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Which Pricey Non-Designated Players will Stay with Orlando City?

With three non-DPs combining to make more than $1.5 million, it seems unlikely Orlando City can keep the trio of David Mateos, Antonio Nocerino, and Brek Shea. Who’s out?

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

As Major League Soccer’s preseason approaches later this month, Orlando City finds itself with four Designated Player-level players and three additional rostered guys making significant money. Kaká, of course, leads the way, at $6.66 million base salary as of the September salary release by the MLS Players’ Association, and more than $7 million guaranteed. Carlos Rivas and Bryan Rochez held Young Designated Player designations at season’s end, and Matias Perez Garcia was occupying a DP slot that San Jose ate under the terms of the trade.

While MPG’s situation is a tad unclear as to whether the Earthquakes will cover his DP slot for 2017 or if he’ll need to be bought down with allocation money, he appeared to blossom under Jason Kreis and seems likely to remain with Orlando City this season.

Likewise, unless they’re sold, Rivas and Rochez appear to be in the club’s plans for further development. Rivas showed flashes of being worthy of a DP slot when he dominated in a 4-1 win at Montreal late in the 2016 season and Rochez reportedly started to get his groove back (six goals in 15 games/four starts) when he returned to his club team in Honduras, Real Espana.

But it seems less likely that Orlando City’s expensive trio of Brek Shea, David Mateos, and Antonio Nocerino will all be on the roster when the season kicks off. Let’s look at their impact on the Lions’ books:

David Mateos $420,000 $453,333
Antonio Nocerino $600,000 $650,000
Brek Shea $550,000 $595,000
Salaries courtesy of MLS Players’ Association (Sept. 2016)

It would seem unlikely that all three players will be on Orlando’s 2017 opening-day roster, as the club still has some shopping to do to find a backup fullback and the rumored center back signing we’ve been waiting for. Furthermore, Orlando City has a pretty crowded (and expensive) midfield situation. This might suggest that either Shea or Nocerino could be on the move. But let’s take a look at all three and what they bring to the table.

Mateos has been inconsistent since his arrival with Orlando City, but that’s not unexpected. Most players have an adjustment period when arriving in MLS. The travel, the physicality of the league, new coaches and systems, culture shock and unknown opponents can all hinder a player. Mateos himself said it took a while to get used to MLS and it didn’t help that he’s had multiple central defense partners. He did find some chemistry with Jose Aja in the final weeks of 2016, so if the Lions can’t find a standout center back, he’s not a bad option to have. He also fills a position of need and makes the least amount of money among the three players.

Nocerino had a rough transition to MLS, but he took to Kreis’ tactics and coaching immediately and was consistently among the team’s best players in the final couple of months of the 2016 season. He showed hustle, skill, passing precision, and desire after Kreis took over the team — and even more importantly, he provided leadership on the field. The downside for the Italian is that he’s the oldest of the three as well as the most expensive. And, it’s unknown if he can handle a transition to a new formation, such as Kreis’ traditional 4-4-2 diamond.

Shea had been playing fullback for most of his time with Orlando City. His results after being moved forward to the midfield were mixed but he provided a spark off the bench a few times down the stretch. Half a million dollars is a hefty price tag for a reserve player, regardless of how much spark they provide off the bench. The plus to Shea is that he can run all day, has skill, and creates issues for the opposition’s wide defenders, often keeping them from joining the attack. The minus is that if he may not be able to find playing time with Kaká, MPG, and Kevin Molino also on the team.

So who is the odd man (or men) out?

Well, if you believe reputable journalists, perhaps it’s Mateos on his way out.

The Spaniard has been part of one of the worst defenses in MLS for the last two seasons. I wouldn’t put all of that on Mateos, or even the biggest portion of the blame. However, if his salary can be put to better use and the Lions can find a better option, it wouldn’t be at all surprising to see him leave Orlando.

While Mateos may not be back, my thought is that Shea isn’t likely to return. He seems to be a player outside the starting lineup and he costs far too much to bring on in the 65th minute, regardless of how much his pace and power could influence a game.

I also think the club gave up a lot to get Nocerino, and that investment started to pay off in the latter part of the season. While I wouldn’t rule out a departure, it would be a bit embarrassing if he went elsewhere in MLS and flourished. I believe the Italian still has a part to play, but then again I’m Italian so maybe I’m biased.

What do you think? Which player or players will be elsewhere when the season starts? Is it Mateos, Shea, Nocerino, a combination of two of them, or all three? Let me know what you think in the comments section below.