Orlando City announced today that the club has signed 2021 first-round MLS SuperDraft selection Rio Hope-Gund to a one-year contract with club option years for 2022, 2023, and 2024. Hope-Gund was Orlando’s second pick in the first round (No. 19 overall) in January’s draft — just 11 spots below his Georgetown University teammate Derek Dodson. The center back will be added to the team’s Supplemental Roster.
“We’re excited to sign Rio after taking him in the 2021 MLS SuperDraft,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “We decided after the draft that it would be beneficial for him to return to Georgetown for the Hoyas’ spring season and he’s done well there, helping their defense to only allow five goals across their eight games played so far and starting in all of them. He’s a player that we were really happy to get this year, who has shown an ability to lead as team captain for Georgetown and we think now is the right time to bring him on board ahead of our 2021 MLS season.”
The 21-year-old native of New York City played four seasons at Georgetown, making 44 appearances (32 starts). He scored two goals and added two assists and helped the Hoyas keep 21 clean sheets across the 2018 and 2019 seasons and capped the latter season with an NCAA championship by helping Georgetown beat Daryl Dike’s Virginia Cavaliers. During his final season, Hope-Gund started all eight matches in which he played.
Hope-Gund won a high school state championship with Friends Seminary in 2016, scoring 43 goals in his four-year prep career.
The Lions picked up Hope-Gund’s draft slot via a trade with the Philadelphia Union for the Homegrown Player rights to Nathan Harriel. Here’s what Muzzi had to say about Hope-Gund on draft day:
“Hope-Gund was a guy that we rated high and we thought there was a chance he was going to get there to 19, but we thought it was a small chance. So, when we saw that he was available we were really happy with that. It’s a need that we tried to fill and we’re really happy with those two picks.”
What It Means for Orlando City
With the loss of Kamal Miller in the MLS Expansion Draft and after declining the option on Alex De John, the Lions were left with only three center backs on the roster. Orlando has an excellent starting central defense tandem in Robin Jansson and Antonio Carlos, and Rodrigo Schlegel is an experienced backup who has shown he’s capable when called upon (whether on defense or in goal), but there was a need to add some depth and Hope-Gund fits that bill.
The Georgetown product won’t be expected to step right in and play significant minutes immediately, but the Lions would like to develop him for the future. He has a fairly high ceiling, as shown in the 2019 NCAA Championship, when he did a solid job defending Dike.