Following the 2018 MLS season, Orlando City purged its roster once again, getting rid of several players that played key roles in the team. Needing replacements in several positions, the MLS SuperDraft is one of the ways in which some of those spots can be filled.
Orlando City made three selections during the first and second rounds of the MLS SuperDraft on Friday, choosing forward Santiago Patino in the first round and defender Kamal Miller and midfielder Tommy Madden in the second round.
The Patino signing was an odd one considering the team recently picked up forward Tesho Akindele and still have Dom Dwyer and Stéfano Pinho on the roster. The club was clearly interested in Patino, having tried to sign him to a Homegrown deal prior to the draft, only to have the request declined as he had not fulfilled the attendance requirements to be considered Homegrown.
Drafting Miller fills a need as the club parted ways with center backs Jonathan Spector, Amro Tarek, and Chris Schuler earlier this off-season. Adding to the signing of Alex De John, who was announced the previous day, the club should nearly be set at the position for 2019.
The MLS SuperDraft is split into two days, with the first and second rounds taking place on Friday and the third and fourth rounds taking place this afternoon. It’s rather fitting that the draft is split like this as most first- and second-round selections get signed to the drafting team but third- and fourth-round selections often don’t. In fact, since Orlando City joined the league in 2015, only 28 selections of a possible 170 were signed to MLS contracts by the team that selected them. Most of these players ended up playing in the USL, with only a select few making multiple MLS appearances.
There were some exceptions that can provide hope. Orlando City drafted goalkeeper Earl Edwards, Jr. in the third round of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. While Edwards didn’t end up being a regular on the field, he was a solid backup for four years before departing the club this off-season.
The model of hope lies with forward Dominique Badji. Drafted in the fourth round of the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, Badji quickly became a regular with the Colorado Rapids, making 91 appearances and 70 starts over four years, while recording 6,266 minutes. The pick was solidified as a steal in 2017 when he played in 33 games, starting 29, and recorded nine goals and six assists in 2,540 minutes.
Stories like Badji’s are few and far between as the selections in the second half of the draft are much more likely not to be signed by the club. But for a team that has been spiraling downward since joining the league and is coming off the worst season in club history, there’s a much greater chance of finding a player that at least has a shot.
When it comes to who the Lions might choose come draft time, outside back and goalkeeper are still a need and the former might be worthy of a selection. It has been reported that the club is on the verge of signing Brazilian right back Ruan to replace Scott Sutter, but the Lions are still lacking on the left following the departure of Mohamed El-Munir and Donny Toia, although Danny Acosta and Joao Moutinho are young options. While they likely won’t find the answer this late in the draft, it might be worth picking a left back and seeing what he can do during the preseason.
As of right now, Orlando City has two selections it can make this afternoon. It will have the 11th pick of the third round (59th overall), and the 24th pick of the fourth round (96th overall). Unless a trade is made to add more selections, which is unlikely given the lack of success of late-round picks, this will be the club’s only draft movement on this day.
Given the recent poor record of finding usable talent in the latter rounds, it’s unlikely that we’ll see Orlando City draft a player today that will be on the team come March. Barring an unforeseen selection that results in a steal, which is unlikely, the remaining pieces will be filled through foreign transfers or league trades.