Orlando City will take part in its seventh MLS SuperDraft Thursday afternoon as it prepares for the 2021 season. While the draft process will be similar to previous seasons, this one will be a bit different for the purple-clad Lions.
The Central Florida-based club is in a much different position than in previous years. The team had a solid 2020 season, advancing to the Eastern Conference semifinals and the starting lineup is still intact. Additionally, a trade from July provides an extra early pick that can be used to further improve the team’s depth.
A major difference between 2021 and previous drafts is how the team will be attacking the selection of players. In previous years, the team used the draft to make some significant changes. This was either a new style because a new coaching staff had taken over or a rebuilding of the roster. This year, the entire coaching staff is returning with the roster largely filled out and the style implemented.
Unlike previous seasons, the club is not necessarily looking for any new starters during the off-season. The Lions were able to re-sign or exercise the option of almost every key player on the team. The only player lost that they would’ve liked to have brought back was Kamal Miller, a reserve defender.
This is a good year to already have the starting lineup intact because Orlando City’s 2020 success means it won’t have a top 10 pick for only the second time. The team’s natural first-round selection is 22nd, but it will also have the 19th pick of the first round after a trade with the Philadelphia Union in July.
The only other year that the Lions selected later than 10th was in 2017, when the club only had a third-round selection. Orlando would’ve picked eighth that year but made a trade with Atlanta United for defender Donny Toia. The only selection the Lions did make that year was in the third round, which they used to select Danny Deakin.
While the Lions have late first-round picks, they have a pair of them. This should allow the club to select a pair of quality reserve players. Having lost Miller to the Expansion Draft, Orlando should be able to find a quality replacement that can play center back and outside back. The two picks could also be combined and used as trade bait should the technical staff want to try to move up a few spots to take a player still on the board.
The first pick for the Lions this year will be 19th overall, a pick they acquired from Philadelphia. The club took advantage of the quirky MLS territorial rule where Orlando City had Homegrown Player rights to Nathan Harriel, even though he never played in the club’s academy. The Union, who had brought him into their academy, wanted the player and gave the Lions a first-round pick for him.
This will only be the second time in seven years that the Lions have had two first-round selections. The first came in 2016 when the Lions picked Richie Laryea with the seventh overall pick. The club also made a draft-day trade with D.C. United so that it could select forward Hadji Barry with the 13th overall pick.
The 2021 MLS SuperDraft will be one of the most unique in Orlando City history. The team is in its best position ever, having already secured a quality starting lineup and only needing to fill in some reserve spots. Orlando will be in an advantageous position to do so as it has two first-round picks for only the second time in club history. It should make for a relatively relaxed draft for the club.