Orlando City SC had a busy off-season with a handful of new players joining the club and some longtime starters ending their tenures in Florida. All the pieces of the puzzle that have become the Lions roster in 2018 started to be managed by Head Coach Jason Kreis on Monday, when the squad showed up for preseason.
Over the coming weeks, Kreis and his coaching staff will have several decisions to make regarding the team and fans cannot wait to have their first insights regarding what Orlando City will look like in 2018.
Most of the answers the fans will be looking for are connected with three pivotal questions about the team:
What's the plan without Larin?
It's hard to envision a scenario where Cyle Larin is still part of Orlando City's roster after this head-scratching situation involving him and Turkish club Besikitas is somehow resolved. With that said, the Lions need to move on and figure out what their future will be without the Canadian.
Replacing a player who scored 43 goals in 87 matches is definitely a challenge and Orlando City has multiple ways to handle it. It is unknown if the club would go after a like-for-like substitute or the front office and the coaching staff are comfortable with the pieces they already have in the offensive end. I guess we will know the answer in the coming days.
What will the team’s formation look like?
Regardless of the answer to the first question, the fact is that Orlando will look very different without Larin. Kreis could simply plug newcomer Stefano Pinho on his spot or he could leave Dom Dwyer alone up front, which could be a good idea, betting on a more solid midfield to provide the team's offensive punch.
With several new players signed, especially in the midfield, the head coach has a myriad of options to use in the offensive side. The coaching staff is most likely to experiment with the several formations they can use during preseason to make their conclusions before March 3, when Orlando kicks off its regular-season campaign against D.C. United.
Who will join Bendik, Sutter and Spector in defending the net?
If offensively there are several possibilities to be explored, in the defensive end three of the five spots are filled with goalkeeper Joe Bendik, center back Jonathan Spector and right back Scott Sutter, but the other two are up for grabs.
In central defense, José Aja is the only option currently available to partner with Spector, but the Lions are definitely adding new options in the next few weeks. On the left side, 2017’s incumbent Donny Toia will be challenged by Mohamed El-Munir, signed from Serbia’s Partizan Belgrade, and Vitor ‘PC’ Giro, who is expected to show some progress in his second season with the Lions.