At the close of last season, Orlando City finished with a robust 55 goals scored — good for third-most in the league. Usually amassing a tally like that would be good enough for a playoff bid, but those numbers were undermined by 60 goals conceded, which was the worst in MLS.
Change was needed and change was promised. Jason Kreis and his superiors were not shy about the need for defensive replacements. Kreis was reported to be traveling the country and the globe looking for new faces to retool his squad in Florida: Donny Toia was added via an organized trade through the Expansion Draft to shore up the left back position, there was the Gregory Sertic saga that left us scratching our heads, Victor “PC” Giro was added from the NASL — where he played with both Ft. Lauderdale and Tampa Bay last year — and finally Jonathan Spector was officially presented yesterday.
Preseason is now upon us, and, while more changes are possible, it may be that the club is satisfied with personnel for now. So the question on the minds of many OCSC fans is: has the club done enough to fix the league’s worst defense?
All indications are that the Lions will field a back four this season. The Mane Land looked into whether or not OCSC would entertain playing three at the back, concluding that the team doesn’t seem to have the pieces for that setup. If we assume that both Toia (left back) and Spector (center back) start in the season opener, the club has reshaped half of the starting back line.
With upgrades at two defensive positions, the question now for Kreis is who to pair with Spector in the center of defense, and who will slot in at the right back position?
Starting Spots Up for Grabs
The hope must be for some of the young defenders to rise to the challenge under added pressure this year. José Aja, Tommy Redding, and Rafael Ramos are all capable of claiming consistent minutes this season, but we will have to wait and see who separates themselves from the group. New signing PC will look to challenge MLS-experienced Toia at left back. PC is more of an attacking LB, but that could be a useful asset to Kreis throughout the season. Conor Donovan is the least experienced of the youth at Orlando, but openings are sure to come up throughout the season.
There are still plenty of other familiar faces vying for minutes in the back. What the club feels about David Mateos still remains to be seen. If he does end up staying on in 2017, then he will be in the mix as an experienced player with a point to prove. Seb Hines and Kevin Alston were re-signed and will be called on to contribute when injuries and suspensions occur during the season.
Many fans will be happy with the improvements across the back line. But the big question remains: Will the three defenders brought in be enough to make history in Orlando? Let us know what you think in the comments.