A report surfaced Tuesday that Orlando City was set to acquire Brazilian striker Júlio Baptista to add depth to its strike force behind Cyle Larin. The report was confirmed later by comments from Adrian Heath and a tweet from Lions captain Kaká. Earlier today, the team confirmed the signing.
The 34-year old striker has previously played for esteemed clubs such as Arsenal, AS Roma, Real Madrid and São Paulo, where he played with Kaká. More recently, he's played in his home country of Brazil for Cruzeiro.
Baptista has a lot of miles on him and his form has been on a decline. This move is a little bit shocking to me as I see Orlando's back line as an area that needs improvement over finding a striker to spell Larin. Larin hasn't shown any effects of a sophomore slump this season and, although the dog days of summer are around the corner, Orlando has other players that could play up top in Pedro Ribeiro, Hadji Barry and even Kevin Molino.
Baptista would fit either as a striker up top or as an attacking midfielder. He could play in any of the attacking midfield positions. He would be an interesting sub if he was an attacking midfielder with Kaká, Molino and company. The other way Baptista could be used is as a late-game sub to hold the ball up top as the lone striker or a second striker with Larin. Baptista is in the latter stages of his career and could be spending them squeaking out small minutes as a last-minute sub.
Baptista is a physical player that has scored goals in two of the best leagues in soccer. However, he is way past his prime and would be a huge risk for this team. The cost of the international slot on a 34-year-old striker who hasn't played much in recent seasons seems like a risky decision. A knee injury kept him out most of 2015, and the last time Baptista played 90 minutes was Nov. 21, 2014.
The need for this team is on the back line.
Rafael Ramos and Brek Shea have been less than stellar in the first few games. Seb Hines hasn't looked confident running the back four. These question marks could pose an issue later on in the season. The problem is we don't have enough games to judge how the back line is going to work out. There are lots of moments in training we aren't able to see. The small snapshot we do have shows that Orlando City's back line is a weakness and our striker who currently is tied for the league lead in goals isn't.
With this deal, it is my belief that Orlando City isn't getting better.