Orlando City General Manager Niki Budalic promised that there would be roster updates and the Lions finally made some moves yesterday: Orlando acquired R.J. Allen and Stefano Pinho Monday, while re-signing Dillon Powers.
Most Orlando City fans should be well aware of Pinho. The 26-year-old forward scored a hat trick against the Lions in one of the worst Orlando City performances to date, knocking them out of the U.S. Open Cup last summer. This performance prompted many to ask one question: “should the Lions sign Pinho?” Almost exactly six months later, Pinho is wearing purple.
The Brazilian has proven his ability in the lower tier and deserves this chance in MLS. He won the NASL Golden Boot and Golden Ball awards twice in the past three years, and has scored 49 goals and added 16 assists in 87 game since 2015. To put his effectiveness in perspective, Cyle Larin has 43 goals and six assists in 87 league games in that same time span.
Moving from the NASL to MLS is full of challenges. Pinho will be in a new city, playing with new teammates, and the competition is going to be the toughest of the forward’s career. It is not a given that he will be able to put up the same numbers, especially if he is not starting every week.
Dom Dwyer and Larin are clearly the first two options up top as of now, so Pinho could be limited in his appearances. If Larin stays in Orlando, then the Brazilian has to compete with Larin and Dwyer as well as Carlos Rivas for playing time. At this time, this will be the biggest positional battle of the preseason, although at least five more players are expected to be brought in, so that may change come January.
It is also possible that both Larin and Rivas are not Lions come opening weekend, and then Pinho could even become a starter. It will be interesting to see how he transitions to the club and league, but if he could put up half the numbers he did last year, the attack has already improved.
It is not just the attack that Orlando needs to improve, though. The Lions are famous for their poor defensive play, and that is where Allen is an important pickup. It is not a completely surprising signing, as Allen and Head Coach Jason Kreis worked together in 2015 in New York City.
Donny Toia and Scott Sutter are the starting fullbacks, but there is little depth outside of them. Allen, who has the ability to play either the left or right fullback, brings that much-needed depth and will allow Toia and Sutter to take the rare rest; both Toia and Sutter have the most minutes played in 2017 out of all Orlando City outfield players.
Allen is not going to get many starts, but he’s someone that will always be around the squad and in the 18. Expect him to play in cup games and to fill in when the schedule gets too congested.
Both Allen and Pinho are good pickups for Orlando. Neither of them are going to take the Lions from their current state and transform them into a playoff team, but they are quality signings and make the team a bigger threat.