Orlando City has made another effort to fortify its leaky back line by signing Victor “PC” Giro to a four-year deal on Wednesday. Although Giro is versatile and can play anywhere up the left side of the field from the back to the attacking wing, City’s crowded midfield suggests he’ll operate primarily from left back.
The Lions’ No. 1 left back — post Brek Shea-as-a-LB experiment, which ended once Head Coach Jason Kreis arrived last year — for the second half of the 2016 season was Luke Boden. Boden is a decent, if unspectacular defender, but his primary strengths are his contributions going forward more so than his actual defensive acumen, and his option wasn’t picked up for 2017.
The Lions added Donny Toia in mid-December from Atlanta United, and his defense-first playing style makes him the favorite to be City’s top-choice left back in 2017, after the team has been at or near the bottom of MLS in goals allowed in each of its first two seasons in the American top flight.
Playing for Montreal in 2016, Toia registered 2.4 tackles, 2.1 interceptions, and 1.7 clearances per game, all while averaging just one foul. He averaged more than a full tackle per match more than both Boden and Shea, and he actually did it while chipping in with the same number of assists — two — as Bodz and Brek each managed, showing that he is capable of helping in the attack as well. While Boden’s 80.5% passing accuracy is superior, Toia still bested Brek’s passing success rate (77.4% to 74.1%) as well.
PC figures to be a younger, more dynamic defender who can contribute going forward while offering more upside on the defensive end. At 22 years old, he’s got skill and work rate to combine with quickness and good touch on the ball. While his versatility means he can contribute as a midfielder or up top on the wing, adding some extra value, his primary role for 2017 seems to be depth behind Toia on the left side of the defense.
With an offensive skill set and a youth advantage over 2016 starter Boden, PC offers Kreis options as a No. 2 left back and an offense-for-defense substitute for when the Lions fall behind.