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Predicting Orlando City’s Starting XI Heading into Preseason

Who will start for James O’Connor’s Lions?

MLS: Orlando City SC at New England Revolution Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

The 2019 MLS season is quickly approaching and Orlando City is starting to prepare for preseason. While there likely will be a few more new faces brought into the squad, James O’Connor’s team is mostly intact.

After last year’s nightmare, there has been a plethora of changes, and there will be different players at just about every position. In fact, from the team that started the 2018 season, eight players are no longer with the club, including the entire coaching staff and GM.

It is highly probable that the entire system will also different from a year ago, also. O’Connor is likely to go with a 3-4-3 lineup, as was on display when he was at Louisville City and at times last season.

Adam Grinwis should be in goal. There will be an open battle to start the year, but Grinwis’ strong performances last season earned him the starting nod as he went from the third choice to number one. I am sure the entire MLS would love to see Mason Stajduhar as the starting ‘keeper. If the Homegrown Player can win the starting job, he would undoubtedly be in the running for MLS Comeback Player of the Year after his battle with cancer kept him out in 2018.

There is not much competition on the back line. Unless something completely unforeseen occurs, Lamine Sané, Carlos Ascues, and Shane O’Neill will be the three in the back when preseason games begin, though new signing Alex De John could be in the mix.

The positional battle is much more open in the midfield. Will Johnson filled in at right back last year when Scott Sutter was out and did a solid job. Moving up to wing back will allow him some more attacking freedom, and he should do even better than the more defensive role.

Both Danilo Acosta and Joao Moutinho are options on the left side. Heading into preseason it is an open battle, but the ever-so-slight edge goes to Moutinho. Sacha Kljestan is not going anywhere and will be a focal point in Orlando’s midfield in 2019. If the correct players are around the 33-year-old, then he is one of the best midfielders in the league. Kljestan has shown this in his time in New York.

Uri Rosell and Cristian Higuita can both play the other midfield spot. Throughout the year expect there to be lots of movement here. Sebas Méndez should also be a rotation player in the middle of the field.

Dom Dwyer is going to remain up top. After a successful rookie season, Chris Mueller should be starting on the right wing, as well. Tesho Akindele is the most suited player for the left wing role. Hopefully, Josué Colmán can step up and win the starting spot, as the Paraguayan has the highest ceiling on the team.

Things can, and will, change between now and March 2, but this is my projection for the start of preseason. Can Orlando City get its second rebuild in as many years correct? We will have to wait and see to know for sure, but it looks like the club is on the right track.