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Dissecting Orlando City’s Roster as the Club Heads to the Off-Season

Where are the likely changes coming in 2018?

MLS: Columbus Crew SC at Orlando City SC Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City SC ended its third MLS campaign with an embarrassing 6-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union on Sunday. With the last official match of the season in the books, it’s time to look forward and dive deep as we head into the off-season, where the team will hopefully strengthen its roster for 2018.

According to Head Coach Jason Kreis, the front office and the coaching staff will work diligently to build the best possible squad for next season. As Kreis told the Orlando Sentinel after the match Sunday:

“Tonight was the last bit of evaluation from our point of view as to what areas we need to address and the players that we think we need to keep and the ones we think we need to go,” Kreis said. “So now we enter into the very difficult and trying time of the offseason, where you've got to deliver a lot of difficult messages and then have a lot of work to do to find new players.”

With the memories of the 2017 season still fresh, let’s walk through Orlando’s roster and see which areas need more improvement moving forward.

Goalkeepers

Joe Bendik has been the undisputed starter at goalkeeper for Orlando City since his arrival at the club in 2016, and that won’t likely change in 2018. Veteran Josh Saunders was signed to be his backup but had a neck injury and played one (and probably his only) match for the Lions in the U.S. Open Cup. Earl Edwards Jr. also played in only one game (the 6-1 loss to the Union) but is likely to become Bendik’s primary backup next year because of his solid performances with Orlando City B in the USL. For the third goalkeeper spot the Lions can either use 19-year-old Mason Stajduhar or go to the market for a young, cheap player.

Fullbacks

Scott Sutter proved to be a solid starter at right back, leading the team’s field players in minutes. The spot behind him is apparently open, though, since Rafael Ramos continues to struggle, appearing in only two games (and earning one red card, although it was later rescinded) in his third season with the club. Veteran Kevin Alston didn’t play a single minute for the senior squad in 2017. On the left side, Donny Toia was steady, but not flashy, while Victor PC Giro joined the club with hype but didn’t show much. Both are probably staying and that would be OK, but if Orlando has a chance, it should look for improvement at the left back position.

Center Backs

Jonathan Spector is a lock. He’s the best center back on the roster and will provide much needed leadership in the upcoming season. The Lions should look for a reliable, physical player to pair him in central defense. Tommy Redding and Jose Aja are young and should develop well and would provide good depth as backups. Seb Hines and Leo Pereira filled gaps throughout the season but are probably more likely to leave than to stay at this point.

Midfielders

This is arguably the area where Orlando will see more changes. Anyone not named Yoshismar Yotún is at risk in my eyes. Dillon Powers and Servando Carrasco are likely to stay in limited roles, as well as youngsters Pierre Da Silva and Richie Laryea, who might struggle to get minutes next season. Antonio Nocerino and Giles Barnes were decent, but their price tags are high so my guess is only one of them is staying. Cristian Higuita’s future is a question mark after so many ups and downs in three years.

I would like Will Johnson to remain with the Lions as well, but it’s hard to figure how much his off-field issue could jeopardize his stay. With him and Yotún, the Lions would have a lot of versatility in the midfield and would be able to build it in many different ways and systems. Anyway, at least two starting-caliber players (and at least one attacking midfielder) need to be acquired by the Lions.

Forwards

Dom Dwyer will likely be the centerpiece of Orlando City in 2018. If Cyle Larin stays, which seems more and more likely each day, the starting forward spots are set and we’ll see what they are able to do together with a preseason under their belts. The Carlos Rivas experiment looks like it’s over and that means at least one forward needs to be signed, assuming that Hadji Barry is ready to be the fourth option up front.


In summary, I foresee a major overhaul in the midfield and smaller adjustments in the other areas. What about you? What would like to see the Lions doing as they prepare for 2018?