Orlando City is expected to have a quiet off-season in regard to transfers. The Lions exercised options for 12 players and only declined four after the end of the 2020 season. Head Coach Oscar Pareja and his side had a fantastic season and tying down the personnel responsible for the stellar year was more than sensible.
That said, there is still some work that needs to be done. While City has a very good first team, more acquisitions can and should be made in some of the secondary areas. The Lions should strengthen their depth and add more rotational players to the squad.
There are a number of positions that need to be strengthened, so let’s get right into those that could be seen as somewhat of a priority.
The most important position Pareja and his team have to figure out is at left back. With Joao Moutinho set to miss some of the season while recovering from surgery, the signing of another left back is essential. Obviously, there are many ways the slot can be filled, such as through the draft or a free agent signing, but the left back area is in dire need of reinforcement. It will be interesting to see how the club addresses this position.
Another department that could use depth on the back line is central defense. While Robin Jansson has just signed a new contract with the club and the future of Antonio Carlos is secured, Rodrigo Schlegel could use another next to him in the rotational role after the departure of Alex De John. It may be difficult to find someone to fill the role as fourth on the depth chart, but it is very important that the club does so. Unfortunately, injuries happen and it’s a long season. Michael Citro said it best when alluding to the fourth choice player in his positional breakdown of center backs.
“With Carlos, Jansson, and Schlegel returning, Orlando simply needs to find the right piece to slot into that fourth spot. It has to be someone who can get the job done if needed, but not someone who would demand a starter’s minutes. Expect Orlando City to make that depth center back spot a priority for the off-season.”
To move back between the sticks, Brian Rowe’s contract situation is not yet figured out. The goalkeeping conundrum is just behind left back on the list of deals that have to be calculated and done. Mason Stajduhar is the man who currently sits directly behind Pedro Gallese in the pecking order given Rowe’s contract expiration. Considering Stajduhar’s inexperience, that may not be the safest of bets at the moment.
Orlando City certainly has time to get the matter sorted, but the sooner the Rowe situation is determined, the better. Ideally, an experienced shot stopper would be right behind Gallese and that may be a tricky ask given the financial circumstances. Therefore, Orlando doing all it can to re-sign Rowe may be the most logical and safest course of action. But if nothing can be figured out, I think another signing has to be made. Second choice keepers often go unnoticed, but having a solid one is crucial, especially when the starter will depart to play for Peru in Copa America during the season.
Finally, to veer away from the back and move towards the attacking front, Orlando City could use a Plan B striker and a second choice attacking-midfielder. In the forward area, I believe Daryl Dike would be helped tremendously by the club signing an experienced number nine to teach him the trade of the position. While some may believe it could prevent valuable match time for the youngster, I think it would take an abundance of pressure off of him, keep his legs fresh, and allow him more time to grow as a player. A player could also be signed in the draft too.
In attacking midfield, finding another player who is an out-and-out creator like Mauricio Pereyra is hugely important. City has a number of players who can slot into the area (and all are better wide players), yet within the side there are few that come remotely close to the Uruguayan, creatively. It will be a tall task to find an artist anything like Pereyra in the off-season, however it would do the club and the current number 10 a world of good since it could be a draining season.
Other areas may be addressed as well, but those mentioned are the Lions’ priorities going into the 2021 season. The first team has a lot of quality at the moment, but it could still use some reinforcements through depth signings. Are there any areas you would like to see strengthened in the off-season? Leave a comment down below.