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Cristian Higuita: The Last Remaining Original MLS Lion

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The trade of Earl Edwards, Jr. to D.C. United means that there is only one remaining player from the 2015 Orlando City roster.

MLS: New England Revolution at Orlando City SC Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

Last Wednesday, backup goalkeeper Earl Edwards, Jr. was officially traded to D.C. United. The departure means that there is now only one player remaining from Orlando City’s inaugural MLS team in 2015.

Over the past few seasons, the reduction of members of the 2015 Orlando City team has been swift and quick. Following the 2015 season, 17 players remained, along with the coaching staff. But when Adrian Heath was replaced by Jason Kreis, those players began to vanish.

This is to be expected as Heath and Kreis had two very different styles. While Heath liked to use a 4-2-3-1 with the wingbacks pushing forward, Kreis has become well-known as a traditional coach, sticking with the 4-4-2 diamond midfield.

Between 2016 and 2017, Orlando City fans saw the departures of Tyler Turner, Harrison Heath, Luke Boden, Pedro Ribeiro, Darwin Ceren, Kevin Molino, Brek Shea, and Aurelien Collin. Five of those players took part in the club’s final USL Pro season in 2014 and two — Boden and Molino — had been with the club since its inaugural season in 2011.

The end of the 2017 season saw the departure of all but two of the remaining nine players from that 2015 squad. Seb Hines, Cyle Larin, Kaká, Carlos Rivas, Conor Donovan, Rafael Ramos, and Tommy Redding were either traded, their contracts were not renewed, or they retired.

Earl Edwards, Jr. was Orlando City’s third-round selection in its first MLS SuperDraft out of UCLA. During his four years in Orlando, he backed up three goalkeepers for the first team (Donovan Ricketts, Tally Hall, and Joe Bendik) before getting to start five games in 2018.

The departure of Edwards leaves one man from the 2015 Orlando City team, Cristian Higuita. Interestingly, the lone remainder from that team is the one Orlando City was luckiest to sign. He was a highly sought after youngster from Colombia, and Deportivo Cali had an agreement to send Higuita to Inter Milan before an injury caused the Italian giants to have second thoughts. This provided the Lions the opportunity to claim the hard-nosed defensive midfielder.

Despite being an on-and-off starter over the past couple of years, Higuita has quickly risen through the ranks in games played, games started, and minutes. His 97 overall appearances place him first in MLS club history and fourth in overall club history behind Boden (150 appearances), Molino (144 appearances), and Dennis Chin (103 appearances). His 80 starts and 6,922 minutes both rank him fifth in club history. Assuming he remains with the club through 2019, he will continue to climb the all-time lists.

With Edwards departing for D.C. last week, there is now only one remaining player from Orlando City’s inaugural MLS team of 2015. This is probably not surprising considering that the team has gotten worse and worse each season and has already experienced two coaching changes. What’s interesting is that the one remaining player was the least likely to initially join the team and could end up as the club’s longest-serving player — USL and MLS eras combined.