Change would be the best word to describe this off-season for Orlando City SC. With four of these six players out, Jason Kreis and his staff have brought in Will Johnson via free agency, Donny Toia from Atlanta United via trade, and Victor “PC” Giro from the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers of the NASL.
The 2017 Lions are going to look completely different when they take the field in their new stadium for their home opener on March 5.
Despite the moves that Orlando has already made, there is plenty of work yet to be done. The back line still needs addressing, question marks plague the crowded midfield, an upgrade behind Cyle Larin should be brought in, and the overhaul is still in progress. Johnson brings a veteran presence, Toia brings defensive stability to the left back position, but, as a whole, the status of the roster is very much unknown.
Larin has proven himself as one of the top forwards in MLS. Carlos Rivas saw some time as a makeshift striker last season, but outside of that, it’s hard to tell who will be capable of giving Larin’s legs a rest. Bryan Rochez will be back with the team, but what he can contribute on a regular basis is up in the air. That leads me to my point: Alan Gordon should be getting a long, hard look from the technical staff.
Where Larin’s future will take him is an unknown at this point, but, more than likely, it’s outside of Orlando. Gordon is a far cry from a long-term solution at 35 years old, but for a team looking to make its first MLS playoff push, his veteran presence could play a pivotal role. Over the course of 13 years, mostly with the LA Galaxy and San Jose Earthquakes, the big center forward has developed a reputation for his clutch, late goals.
I’ll leave this here in case you need a reminder of how devastating he can be.
Gordon has made a career off being a super sub, so for a team looking for a difference-maker off the bench, he could be the perfect signing. With 52 goals since his debut in 2004, the majority of the times Gordon’s been able to find the back of the net have been without the full 90 minutes.
We can all agree that the best-case scenario is that Rochez can fulfill the potential that Adrian Heath saw in him when he was signed as a Designated Player. The 22-year-old showed his promise briefly in 2015, when he scored three goals three consecutive matches over 16 appearances, totaling less than 300 minutes. How Kreis views the young Honduran is speculative at best, but he was one of those left unprotected and available for selection by Atlanta United or Minnesota United via the MLS Expansion Draft.
Tactically, the plan for Rochez shouldn’t affect the idea of bringing Gordon to Orlando. Listed online anywhere between just 5-foot-9 and 5-foot-11, Rochez is much more of a second forward or supporting forward that uses his pace to get behind opposing back lines. Gordon, on the other hand, couldn’t be more different.
At 6-foot-3, Gordon is a true center forward, able to use his frame to hold the ball up and play with his back to goal. His ability to maintain possession with opposing center backs bearing down on him would give Kreis a more direct option to get forward when needed, similar to that of Julio Baptista.
At the end of the day, Gordon to Orlando is purely speculative. A goal-scoring center forward different from both Larin and Rochez that is comfortable coming off the bench, could potentially be a signing that pushes the team into the promised land of the MLS playoffs.