In yet another major move in Orlando City’s midfield remodel, the Lions moved up in the allocation order to sign Spanish midfielder Oriol “Uri” Rosell. At only 25 years old, Rosell is already a veteran of Major League Soccer and has spent the last three and a half seasons bouncing around Portugal. While Uri’s move to Portuguese giants Sporting CP may not have worked out, he was a top defensive midfielder in MLS while he was here.
After graduating from Barcelona’s celebrated La Masia academy, Rosell moved to Sporting Kansas City at age 19. It took him a year to break into the SKC first team but when he did, he anchored Kansas City’s midfield all the way to a Cup in 2013. Rosell only played seven matches the next season before Sporting had seen enough and brought him to Lisbon.
Rosell might just be the exact type of defensive midfielder that Orlando City Head Coach Jason Kreis has been looking for. Uri might be the most technical player the Lions have acquired with his history at Barcelona. He’s an intelligent player that makes very few mistakes and is well-versed in the quick passing scheme the Catalonians have made famous in recent years. He still holds the MLS record for most passes completed in a match — an astounding 160 of 166 (96.4%) against the Montreal Impact back in 2014 — and fits in perfectly with the style of player that Kreis and company have targeted this window.
With the departures of Antonio Nocerino and Servando Carrasco, Kreis lost quite a few attributes at the base of his diamond. In Rosell, he brings all of those back and even adds a little extra. Uri has the defensive steel of Carrasco and brings a high-level IQ and ability to read the game that Nocerino was applauded for. Rosell’s ability to step into the channels to break up opposing attacks (he averaged 2.3 interceptions per match for Portimonense this season according to WhoScored.com) and the added passing ability on top of that gives him a defined edge over the current incumbent in defensive midfield, Cristian Higuita.
His skill set is something that Orlando hasn’t quite seen before. There have been plenty of central midfielders that can pass the ball decently well with Darwin Cerén, Nocerino, and Higuita leading the way in that category over the first three years. Carrasco could plug the right holes and anchor the midfield. Yoshimar Yotún has shown an affinity for the long ball. But Rosell brings all of those traits together and provides an excellent anchor that can also connect the lines and keep the ball ticking over. He’ll need the midfielders around him to cover most of the ground, but any combination of Yoshi, Higuita, or Will Johnson should be up to the task. The flip side of that is that Rosell provides a safety net that will provide more freedom for a player like Yotún to get forward and do what he does best, which is create chances.
No matter which formation Kreis eventually chooses, Uri will be the linchpin that connects everything together in the center of the park. Just like seemingly every other midfielder brought in, Rosell brings creativity. But by reading the field from a deeper position, Uri adds an entirely new dynamic to Orlando’s midfield. The Spaniard’s ability to spray the ball to the wings and flip the field could create a devastating effect for the Lions’ attack. With the additions of speedy wide players like Josué Colmán and Chris Mueller and the latest blockbuster move for Justin Meram, Rosell will have plenty of options to stretch other teams from touchline to touchline. With two of the best chance creators up the middle in Yoshi and Sacha Kljestan, Uri will not have a lack of options going forward. With that amount of creativity, it will be a tall task for opposing teams to prevent scoring opportunities.
With Rosell pulling strings from the base of the midfield, Kreis has assembled a team that can hurt opponents from almost every angle. Uri is the most complete defensive midfielder that the Lions have had at their disposal in MLS and his contributions will be massive for Orlando in 2018 and beyond.