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Could Defender Kevin Ellis Be an Option for Orlando City?

After a season of defensive woes, Kevin Ellis could be a much-needed boost to the Lions’ back line.

MLS: Sporting KC at Vancouver Whitecaps FC Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

It seems as though on a daily basis another MLS club has announced the players that will be returning for 2017 and the players that won’t. One of the players on the outside looking in is Kevin Ellis, who did not have his contract option picked up by Sporting Kansas City this off-season.

With that said, Sporting still has every right to renegotiate a contract with the 25-year-old center back. At this juncture, however, it appears as though Ellis’s time in Kansas City may have come to an end.

After logging 1,538 minutes in 2014 and 2,335 in 2015, Ellis saw just 953 minutes on the pitch this past season. The return of Ike Opara certainly played a huge role in Ellis’s lack of playing time and ultimately made him expendable.

Orlando City’s defensive woes were well-documented in 2016, and Jason Kreis and his staff will certainly do their due diligence this off-season to look at any available player that may be able to help the team improve. After making 42 starts throughout 2014 and 2015, Ellis certainly falls into that category.

For those of you that remember, Ellis made five appearances while on loan at Orlando City when the club was still playing in the USL during the 2013 season. The 2015 campaign, however, was a career-year for the Kansas City native. He not only scored four goals and added an assist in 26 starts, but he was named to the MLS Team of the Week twice that season.

At just 5-foot-9, Ellis is rather small for the center back position, but he has shown the ability to overcome his height over the course of his career. While he may not be the biggest of aerial threats on set pieces, he does have a knack for getting on the end of things.

Right place. Right time. Great header.

You may be wondering, Why is someone so short playing a position that is made up of predominantly taller players? Well, the answer is rather simple. He has not always been a center back. As a matter of fact, he came into the league as a right back.

When Ellis signed with Sporting Kansas City as the second Homegrown Player in the club’s history, Head Coach Peter Vermes went as far as comparing his playing style to Dani Alves. Ellis actually started his career as a forward before making the transition to the back as a member of the SKC academy.

There is no doubt that there will be new faces along the back line for the Lions in 2017. They may be at center back and they may be at fullback, but with the club not picking up the options of Luke Boden, Kevin Alston, Seb Hines, or Tyler Turner, there will be new faces regardless. Kreis’s squad could use an upgrade both centrally and in the channels, but could Kevin Ellis be a good fit? Despite the fact that he has not been run out as a right back by Vermes since late 2015, given his versatility and the fact that, at 25, he should be entering his prime, it would be hard to be angry if the club elected to chase his signature.