Transfer windows can make or break a season. It's the opportunity for a team to bolster the areas that are lacking, and perhaps also strengthen the core group. Major League Soccer, like most leagues, has two transfer windows. There is a primary and secondary window. The former lasted from Feb. 14 to May 18, while the latter will start on July 10 and end on Aug. 9. Needless to say, Orlando City was spectacular in the primary window.
In the primary transfer window, Orlando City picked up several key players, especially on the defensive side. Perhaps the most influential signings were Will Johnson, Donny Toia, Scott Sutter, and Jonathan Spector. In the second window, OCSC likely won't sign anywhere near the amount of players it did in the primary window, yet it might shape its season just as much. This is because the secondary window could possibly play a massive role in the team’s late season form.
In this league known for its great parity, it is well known that the last quarter of the season is the most important as it often determines not only how well a team will perform in the playoffs, but also whether or not they get there at all. Put into context, this means that strengthening your team in the summer can go a long way to the success of the whole season. So far this season, Orlando City has been recognized heavily for its new look defense, which has shown some cracks the past five games. Its offense has also gotten a bit of heat from the media for not being as fruitful in front of goal as last year. Now don't get me wrong. The offense has not been "bad" by any means. Cyle Larin is having his best season ever and Kaká looks really good since coming back from injury (last night notwithstanding), but the rest of the group just hasn’t been firing in front of goal this season. In terms of the midfield, OCSC has plenty of talented options at the center mid spot which fit well into the team’s diamond.
Based on my little examination, I think that the Lions' biggest need is another attacker. This need will be much bigger of course if Cyle Larin is sold in the summer. Based on his blazing form, it wouldn't be a shock if he went, especially with countless rumors of European interest. If Larin goes, Orlando will be forced to splash the cash for another goal threat, though it will be very tough for anyone to replace Kid Fantastic.
Besides another forward or maybe even Larin's replacement, Orlando City doesn't really have much else to worry about in the summer window. The team doesn't necessarily have a top-tier player at every position, but overall the squad is generally complete. However, a squad is not just about the first 11; it's also about its depth.
Depth is fortunately something Orlando also seems to have a sufficient amount of. Josh Saunders is a pretty good backup to have on your team and when Kevin Alston and Tommy Redding come back, the Lions will basically have two sets of capable back fours. As mentioned before, the team could use another attacker, but what about the midfield? Many analysts have talked about the depth at center mid but does City really have it?
Antonio Nocerino is the first choice at the base of the diamond, where he has played well for the most part this season despite nagging injuries. When unavailable, Servando Carrasco has stepped in and served as a backup, with Cristian Higuita and Will Johnson both capable of playing in that hole if needed.
While there are a lot of options at center mid at the top of the diamond, Kaká is the obvious starter, with Giles Barnes and MPG both capable of playing that role. For the diamond’s “wings,” Higuita and Johnson appeared to have locked down the spots on the left and right, respectively. Jason Kreis has shown a willingness to bring in just about any combination of midfielders to replace them when he needs to rest them, primarily MPG on the right and Barnes on the left when more offensive-minded play is needed, with Luis Gil capable of playing either side. When defense is needed, Carrasco and Gil are typically brought in to help shield the back line.
If there is a need, it would be additional goal scoring from the front three midfield position, in addition to the striker needs already discussed. Orlando City showed last night that when goals are needed, MPG and Barnes aren’t doing enough to generate offense. City needs a younger, more dynamic option who can both score goals and create chances for others. Think of a Romain Alessandrini type, but obviously with a lower price tag, because the club will not have the ability to make the salaries all fit unless someone else leaves.
If Orlando is looking to buy multiple players this summer, then it'll have to look to the midfield and at striker. Could those players already be in the system? While still raw, Hadji Barry could serve as an offensive catalyst alongside Larin when Carlos Rivas needs rest or isn’t playing well. Richie Laryea and Pierre Da Silva are both young and unproven but might be able to add something new to the attack from the midfield.
All in all, I think this current squad is well equipped to do great things to reach the playoffs and perhaps make a run. The season will likely not come down to summer signings, but instead how Kreis manages to keep his current guys performing. But some additional firepower in the attack would make Orlando a much more potent team for the season’s stretch run.