Orlando City CEO Alex Leitão has gone on the record saying that he does not believe the club’s transfer business is finished just yet. From the mouth of the man himself:
“I really loved the moves that Luiz and Óscar and his team made in the off-season and we’re not done yet. Everybody knows that. They still have a spot and I’m pretty sure they’re working hard on that spot.”
The team has used 29 of its 30 roster spots and while Oscar Pareja and Luiz Muzzi haven’t said anything about one last signing coming through the purple doors, there’s plenty of precedent for Leitão’s comments to be fulfilled. In recent years Orlando City has made a number of signings either just before the beginning of the season or after the season is already under way. So, let’s hop in the DeLorean, hit 88 mph, and have a look at some of those signings. For the purposes of this article I won’t be including any players who were signed during the summer window, so please keep that in mind.
Robin Jansson, 2019
Center back Robin Jansson was signed last year on March 12, after the team was already two games into the season. He was the last player that the Lions signed in that period, and while he wasn’t available for the team’s next game against the Montreal Impact on March 16, his debut came shortly after in a 1-0 road victory over the New York Red Bulls. As we’re all aware, the late move proved to be a very astute one, as Jansson formed half of a reliable center back pairing that the Lions had been sorely missing in 2018.
Chris Schuler, 2018
On March 2, 2018 the club signed Chris Schuler. The former free agent center back had spent time as a trialist with the Lions during preseason that year, and after the team traded away Jose Aja, Schuler was brought in to provide some more depth on the back line. Schuler didn’t play in the Lions’ first game that year, which was on March 3 against D.C. United, and he only made nine appearances for the team before being released at the end of the season, although he did score one goal.
Scott Sutter, 2017
Sutter joined the Lions on March 3, 2017 after a series of injuries to Rafael Ramos, Kevin Alston, and Tony Rocha highlighted the need for more depth at the position. Sutter made his debut on April 1 of that year, when he came on as a substitute in a 2-0 defeat on the road against the Columbus Crew courtesy of a Justin Meram brace. Sutter ended up being a big part of the Lions squad for the next two years, making 51 appearances for the team, scoring five goals, and providing six assists during his two years with the club, including a last-minute equalizer against the Philadelphia Union in 2018 that happened to be the first game I attended after my move to Florida. Ah, memories.
Moussa Sane & Danny Deakin, 2017
Sane and Deakin were actually signed a few hours after the club announced the signing of Sutter. While Deakin was a loanee from AS Dakar Sacré Sœur in Senegal, Deakin was the team’s sole draft pick from the 2017 MLS SuperDraft. Neither player made an appearance with the first team, and appeared only with Orlando City B.
Luis Gil, 2017
A transfer made much later than the others on this list, Luis Gil joined the Lions on April 5, 2017 on loan from Querétaro FC in Mexico. The midfielder was signed after the team had already played in three matches that year, with the most recent being the aforementioned road loss to the Crew. Gil made his debut in the team’s next game on April 9 against the New York Red Bulls, coming on as a substitute for Cristian Higuita and picking up a yellow card two minutes after stepping on the field. While Gil played 17 games for the Lions that year and started six, he only totaled 597 minutes on the season and was not brought back for the 2018 campaign.
I decided not to go farther back than 2017, but there’s certainly plenty of examples of players being signed fairly late in the day. It’s worth pointing out that all of these examples aside from Jansson came with a different coach and general manager at the helm, but there’s still a good deal of precedent to look to if you’re hoping for one last addition before the start of the season.