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Orlando City Announces Roster Decisions Following 2021 MLS Season

Orlando City has announced its roster decisions on players following the 2021 MLS campaign.

MLS: Orlando City SC at Nashville SC Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City has announced its decisions on the status of all rostered players. The announcement includes exercising the options on 11 players and declining the options of seven. Another 10 players are currently under contract for 2022 (or beyond), and the Lions have extended bona fide offers to two others, while remaining in negotiations to bring back two others, including Designated Player Mauricio Pereyra.

The group of players already under guaranteed contracts for 2022 include forwards Alexander Alvarado and Silvester van der Water; midfielders Wilfredo Rivera and Júnior Urso; defenders Antonio Carlos, Michael Halliday, Robin Jansson, Kyle Smith, and Thomas Williams; and goalkeeper Pedro Gallese.

The club has exercised its contract options on forwards Tesho Akindele, Daryl Dike, and Benji Michel; midfielders Joey DeZart, Sebastián Méndez, and Andrés Perea; defenders João Moutinho, Ruan, and Rodrigo Schlegel; and goalkeepers Adam Grinwis and Mason Stajduhar.

“This year we saw our organization reach new heights and set even more club records, and we are committed to continue building so we can deliver even more next year that our fans can be proud of,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “While we begin the off-season process, which will include signing new players and negotiating with those out of contract, we want to also thank and wish the best of luck to those who are no longer continuing with our club for all they have given over their time as a Lion.”

As already announced, the Lions declined their club option on Designated Player and captain Nani. Joining Nani in not having their options exercised are forward Derek Dodson; midfielders David Loera, Raul Aguilera, and Jordan Bender; and defenders Emmanuel Mas and Rio Hope-Gund.

As for those out of contract, Orlando made bona fide offers to forward Alexandre Pato and winger Chris Mueller in order to maintain the club’s right of first refusal. However, Mueller is obviously off to Scotland to play for Hibernian. The Orlando City front office is in discussions with Pato and midfielders Uri Rosell and Pereyra — both also out of contract — about returning for next season.

Forward Matheus Aiás will remain on loan with Spanish side Real Oviedo until the end of the 2021-2022 La Liga season and that club has a purchase option.

What It Means for Orlando City

There aren’t too many surprises with today’s announcements. It is maybe surprising to see the Lions move on from a high draft pick like Derek Dodson so quickly, as well as Aguilera, who was one of the Homegrown Players who managed to get minutes with the first team this season. Mas provided good coverage for the oft-injured Moutinho, but was a pricey half-season rental and is an older fullback who struggled at times to keep up with faster wingers and forwards in 2021. Loera, Hope-Gund, and Bender may be able to get minutes with a USL Championship side next year and try to develop into MLS-ready players.

While we don’t have any details from the discussions with Pato, Rosell, and Pereyra, it’s likely that the club would like to bring them back for less money. Rosell has been surpassed in the central midfield by Mendez and makes a lot of money (a guaranteed $475,000 in 2021). Pereyra made $1.848 million in guaranteed money and occupied a Designated Player slot. While he would likely remain a DP, a more club-friendly deal with more emphasis on performance incentives might be more palatable to Orlando City given Pereyra’s injury history and age — he’ll turn 32 in March. Pato never truly showed what he could do, given his opening day injury that kept him sidelined until late in the season. The veteran striker made a guaranteed $272,727 in 2021 and likely didn’t trigger any incentive bonuses due to a lack of time on the field. Orlando would love to have a player of his quality if he can stay healthy.

As for Dike, it’s good that the Lions picked up his entry-level deal option. However, it would seem to be in the club’s best interest to negotiate a new contract befitting his production. Dike’s guaranteed salary was $128,750 in 2021 and he out-performed his contract. To avoid another unpleasant departure like Cyle Larin’s, the club should sell Dike this off-season or try to get him to commit to a new deal so that he doesn’t just end up leaving on a free transfer later or to prevent the souring of the relationship. Given the way Larin forced a transfer and last season’s awkward unwillingness to allow Mueller to leave for Scotland in the middle of the season, the club must become a bit more player friendly to its SuperDraft selections. Of course, the Lions are not required to pay Dike more than his rookie deal, but it’s the easiest path to goodwill and harmony with the player and to avoid the mistakes the previous front office staff made with Larin.

Post-2021 Orlando City Roster Status

(Current club players in italics)
  • Raul Aguilera, Jr. – Option Declined
  • Matheus Aiás – Under Contract (On Loan)
  • Tesho Akindele – Option Exercised
  • Alexander Alvarado – Under Contract
  • Jordan Bender – Option Declined
  • Antonio Carlos – Under Contract
  • Joey DeZart – Option Exercised
  • Daryl Dike – Option Exercised
  • Derek Dodson – Option Declined
  • Pedro Gallese – Under Contract
  • Adam Grinwis – Option Exercised
  • Michael Halliday – Under Contract
  • Rio Hope-Gund – Option Declined
  • Robin Jansson – Under Contract
  • David Loera – Option Declined
  • Emmanuel Mas – Option Declined
  • Sebastián Méndez – Option Exercised
  • Benji Michel – Option Exercised
  • João Moutinho – Option Exercised
  • Chris Mueller – Out of Contract (Bona Fide offer made)
  • Nani – Option Declined
  • Alexandre Pato – Out of Contract (in club discussions for 2022)
  • Andrés Perea – Option Exercised
  • Mauricio Pereyra – Out of Contract (Bona Fide Offer, in club discussions for 2022)
  • Wilfredo Rivera – Under Contract
  • Uri Rosell – Out of Contract (in club discussions for 2022)
  • Ruan – Option Exercised
  • Rodrigo Schlegel – Option Exercised
  • Kyle Smith – Under Contract
  • Mason Stajduhar – Option Exercised
  • Júnior Urso – Under Contract
  • Silvester van der Water – Under Contract
  • Thomas Williams – Under Contract