the Brazilian side on loan to the Lions next year.
Atlético Paranaense currently sits fifth in the Brazilian Championship standings and is very likely to grab a spot at Copa Libertadores next season — the last matches will be played this weekend and the top six teams qualify. The Curitiba club has a young and talented roster and the Lions could definitely make use of some of its players.
That’s why The Mane Land picked three interesting options:
1) Cleberson - center back
Originally a defensive midfielder, the 6-foot-2 player had a breakout year in 2012, when he played his first matches for Atlético Paranaense after coming from the club’s youth system. Cleberson was moved to the center back position and excelled. At the age of 20, he helped the team on its way back to the Brazilian first division, scoring the goal that assured the promotion — the first of his career.
Extremely mobile and effective in the air, the 24-year-old defender has been targeted by some of Brazilian top teams, including reigning national champion Palmeiras, but Paranaense never agreed to part ways with him. Cleberson, though, was plagued by some injuries within recent years and played less than 10 matches in three out of the last four seasons — nine in 2013, six in 2015, and nine in 2016.
The defender, who is currently sidelined with a knee injury, could be loaned out for one season to regain his fitness and confidence. As Orlando City’s back line struggled recently and is shorthanded after the end-of-season cuts, adding a player with a huge potential at a low price could be an interesting move.
2) Rafael Galhardo - right back
A member of the Brazil U-20 world champion squad back in 2011, Rafael Galhardo was developed in the youth system of Brazilian powerhouse Flamengo. After winning the national championship with the club in 2009, he played for two of the biggest teams in the country, Santos and Grêmio, where he was elected the best right back in the national league by prestigious magazine Placar in 2015.
Well versed in the defensive end and effective in set pieces, Galhardo also possesses some international experience under his belt as he played for Belgian side Anderlecht during the first semester of 2016. Struggling to get playing time in Europe, he was sent to Paranaense, but just saw the field in three of their last 13 matches and lost his starting spot on team.
If acquired, Galhardo would provide important depth at the right back position after the departure of Kevin Alston and could also mentor fellow Portuguese speaker Rafael Ramos.
3) Mosquito - forward
Thiago Rodrigues, nicknamed ‘Mosquito’ because of his incredible speed, could have been the prototypical case of the Brazilian poor youngster that became an amazing soccer player. Born and raised in the Cidade de Deus favela, in Rio de Janeiro, he turned into one of the most hyped young players in the country after scoring 12 goals in seven matches and leading Brazil to win the South American U-15 championship in 2011.
However, a controversial move from Vasco da Gama to Atlético Paranaense one year later took him back to ostracism until the No. 9 scored a hat trick at Brazil’s U-17 debut at the 2013 World Cup (video above).
Back to club level, he recorded only two goals in 16 matches for the Curitiba club in two years and ended up back in Vasco in 2015, for a quick stint of six months. His international experience is limited to six matches and two goals for Spanish second division Llagostera in the second half of 2015. Mosquito returned to Atlético in 2016, but never saw the field there.
It is clear that Mosquito is a clinical finisher and has a huge upside. At the age of 20, he is able to unleash it at any time if properly oriented. Perhaps one year in Florida and playing with a guy named Kaká could do the trick.