Orlando City kicks off its 2020 Major League Soccer season in just nine days. After a busy off-season that included a new coaching staff and a plethora of roster moves, the Lions have a roster that, on paper, looks to be competitive this season.
It will be the same goal for Orlando this season, as the team has had every MLS season — make the playoffs. Without seeing the team play in a competitive match it is difficult to know for sure, but this team looks to have the ability to get into the playoffs.
So, the question is: When the season starts, who will be the first choice XI for Orlando?
Pedro Gallese will be in goal. Brian Rowe might be pushing to play, but his role with the team is now likely limited to the U.S. Open Cup matches and a backup spot. The Peruvian should start in net.
Oscar Pareja likely will not throw any surprises with his back line. João Moutinho and Ruan should start at left and right fullback, respectively. Both players are dual threats who can defend well and give even more to the attack. Ruan is possibly the fastest player in the league, and Orlando fans were treated to his attacking play all last season. Moutinho is a young player who continues to improve. He was a bright spot in Orlando’s 3-1 win over KR Reykjavik, and it should be his spot to lose.
Robin Jansson and Antônio Carlos look like they will be the center back pairing. It will be interesting to see how the two do together after the Lions’ impressive defensive work last season. While it was not great by MLS standards, Orlando had one of its best seasons defensively since the Lions were in the United Soccer League.
There are many more options for Pareja in the midfield. He could give youngsters like Jordan Bender or David Loera a shot, or he could start Nani as an attacking midfielder. But the Colombian will need to get his best players on the field, and for that to happen, none of those three will be starting in the midfield.
Mauricio Pereyra and Sebas Méndez are both expected to start. Both of the South Americans can control the middle of the field and provide ample attacking options to the forward line. Uri Rosell could play as a defensive midfielder alongside Méndez, or Pareja could opt for a more attacking option with Júnior Urso or even Nani.
Nani is best suited on the wing, though. From out wide, he can draw defenders to him, which will free up players in the middle. He can also take players on and go at goal. Dom Dwyer seems the probable starter up front. Many fans were upset with him after his 2019 performance, but he is still the best forward on the team and should rebound in 2020.
The other wing is the most open spot at this point. Chris Mueller, Tesho Akindele, or even Robinho should see time out wide this season and could start next weekend.