The 2017 MLS regular season is now officially behind us. I will be honest, this off-season is going to be arduous for me. The gamut of emotions I am feeling about this team is still brewing at an almost unhealthy type level, as far as emotions go for being attached to a sports team. I could recap all of the issues with this season, but you all have a list, and the crew at The Mane Land has spent the season reporting and compiling them as we saw them, so I will not spend time on it.
What I would like to spend some time on is who should receive the captain's armband heading into 2018 now that Kaká is no longer going to be with the club. With heaps of speculation and emotion, here are some thoughts on who could lead the Lions in 2018.
Joe Bendik could be one of the most straightforward answers to this issue. We know he will be on the pitch if he is healthy, and we all know what he means to this club. We all also know exactly how Joe is feeling during a match as he wears his emotions on his sleeve. He has also worn the armband on occasion before for Orlando City.
However obvious this choice may be, I am not convinced it is the right choice. There are very few keepers that can vocalize what is needed across the pitch, as well as get some face time with the referees to hopefully help sway the calls during a match, but we have seen Joe as that emotional force on some classic occasions (I apologize for the video of him playing for Toronto, but this is just classic).
Jonathan Spector is another obvious player to take over the reins as captain. One of the best roster moves of last season, Spector has become the foundation on which City’s back line will be built. Pay no mind to the fact that the Lions have yet to consistently find another center back to pair him with — I doubt anyone would argue that he didn’t fill a position Orlando desperately needed and he made a big impact on the team. His on-field communication and emotion are obvious, and I believe he could readily be the man with the armband for 2018 season. Bonus: he works well with Bendik.
Antonio Nocerino would be my first pick, if I looked at this from a strictly emotional point of view. Noce has worn the armband a couple times, and I do not think there is a more emotional player that Orlando City has on the roster to field. We all see it, yelling and talking with his hands at other players to get into certain positions, screaming at himself when he misses a shot or pass, and always one of the first players to get into the referee’s ear when calls are made. He is exactly the firecracker that is needed for captain, and his experience could be key, especially in that elevated position. This is, of course, predicated on his being a Lion in 2018. I certainly hope so, as this club needs as much #BeardLuck as it can get (yes, showing a little favoritism to my follicled fellows). And he obviously can get the party started.
Yoshimar Yotun is a dark horse for me in this race. The hustle, the drive, the want-to is so beautifully apparent. His personality began to really show on the pitch towards the end of the season as he became more comfortable with his new team and new role. Stability is the big question here, as Yoshi has played all over the pitch. This could give credence to his ability to be captain as he is blatantly aware of roles for multiple field positions and can easily call formation and/or player switches. The only disadvantage is that we could lose Yoshi for a big chunk of next season if Peru wins its qualification matches against New Zealand.
Dom Dwyer anyone? I mean, it wouldn’t be unheard of, would it? Experience, passion, and Orlando City’s favorite son. 2018 should be a breakout year for Dom, and handing him the armband may just be the spark needed to set his career on a rocket trajectory towards an MLS Golden Boot, more time with the USMNT, an All-Star nod, and finally leading City towards a positive goal differential and the playoffs in 2018.
We do have a Designated Player spot available, possibly two, depending on just how wildly Head Coach Jason Kreis wants to shake up the roster. A massive shake-up would be to find a new DP, or TAM-level player, that comes in with the resume to assume the captain’s role from day one. This is where my crystal ball gets real murky because the only rumors I have heard in regards to off-season moves are those pie-in-the-sky kind of rumors that seem to be more about creating traffic on the internet than having any real substance (but I’ll take Zlatan rumors all day, because Zlatan is a Lion, and it is only fitting that he becomes a Lion in the most royal of all colors, purple).
Those are my thoughts as I see it, while I try to navigate the emotions that I am still reeling from after this season. There are some obvious, and some not so obvious, contenders to take over the team as captain for the 2018 season, help right the ship, and bring us to the hallowed fields of playoff soccer. If you have any contenders, I would love to hear them.