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Three Center Back Options for Orlando City

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As the Lions need to strengthen their central defense, here are a few names the club could explore.

AC Milan v ACF Fiorentina - Serie A Photo by Marco Luzzani/Getty Images

Orlando City SC has already made a few moves in the winter transfer window, but the team is yet to address one of its most urgent needs as it heads toward the 2018 Major League Soccer season: central defense.

The Lions found a reliable center back option in 2017 by signing Jonathan Spector, who was one of the team’s best players in his first year with the club, but the same cannot be said about the partners he had during the season. Tommy Redding and Jose Aja are still young and expected to improve, while Seb Hines and Leo Pereira already left the club, leaving Orlando with no obvious choice to pair with Spector when next season comes.

With the departure of expensive players like Kaká, Antonio Nocerino and Giles Barnes, Orlando City has the financial tools to invest in a starting-caliber center back to pair with Spector and here are some options that could be explored by the Lions:

Gabriel Paletta

AC Milan v Borussia Dortmund - 2017 International Champions Cup China Photo by Lintao Zhang/Getty Images

A product of Argentina’s Banfield’s academy, the 31-year-old Paletta has played in the Italian Serie A for the last eight years of his career, the first half of them with Parma and the second with AC Milan. He got Italian citizenship in 2014 and played for the country in the FIFA World Cup in that same year. His background also includes tenures with Argentinean giants Boca Juniors and English Premier League staple Liverpool.

His contract with Milan is set to expire next summer and he lost his space in the club’s lineup after the recent additions of Leonardo Bonucci and Mateo Musacchio. At 6-foot-1, Paletta is a physical defender that would fit well with Spector’s finesse style. He has drawn interest from Italian club Sassuolo, but an offer from Orlando City could be good enough to make him leave Italy.

Diego Polenta

AS Bari v US Latina - Serie B Playoffs Photo by Maurizio Lagana/Getty Images

Polenta had a very successful career with Uruguay’s youth teams, captaining both the U-17 and the U-20 squads on their respective World Cups. His performance was noticed by Italian club Genoa, who signed him from Uruguayan Danubio before he had even played a professional match. He was also part of Uruguay’s roster in the 2012 Olympic Games.

The 25-year-old defender was loaned to Bari, where he played more than 80 matches in three seasons before returning to Uruguay to defend Nacional in 2014. He was selected to the Uruguayan Championship Best XI in 2017, but considered leaving the club, which is struggling financially, because of delays on salary payments. Polenta would probably require a transfer fee to be acquired, but considering his age and potential, he could return the investment to Orlando City in the future.

Ricardo Ferreira

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Ferreira is an up-and-coming talent in the Portuguese pool with ties to North America. A son of Portuguese parents, he was born in Mississauga, Canada, where he lived until the age of 14, being part of Toronto FC’s academy. His family returned to Portugal and he joined FC Porto’s youth system for three years before moving to Italy and playing for AC Milan’s youth teams.

As a professional, Ferreira played for Italian side Empoli and Portuguese clubs Olhanense, Paços Ferreira, and Braga, his current team. The 6-foot-3 center back recently got his first call for the Portuguese National Team in the friendly against the United States in November and even if his priority could be staying in Europe to stay on the radar of the national team, the 25-year-old player has a connection with North America and could consider an offer from Orlando City appealing.