Orlando City SC has been one of the most active Major League Soccer franchises during the recent weeks of the off-season, with as many as 13 players leaving the club and six being signed. The revamp, which also included the front office, has affected pretty much every position of the roster, but the left back spot is the one to arguably look the most different when the 2019 season starts.
The Lions have shipped each of the four players who spent the most time at the spot over the 2018 season by losing Donny Toia to Real Salt Lake in the Re-Entry Draft and trading Mohamed El-Munir to the Los Angeles Football Club, Tony Rocha to New York City FC, and Victor ‘PC’ Giro to the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The club used the same financial strategy it has adopted to fill out other spots and took nearly $482,000 (considering 2018 salaries) off its salary cap to add just $270,000 with the signings of Joao Moutinho and Danilo Acosta — and of that amount, Moutinho’s $169,999.96 does not count against the senior roster due to the fact that he is a Generation Adidas player and Acosta will fall under MLS Homegrown Player rules.
Besides their inexpensive salaries, Moutinho and Acosta share another similarity — their profiles. The Portuguese and the Honduras natives will both be 21 when the season begins and, although they had promising youth careers, their first professional seasons were not what many expected. That means the Lions will have a lot of talent at the left back spot, but almost no certainty on what to expect from it.
A Lisbon, Portugal native, Moutinho was the first overall pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft but struggled to transition his bright college game to the professional level. He played in just 14 games (10 stars) with LAFC and lost his starting job before the first half of the season ended. Developed in the academy of Portuguese giants Sporting CP, the left back, who can also play as a center back, understands he needs to improve on a subpar first season as a professional.
“It was a year of ups and downs,” he said in an interview to Portuguese website Record. “I started the season pretty well, but I got a red card and had an injury after my return and it was hard to regain my best form. I didn’t play much at the end of the season and I’m glad to have another opportunity in Orlando. I hope I can be more consistent.”
In Acosta, who was born in Honduras but holds American citizenship, the Lions get a player with undeniable talent, but a few questions to answer. The defender has represented the U-20 U.S. Men’s National Team in the 2017 U-20 World Cup in South Korea, but holds an unimpressive record of 29 games (26 starts) in his three MLS seasons, recording just four assists.
As RLS Soapbox and The Salt Lake Tribune stated, most of Acosta’s issues were connected to his attitude and not to his technical skills. Hopefully a change of scenery can provide him the motivation to act more professionally.
To my @realsaltlake family, you have been nothing but supportive since day 1 of my profesional career. I am forever grateful for you all. Looking forward to starting my new chapter and give all I got for this club @OrlandoCitySC #FaceOfCity https://t.co/rX2FToyBLh— danny acosta (@dannyacosta117) December 28, 2018
First overall draft picks and youth internationals do not grow on trees and Orlando has managed to grab two really promising options at extremely affordable prices, saving a considerable chunk of cash along the way. However, with youth also comes uncertainty.
If the strategy developed by EVP of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi, Head Coach James O’Connor and Director of Scouting Ricardo Moreira will pay off, only time will tell. But one thing is certain — it will be a fun ride on the left side of the field for the Lions in 2019.