I’ll be the first to admit that I attach too much meaning to the numbers on players’ backs. They’re just arbitrary identifiers, but in today’s game they can be a part of a player’s identity and branding. You may not believe in the superstition, but it’s something to keep track of; after all, you’d likely be confused and concerned if you thought Jason Kreis was starting Conor Donovan in central midfield and wonder how he grew that fantastic beard.
Here are some of the key changes you should be aware of as the season gets started:
Jonathan Spector — No. 2
Previously worn by: Tyler Turner, Mechack Jérôme
Instead of opting for the traditional high numbers he was known for in England (he used 18 with West Ham United and 23 with Birmingham City), City’s key defensive addition has taken the classic fullback’s No. 2 shirt.
Will Johnson — No. 8
Previously worn by: Harrison Heath, Adama Mbengue, Erik Ustruck
It’s always nice to see classic box-to-box midfielders wearing No. 8. Johnson uses the same shirt when he captains Canada but hasn’t been able to wear it at club level since he last left Jason Kreis and Real Salt Lake.
Giles Barnes — No. 14
Previously worn by: Luke Boden
It’s always odd to see a mainstay’s number on the back of someone else’s shirt. In Luke Boden’s case, his old No. 14 is already in the hands of newcomer Giles Barnes. Hopefully the Jamaican can make it his own with some crucial goals.
.@GilesBarnesReal is in the house. #WelcomeHome— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) February 28, 2017
Tony Rocha — No. 16
Previously worn by: Devron Garcia, Corey Ashe
If you were wondering if Devron Garcia could potentially still have a place on the team this year, this isn’t a good sign. Rocha has already been handed his old Austin Aztex number with Devron still technically on the team.
Conor Donovan — No. 22
Previously worn by: Antonio Nocerino, Tally Hall, Rob Valentino
Conor acquiesced to a request by Nocerino to take No. 23 off him, so they swapped. Donovan made good use of 22 while at NC State though, so I doubt he’ll mind too much. Rob Valentino will likely get to personally mentor the newest center back to sport his old shirt this season with Orlando City B.
Antonio Nocerino — No. 23
Previously worn by: Conor Donovan, Long Tan
The Italian made it his mission to get the shirt he wore for the club giants of his home country, Juventus and AC Milan, as well as the Azzurri. Lucky for Noce, Donovan was willing to part with it.
Donny Toia — No. 25
Previously worn by: Mason Stajduhar, Adam Bedell
Toia has an opportunity to be the first Lion to make an MLS appearance wearing No. 25 even though the shirt has been assigned for the past two seasons. Donny has made the number — traditionally belonging to goalkeepers — his own with both the Montreal Impact and Chivas USA.
All smiles early here.— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) February 25, 2017
1-0 | #WelcomeHome pic.twitter.com/KgdqOku5BE
Matías Pérez García — No. 32
Previously worn by: Adrian Winter
MPG traded in the No. 30 shirt for an even higher one. The diminutive attacker has predominantly worn No. 10 throughout his career, but it’ll be oh so nice seeing No. 32 back on the right side of the pitch.
Victor “PC” Giro — No. 94
Previously worn by: N/A
A few eyebrows were raised at the high digits on the backs of two young newcomers for the team’s preseason match against St. Louis FC. PC made his numbered debut in 94, the number he wore with the Rowdies and the same as his birth year. When he makes an appearance in it, it’ll be the highest number to appear for Orlando City in history, a record previously held by Jamie Watson’s No. 77 and then Aurélien Collin’s No. 78.
Pierre Da Silva — No. 98
Previously worn by: N/A
Just about the only thing that could potentially top PC is academy product Pierre Da Silva, who repped No. 98 for the St. Louis match. Da Silva wore 43 last year with OCB.
In case you need a refresher on the rest of the roster, here’s the first team in numerical order:
1. Joe Bendik
2. Jonathan Spector
3. Seb Hines
4. Jose Ajá
5. Servando Carrasco
6. Richie Laryea
7. Cristian Higuita
8. Will Johnson
9. Cyle Larin
11. Carlos Rivas
12. Kevin Alston
13. Hadji Barry
14. Giles Barnes
16. Tony Rocha
22. Conor Donovan
23. Antonio Nocerino
25. Donny Toia
27. Rafael Ramos
28. Josh Saunders
29. Tommy Redding
31. Mason Stajduhar
32. Matías Pérez García
35. Bryan Róchez
36. Earl Edwards, Jr.
44. David Mateos
98. Pierre da Silva
?? Devron Garcia