The weakest area of the 2016 Orlando City team was clearly its back line. Despite strong play from goalkeeper Joe Bendik, the team conceded 60 goals, worst in the league. While not a specific moment in the season, number seven on our list of top moments in 2017 was an upgrade to the team’s defense.
The Lions nearly revamped their entire back line by acquiring three new starting defenders — left back Donny Toia, center back Jonathan Spector, and right back Scott Sutter. While the team struggled to find consistency out of the position that remained, the three new additions glistened, especially Spector and Sutter.
Probably the biggest move for Orlando City during the last off-season was the signing of Jonathan Spector on Jan. 24. The 31-year-old moved to England as a teenager where he would play for Manchester United, Charlton Athletic, West Ham United, and Birmingham City, totaling seven seasons in the Premier League. Returning to America provided the experienced center back the opportunity to play in his home country.
English-born Swiss left back Scott Sutter signed with Orlando City on March 3. After a successful career in Switzerland with Grasshopper, Young Boys, and FC Zurich, the 31-year-old made the jump to the Lions with the recommendation of his good friend and former Orlando City fan favorite Adrian Winter.
The addition of Spector and Sutter showed immediate results as the Lions won six of their first seven games, conceding no more than two goals in a game in that span. The two were consistent starters throughout the season with Spector starting 25 games, missing some due to injury, and Sutter starting 30. Both played over 2,000 minutes in 2017 and were two of the first names on Jason Kreis’ team sheet.
Spector was tremendous for the Lions this season, helping to make up for the inconsistency of his partner, which rotated due to poor play by the other center backs. He recorded 25 tackles, 52 interceptions, 14 blocked shots, and won 34 aerial balls during the season, finishing with an 82.1 percent pass completion percentage. A knee injury in August kept him out for six weeks and his absence was obvious in the defensive line.
To his right stood Sutter, who ranked second in the team in minutes with 2,729. He showed an ability to be a strong defender and was a threat going forward. He finished the season with one of the team’s better pass percentages with 80.4 percent and scored a late equalizer in Seattle. Overall, Sutter became known in 2017 for his consistency, despite playing nearly two years without a break.
Defense was still an issue for Orlando City in 2017, but that was mainly due to the lack of production from Spector’s partner, whoever that may have been and inconsistency in the midfield. While the back line was in desperate need of a complete overhaul following the 2016 season, it appears as though only one of those four spots in really a concern in 2017, with Spector and Sutter being two of the most dependable players on the team. While the club has said that it expects big changes to the roster this off-season, you can definitely expect the two most successful signings last year, Spector and Sutter, to return, and probably to play better after a full off-season and a year in MLS under their belts.
Come back through New Year's Eve as we count down the remainder of Orlando City's top 10 moments of 2017.
Previous Top 10 Moments of 2017
10. Orlando City trounces New England Revolution, 6-1.
9. Orlando Pride clobbers Sky Blue FC, 5-0.
8. OCB’s impressive 12-game unbeaten streak through the summer of 2017.