After four years with Joe Bendik, Orlando City SC is set to have a new starting goalkeeper in 2019 as the 29-year-old shot stopper has been recently traded to Columbus Crew SC. The starting job is up for grabs and three candidates, at least for now, are set — the returning Adam Grinwis and Mason Stajduhar and new signing Greg Ranjitsingh.
According to The Mane Land sources, the Lions are not pursuing any other keepers in the transfer market after the addition of Ranjitsingh. The club’s plan is to start the 2019 Major League Soccer season with the three goalkeepers who are already part of the roster and to reassess the position later in the season.
That should lead to an exciting battle for the starting spot during the preseason, which is expected to start in late January. The three options available to head coach James O’Connor all have different profiles and they will each have enough time and opportunity to impress the manager. All lack significant top flight experience, however.
Between all three, Grinwis is the only one to have ever lined up for the Lions in MLS. The 26-year-old Michigan native joined Orlando City at the start of last season after several years playing in the United Soccer League for multiple clubs, but only managed to get his first minutes after a short loan to the USL’s Real Monarchs.
Grinwis was used by O’Connor in five of the last six matches of the season and had a decent performance, allowing six goals and registering one clean sheet. If he can build on the confidence he acquired in the final stint of 2018, he could be considered the front-runner to start the season between the posts for the Lions.
However, of all three, the most familiar with O’Connor is certainly Ranjitsingh. The 25-year-old Canadian spent the last four seasons of his career with the USL’s Louisville City FC, playing under O’Connor for three and half years. The trust he earned from O’Connor is probably his strongest argument for a starting spot.
Ranjitsingh, who also holds Trinidadian citizenship and has been called to the country’s national team in 2016, has played in 81 regular season matches for Louisville. While there, he recorded 33 shutouts, including two in the 2017 and 2018 title victories.
Despite being the youngest of the three, Stajduhar is the one who has been with the Lions the longest. The 21-year-old keeper is a product of the club’s academy and has been a part of Orlando City’s roster since 2015, when he signed as a Homegrown Player.
Stajduhar, however, is yet to make his professional debut. A player of the U-18 and U-20 U.S. national teams, he was diagnosed with bone cancer in Nov. 2017 and spent several months in treatment before he resumed full training this past June. By all accounts, he’s the dark horse to start the season but that could change.
Grinwis showed good promise in the limited minutes he had in 2018 and O’Connor apparently trusts Ranjitsingh, but the truth is that Orlando City is taking its chances with a group of goalkeepers that is not proven at the MLS level yet. The risk, however, is somewhat calculated as there’s an abundance of options available within and outside the league to right the ship if things don’t start well for the Lions.