On Thursday it was reported that Orlando City had agreed to terms for the return of defensive midfielder Servando Carrasco. While some questioned whether the club would bring back Carrasco, largely due to his wife, Alex Morgan, moving to France until May, Carrasco will play a key role for the Lions in 2017.
After playing for the Seattle Sounders, Houston Dynamo, and Sporting Kansas City, Carrasco joined the Lions on July 20, 2015 when he was traded for Amobi Okugo. Despite playing behind Darwin Ceren and Cristian Higuita, Carrasco was the next man up and saw pretty significant playing time. That time increased in 2016 when Ceren was traded to the San Jose Earthquakes for Matias Perez Garcia.
While it’s still unclear what the Orlando City roster will look like come March 5, when the club opens its new stadium against New York City FC, Carrasco currently looks to be the third defensive midfielder in the squad behind Higuita and Antonio Nocerino. However, that could change.
Prior to joining Orlando City, Higuita was a hot commodity with a move in the works to join Italian giants Inter Milan. However, the Serie A club was scared away from the move after a knee injury threatened the future of the young player. This allowed Orlando City to step in and sign the Colombian midfielder.
At 22 years old, Higuita is still young enough to bring in major suitors. That was proven last year when it was reported that AC Milan was interested in the player. If a team such as Milan comes in for Higuita, given that he would want to leave for such a club, Orlando City would have no choice but to let him leave.
The other defensive midfielder in the squad is Antonio Nocerino. After a long career in Italy, playing for big clubs such as Juventus, Palermo, and AC Milan, Nocerino made the move to MLS following the 2015-16 Serie A season. Nocerino’s sporadic play in 2016 still leaves questions as to where he stands with Head Coach Jason Kreis but he will be expected to play a large role in the team in 2017. However, at 32 years of age, asking him to play each game, as well as making the extensive travel required in MLS, may be a bit much for a player entering the latter stages of his career.
Since joining Orlando City, Carrasco has been more than serviceable. He’s been very solid in the defensive midfield, giving the Lions a strong presence without risky tackles that could potentially see the team going down to 10 men. His playing style fits in well with the team whether it stays with the 4-2-3-1 formation of former Head Coach Adrian Heath, or move, as expected, to a 4-4-2 formation that has been favored by Kreis over his coaching career.
Regardless of what ends up happening with Higuita and Nocerino, Carrasco will likely play a big role in Orlando City’s midfield in 2017. No matter if he ends up being the third defensive midfielder or the starter, Carrasco will end up seeing significant playing time one way or another. He has proven to be a key player for the Lions over the past year and a half and, given how hard the club negotiated to keep him in purple, it’s clear that Kreis values his impact on the team.