Orlando City completed the signing of Silvester van der Water earlier this week, announcing that the 24-year-old had been inked to a three-year deal with a one-year option on Tuesday. At first glance, the deal is ordinary enough, although he doesn’t necessarily fill perhaps the biggest remaining need for Orlando City — another creative player in the middle of the pitch. However, there’s more to this deal than meets the eye, and the Dutch winger will likely be an important player for the club down the road.
As mentioned earlier, a big need for the club is a second creative central attacking midfielder. When Mauricio Pereyra missed time last season, the team simply didn’t look the same in attack. He’s pretty much the last person you want absent as there isn’t anyone else on the Orlando roster capable of doing what he does. Obviously quality no. 10s don’t grow on trees, so bringing in someone to back up Pereyra was always going to be tricky. The Lions also already have several good wingers in Chris Mueller, Nani, and Alexander Alvarado, with Benji Michel is also usually deployed as a forward/winger hybrid. At first glance it’s hard to see where van der Water fits in on the roster, but in actuality there should be more than enough room.
For starters, Nani is getting older. The captain is still producing at a high level for the Lions, but sooner or later his game will drop off. There’s also the likelihood that Mueller and Michel will spend time with the United States Men’s National Team at some point during the 2021 MLS season. Michel has already been named to the preliminary roster for the Olympic qualifying tournament, and while he hasn’t made his debut for the U.S. yet, his ability to play both out wide and through the middle makes him a good candidate to be included for a tournament when versatility is important.
For Mueller’s part, Gregg Berhalter has already gone on record that he will be rotating players in and out for the Gold Cup and Concacaf Nations League this summer, and with the Money Badger impressing so far with the USMNT, there’s a good chance he’ll be called up sooner or later. The issue of Mueller’s availability doesn’t end there either. If Cash has another season like he did in 2020, there’s a good chance that a team from Europe will come asking about his services, particularly with young Americans being a hot commodity these days. If Mueller has a strong domestic season and shows well during national team duty, then the odds of a suitor showing up for him rise even higher.
So, for this season, van der Water should be able to find a healthy number of minutes while he finds his footing in a new league (and could win a starting spot). But, what about the future? The nature of his contract offers up some hints in where Luiz Muzzi and Oscar Pareja see him fitting into the club’s plans. The Dutchman is a Lion for at least three years, and the club used Targeted Allocation Money to make sure the deal got done, which is worth noting. He’s also someone who has been on the team’s radar for awhile now, with Muzzi pouncing once the opportunity was right. The length of the deal suggests that Muzzi and Pareja may already be thinking about preparing for the eventual losses of Nani and Mueller, and as long as van der Water settles well, don’t be surprised if he starts to become a more central figure in a couple years time — again, if he doesn’t simply win a starting spot outright.
To be perfectly honest, my knee-jerk reaction was that I didn’t quite understand this deal when it was first announced. The depth at winger meant that I didn’t really see where the new guy would fit in. But with Nani’s age, Mueller’s rising star and the possible absences of the latter and Michel during the summer, I think he’ll do just fine in the short term. As far as the future is concerned, van der Water could end up being yet another very good piece of business from Muzzi.