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Three Orlando City Players Who Need to Prove Their Value Before 2017 Ends

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For Nocerino, Aja, and Rivas, the last seven matches of the season can cement their spots in Orlando in 2018. Or not.

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With its playoff hopes limited to less than 1%, Orlando City does not have much to pursue in its final seven MLS regular season matches. However, for some of the players these games mean extra opportunities to make their cases towards the 2018 season.

“We need to show some respect for our supporters in these seven games we have left and give them some joy,” Kaká commented after the 4-0 loss to the New England Revolution last Saturday. “We need to show them how much we care and how badly we want to be with this club. These games will show who deserves to be part of this club in the future and who does not.”

Kaká himself is one of the players with an uncertain future, as the Brazilian’s contract is about to expire. However, Orlando and Kaká have already expressed mutual interest in extending his deal, and the big question is if the player will accept the club’s offer.

For some other players, though, strong performances before the end of the season could mean one more year with the Lions. Here are three of them:

Antonio Nocerino

After a rough start with Orlando City in 2016, the Italian bounced back in 2017 and became a key starter in Jason Kreis’ system. However, starting 22 matches and recording an 85.3% passing efficiency might not be enough for the second-highest paid player on the roster, making $850,000 per year. Mostly, the Italian needs to step up his defensive game, which is currently below average — he ranks 13th within the team in tackles, ninth in interceptions, and 11th in clearances.

José Aja

It would be extremely unfair to blame Aja for Orlando’s defensive woes as he had as much of an up-and-down season as any other center back on the club not named Jonathan Spector. To his disadvantage, though, the Uruguayan is the most likely piece to be moved if the front office plans to bring in a new defender, considering both Tommy Redding and Leo Pereira have more affordable paychecks and arguably a tighter market outside MLS. It doesn’t help either that Aja missed part of the season due to injuries.

Carlos Rivas

This was arguably Rivas’ best season with Orlando City as the Colombian already has career highs in starts (20), goals (five), and assists (five). However, his progress over the three years he spent with the club so far may not be as satisfying, especially considering his salary ($375,000) and Designated Player status. With Dom Dwyer and Cyle Larin likely locked up front, Rivas seems poised to have less playing time in 2018 and that could lead the Lions to try to deal him and use the DP spot he holds to strengthen other areas of the roster.