The 2018 FIFA World Cup’s first week is in the books and each national team competing in Russia has played at least once already. Some teams impressed positively while others frustrated their supporters and fans of the sport around the world as it happens in each edition of the event.
As any major international tournament, the World Cup is a great opportunity for clubs to look for new options to strengthen their rosters and Orlando City SC is no different. Even though players from the squads of international powerhouses like Germany, Brazil, Spain, France and Argentina are probably out of reach for an MLS club, interesting pieces can be found in some other low-profile teams.
Here are five national teams the Lions should keep an eye on:
The roster of the USMNT’s Concacaf rivals is pretty familiar to anyone who follows soccer closely in North America as several players are returning from a successful campaign in the 2014 World Cup and eight out of the 23 athletes either played or currently play for MLS clubs.
It’s a roster loaded with veterans and some of its biggest names, such as captain Bryan Ruiz (32) and forward Joel Campbell (25), will be out of contract when the World Cup is over. Other younger and less popular options include right back Ian Smith (20) and midfielder Yeltsin Tejeda (26), who play in Sweden and Switzerland, respectively.
In Africa, the teammates of Liverpool’s star Mo Salah are definitely the ones to follow. Egypt is not only an emerging nation in international soccer but it also has just six athletes playing for big teams in Europe, meaning several of them could be easily obtained and converted into useful pieces in the roster (yes, I’m looking at you, Amro Tarek!).
For the midfield positions, 29-year-old Tarek Hamed, who has over 100 matches for Egypt’s most successful team, Zamalek, and is nicknamed the “Major General,” could be a good option. If the goal is to strengthen the offense, a pair of 24-year-old forwards stand out — Kahraba, who scored 20 goals for Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad in the last two seasons, and Amr Warda, who netted eight for Greek’s first division Atromitos last season.
Another Concacaf rival and probably one even more familiar to North Americans, as six players of the Panamanian roster currently play for MLS clubs — the most in the entire tournament — and four others have done so in the past. For Costa Rica, there are several veterans in the squad, but also some young and affordable pieces.
Two of them are wingers Édgar Barcenas (24), who was on loan in the Mexican second division last season, and José Luis Rodríguez (19), who is a player of Belgian team, Gent. Left back Erick Davis (27), who plays in Slovakia, and forward Ismael Díaz (21), who was part of Spain’s Deportivo La Coruña’s B team in 2017-2018, are other options.
A good chunk of the players competing for most of the South American national teams are already playing for big clubs in Europe, but Peru is an exception. With the inside intel of Yoshimar Yotún, Orlando could get good value from some below-the-radar players from the Peruvian roster.
The most interesting young Peruvian player seems to be pacey winger Edinson Flores (24), who currently plays for Denmark’s AaB and scored nine goals in 29 matches with the national team. Alianza Lima’s center back, Miguel Araujo (23), and Melgar’s left back, Nilson Loyola (23), both play in their home country and could be acquired without much of a financial effort.
If the Lions were to look to Europe, Sweden would certainly be the place to go. Not many Swedish players are currently featuring in European top teams and Scandinavians have traditionally done well in MLS.
Orlando wouldn’t probably grab a star here, it would mostly be a utility player such as Seattle Sounders’ Gustav Svensson and the most suited options are apparently Marcus Rohdén, a 27-year-old versatile midfielder from Italian side Crotone, and 25-year-old forward Isaac Thelin, who currently plays in Belgium for Wassland-Beveren, where he scored 19 goals in 33 matches last season.