Orlando City is in full off-season mode now. The team has undoubtedly been scouting and looking at potential new signings, but now that the team has a head coach, there should be a clear vision in place. The waiver and re-entry drafts are over with and the free agency period is underway.
Because it is MLS, there are unique rules to how a player can be a free agent. Merely being out of contract does not qualify a player for free agency. Instead, for players to be eligible, they must be at least 28 years old and played in MLS for eight years. Teams can only sign a maximum of two out-of-contract players via free agency.
Who are the best free agents? Who should the Lions target? Below is a breakdown of the top targets who I think Orlando City should go after.
Previous Team: Toronto FC
It is likely Bradley will re-sign with Toronto. But right now he is a free agent and eligible to sign with any team. Just as Toronto is making it a priority to re-sign the Unites States captain, Orlando should also make it a priority to grab him. At 32 years old, he is a veteran but still has years left in the tank. He has 12 goals and 29 assists in 193 MLS regular-season games and another goal and assist in 18 playoff games. He will likely cost more money than the Lions will want to spend, but he has the ability to transform Orlando’s midfield into a playoff-caliber squad. The difficulty will be in signing him without making him a Designated Player.
Previous Team: Sporting Kansas City
The Hungarian did not have the best 2019 season, and that is likely why Sporting KC let him go. He can play either up top or as a winger and would take pressure off of Dom Dwyer if he were to join the Lions. The 30-year-old would add quality depth to the Lions’ attack with Dwyer, Tesho Akindele, Nani, Benji Michel, and Chris Mueller already on the roster. He could also complement Nani’s skills with excellent footwork and international experience.
Previous Team: LAFC
The Lions currently have just six defenders on their roster, and only Ruan is a natural right back. While Ruan was one of the best players for Orlando in 2019, Beitashour could provide some critical depth at the position and allow the Brazilian to get some rest. Beitashour was one of the best defenders for LAFC in 2019 and the Iranian international and California native has 247 regular season appearances, 16 playoff starts, five goals, and 36 assists.
Previous Team: Columbus Crew
Any MLS team benefits from having Higuain. The Argentine has been in the league since 2012 and has contributed 55 goals and 63 assists in 193 games. That averages out to contributing to two goals about every three games. At 35 years old, he does not have many playing years left in him, but he could give Oscar Pareja a year or two to help establish a culture in Orlando. The biggest downfall to Higuain is he suffered an ACL injury and had reconstruction surgery this past season.
There are many directions the team could go to help fill the roster for the 2020 season, but the team shouldn’t overlook the talent right here in MLS. There are still over two months before the season starts and it will be interesting to see which players are brought in to fill Orlando City’s needs.