The official off-season is just a few days away. Orlando City and the rest of the league’s clubs will have the opportunity to pick up players whose options were declined by their former clubs, or who were out of contract via the Re-Entry Draft, Waiver Draft, and free agency. These mechanisms provide an option for clubs to fill needs cheaply with MLS veterans.
For the Lions, who have a lot of cap space already tied up, these options could be crucial to filling out the middle of the roster for 2019 and beyond. Here are three names Orlando City fans should be familiar with as the transfer period begins.
Last Club: Real Salt Lake.
2018 Salary: $233,666.67.
The Mexican-American forward will turn 30 on Dec. 10, but he showed this year that he still has plenty left in the tank. Silva began his MLS career in 2012 with Toronto before landing at D.C. United and Real Salt Lake. Tigres UANL briefly brought the striker in during its 2016 campaign, though he would only appear in CONCACAF Champions League action. He returned to RSL last year.
The biggest bonus Luis would bring to Orlando City is not only his scoring touch — he bagged five goals in just 810 minutes in 2018 — but his flexibility. Capable of leading the line, playing underneath another forward, or playing on the wing, Silva could fit in just about any formation James O’Connor could potentially think of and would bring a badly-needed scoring punch off the bench. On top of that, his defensive work rate is admirable and he’s also a threat from set pieces.
Silva qualifies for free agency, which means clubs can begin negotiating with him on Dec. 11. The free agent restrictions put a limit on just how big of a raise players can receive, meaning Silva will be a reasonably affordable addition even if multiple clubs are interested.
Last Club: Toronto FC.
2018 Salary: $221,312.70.
With Joe Bendik and Earl Edwards, Jr. not slated to return in 2019, Orlando City finds itself with only Adam Grinwis and Mason Stajduhar as keepers on its roster. Stajduhar still has yet to see game action and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Lions bring in two more keepers.
Irwin was the main man between the pipes for TFC during the 2016 season, anchoring the Reds’ defense all the way to the MLS Cup final. He lost his place the next season to upstart Alex Bono, however, and has made just 13 appearances over the past two years. Still just 29 years old, Clint has plenty of tread left on the tires if Orlando wants to upgrade on Bendik while not breaking the bank.
Irwin will be available in the Re-Entry Draft, where clubs will have the opportunity to take him on his 2019 contract if selected in Stage 1 on Dec. 14 or re-negotiate his contract if selected in Stage 2 on Dec. 20.
Last Club: New York City FC.
Position: Right back.
2018 Salary: $120,230.00.
NYCFC declined Adbul-Salaam’s option for 2019 but offered him a new deal, if only to keep his rights and not lose him for free. It could make things slightly trickier as Orlando would need to give something to its expansion counterparts to secure his rights. The Pigeons acquired him in a straight swap for Khiry Shelton last year.
The Ohio native has long been considered a borderline starting-caliber right back in the league, though Saad was stuck behind Anton Tinnerholm in New York. Just two years removed from being named Sporting Kansas City’s Defender of the Year, the 27-year-old could either provide a potential upgrade on RJ Allen or slide in as a cheap starting option for the Lions to replace Scott Sutter.
Abdul-Salaam could fit in as either a fullback or wingback depending on how O’Connor wants to assemble the back line. The defender is productive in the final third, providing a handful of assists every season in limited minutes.