Seb Hines was brought in for Orlando City’s inaugural MLS season in 2015, where he was a mainstay on the back line with 23 games, starting 21. After a 2016 season that saw him play 26 games and start 23, Hines found himself on the outside looking in on Jason Kreis’ starting lineup, as the second-year Lions head coach favored newly acquired Jonathan Spector and Léo Pereira, as well as José Aja and Tommy Redding.
After being an unused sub for the first team on March 5 against New York City FC, Hines underwent knee surgery on March 9 and missed six weeks. He joined Orlando City B on April 27. Partnering with Fernando Timbó (six times), Zach Carroll (four times), Conor Donovan (three times), or Pereira (one time), Hines was a key defender for OCB before returning to the first team on Sept. 9 for the club’s match at D.C. United. He would remain with the first team for the remainder of the season.
Hines played in 15 games, starting 14, and accumulated 1,160 minutes for OCB this season. He was a part of the strong defensive unit that conceded only 36 goals, fifth-best in the league, and allowed the team to end the year with a positive goal difference. Winning 76.5 percent of his tackles, he made 60 clearances which ranked third on the team behind Carroll (86) and Donovan (83). Despite being ninth in the team in aerial duels with 33, he won 24 of those which was third best on the team and earned him a 72.7 win percent on those duels. His play at OCB didn’t go unnoticed, as he was named to the USL Team of the Week following the young Lions’ 2-0 win at FC Cincinnati in May.
Hines joined Orlando City on Sept. 9 against D.C. United where was he was sent off five minutes into injury time. After serving his suspension, he started four of the last five games of the season, and came on for the final 39 minutes of the game he didn’t start. In total, Hines played in six games for the MLS side in 2017, starting five, and logging 443 minutes.
Hines scored two goals this season, one for OCB and one for the MLS team. His first goal came on Aug. 16 against Ottawa Fury FC at Orlando City Stadium, heading home a ball in the 34th minute. He doubled his goal total for his season on Sept. 17 in a 6-1 win over the New England Revolution, netting off a corner from Yoshimar Yotún in the 32nd minute.
After Aja, Pereira, and Redding all failed to solidify the spot as Jonathan Spector’s partner at center back, Hines came in and played very well in most of his appearances. Despite only playing in five games with the MLS team this season, he was probably the second best center back after Spector, albeit in a small sample size.
While he had three excellent games, his best performance came in the 6-1 thrashing of the New England Revolution at Orlando City Stadium. A valid candidate for man of the match, Hines had an impact on both ends of the field, showing great leadership and communication on the back line. He nearly scored in the 27th minute, and then put home the game’s second goal, and ultimately the winning goal, in the 32nd. It was a difficult task to handle Kei Kamara, who had netted a hat trick against the Lions just four games earlier, but Hines kept the dangerous striker from getting any good looks on goal. The standout moment came in the 53rd minute, when Kamara appeared to have a breakaway on Joe Bendik. However, Hines got back and made a great tackle to clear the ball from danger. With a 3-1 score at the time, it may have been a game changer.
Final 2017 Grade
The Mane Land staff graded Hines at a 5 rating for the season. His lack of appearances and poor final game, in which he was replaced at halftime, certainly played into the decision. Despite the final catastrophe in Philadelphia, Hines played very well in his time with the first team this season, especially considering he spent the vast majority of the year with OCB. He was the best defender for OCB in 2017 and was probably the second best for the MLS side.
Given the poor play of Aja and Redding, as well as the likely departure of Pereira, Hines played well enough near the end of the season to likely convince the team to pick up his option for 2018. If he continues the form he showed for much of the last month of the season, there’s no reason to think he couldn’t end up starting several games for the first team next year and he at least provides an inexpensive experienced depth player.