In 2015, with seven players remaining on the roster from the 2014 USL Pro season, Orlando City competed in its first year in Major League Soccer. While building the roster, General Manager Paul McDonough and Head Coach Adrian Heath stated that they were building the roster with a three-year plan in mind.
Made up mostly of younger players, with a few veterans mixed in, the team would grow together and be ready to compete for an MLS Cup in three years. The finale of the 2017 season ended what would’ve been that three-year plan. Now a new pair has taken over and created a team of almost entirely new faces.
During the 2017 season, there were 10 players from the 2015 team still on the MLS roster. However, following another disappointing season, Head Coach Jason Kreis said there would be significant changes to the squad, and he wasn’t kidding. Of those 10 players, only Earl Edwards, Jr., Cristian Higuita, and Cyle Larin remain on Orlando City’s roster, with the latter seemingly on his way out, likely before the 2018 season starts.
Following the embarrassing debacle of hiring Armando Carneiro and the subsequent resignation of both he and McDonough, Phil Rawlins took over as general manager with Niki Budalic as his assistant. Budalic became the new GM prior to last season and is, along with Kreis, in control over player acquisitions.
While Kreis and Budalic were technically in control during the 2017 season, with Kreis having been hired during the previous year, the team was still largely made up of players initially acquired while Heath was coach, including those 10 players from the inaugural MLS year’s roster.
The major moves made this off-season, especially the trade that sent Tommy Redding and Carlos Rivas — two key players in Heath and McDonough’s three-year plan — off to New York, have made a statement that this is Kreis’ and Budalic’s team. There is nowhere to hide for the duo now. For the first time since their arrival, they will have to be held accountable for the results on the field.
McDonough and Heath’s three-year plan never came to fruition, with nearly all of the players they acquired now gone. This team now belongs to Kreis and Budalic, who have acquired nearly every player on the roster. There’s a good mix of proven veterans like Dom Dwyer, Yoshimar Yotun, Jonathan Spector, Joe Bendik, and Sacha Kljestan, and talented young players like Josué Colmán and Pierre Da Silva. This coming season, their roster building will be put to the test. We’ll see if this regime has better results than the last.