In 2008, Major League Soccer created the Designated Player Rule, commonly called the Beckham Rule, allowing MLS clubs to sign up to three players over the maximum salary budget charge. Originally designed to allow the LA Galaxy to sign David Beckham, it’s now become a way for clubs to bring in top talent from around the globe.
Orlando City signed its first DP when the club inked former FIFA World Player of the Year Kaká to a three-year deal. He was the club’s second signing after Kevin Molino, who had been with the Lions since 2011. Since that historic signing in 2014, Orlando City has had 13 Designed Players.
In addition to the traditional Designated Player, clubs can also sign Young Designated Players. These signings are 23 or younger during the league year and carry a lower salary budget charge than older DPs. However, they still take up one of the team’s three DP spots on the roster.
Here’s how I rank the club’s Designated Players from worst to first.
13. Bryan Rochez, 2015-2016
Rochez was the second DP and first YDP signed by Orlando City, signing on Dec. 15, 2014 from Real Espana in Honduras. The Honduran international forward had scored 29 goals in 59 appearances for his previous club in Honduras’ top division, but that success didn’t translate to MLS. Rochez was outplayed in his first MLS season by the club’s first-ever draft pick, Cyle Larin. In total, he made 16 appearances for the first team with no starts and recorded three goals and no assists. His three goals came in consecutive games from Sept. 13-25, 2015, and two of them were game-winners as part of the Lions’ late, five-game winning streak that gave Orlando a playoff shot heading into Decision Day. He spent a lot of his time in Orlando with the club’s reserve side, OCB, making 10 appearances with the Young Lions. Orlando City loaned Rochez back to Real Espana on July 22, 2016 and he was waived on March 17, 2017.
12. Josue Colman, 2018-2019
Orlando City signed 19-year-old Paraguayan midfielder Colman on Jan. 15, 2018 as a YDP. The South American joined the club from Cerro Porteno in Paraguay’s top division. The club touted the young player as its new number 10, exciting the fanbase. However, it didn’t pan out for him or the club. In a year and a half in Orlando, Colman made 35 appearances with 13 starts and accumulated 1,405 minutes. He scored one goal, which deflected in off his back from a Scott Sutter shot, with six assists. His time in Orlando ended when he was loaned out on June 12, 2019. Following the 2020 season, which he spent with Cerro Porteno, Colman’s contract option was declined.
11. Matias Perez Garcia, 2016-2017
Perez Garcia joined Orlando City on Aug. 3, 2016 after three seasons with the San Jose Earthquakes. The 31-year-old midfielder spent a little less than a year with the club, but was a regular, playing in 28 games with 21 starts, and 1,854 minutes. He scored once and assisted four times in all competitions but was largely a disappointment given his DP status. It was a little easier to swallow with him staying on the books in San Jose’s DP slot in 2016 as part of the agreement between the teams. Perez Garcia was waived by the club on June 28, 2017.
10. Carlos Rivas, 2015-2017
Rivas’ time in Orlando makes fans wonder what could’ve been. The Colombian signed as a YDP with the club on Jan. 9, 2015 ahead of its inaugural MLS season. In three years with the Lions, Rivas was a regular, making 82 appearances, 45 starts, and playing 4,429 minutes. He scored 12 goals and added 14 assists. The forward would’ve made an excellent winger as he showed tremendous speed and crossing ability, but he was set on only playing forward, despite a large portion of his shots sailing well over the target. Orlando City traded Rivas to the New York Red Bulls on Jan. 3, 2018 in a deal that saw Sacha Kljestan arrive.
9. Giles Barnes, 2017
Barnes came to Orlando in a trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps on Feb. 25, 2017 that saw Brek Shea head west. The Jamaican international forward originally wasn’t a DP but took the spot vacated by Rochez when the club waived the Honduran to provide some salary cap flexibility. Barnes was only with the club for the 2017 season, making 35 appearances (regular season plus U.S. Open Cup) with 24 starts and playing 2,227 minutes. He scored four goals and had two assists but was unwanted when Jason Kreis was fired and James O’Connor took over. The club declined Barnes’ option following his only season in Orlando.
8. Sacha Kljestan, 2018
Orlando City acquired Kljestan, a U.S. Men’s National Team midfielder at the time, and $150,000 in Targeted Allocation Money on Jan. 3, 2018 from the New York Red Bulls for Rivas and Homegrown defender Tommy Redding. Kljestan brought a veteran presence to the midfield and wasn’t bad in his time in Orlando. He played in 60 games over two seasons, with 49 starts and 4,490 minutes. He scored nine goals and provided 12 assists in that time but was a part of the worst team in club history in 2018. The club let Kljestan go via free agency when his contract expired after the 2019 season.
7. Dom Dwyer, 2018-2020
On July 25, 2017, Orlando City brought one of the most popular players of the club’s USL era back to the City Beautiful. The Lions sent Sporting Kansas City $400,000 in General Allocation Money, $500,000 in Targeted Allocation Money, with up to $700,000 more in future Allocation Money tied to performance metrics, a record deal for the forward. Dwyer made a name for himself with the club in 2013 when he joined Orlando City on loan, scoring 17 goals in 15 games, including four goals in the 2013 USL Pro Championship win over the Charlotte Eagles. His performances helped the popularity of the and eventually its ascent to MLS.
Dwyer got off to a good start in 2017, scoring four goals and four assists in 12 games. Before the 2018 season, the club signed him to a new three-year deal, making him a DP. In 2018, he scored 13 goals in 26 games with no assists and seven goals in 27 games with four assists in 2019. In 2020, the forward only made two appearances before he was sidelined with a knee injury. The club decided not to renew his contract following that season and one of the most important players in Orlando City history left the club via free agency.
6. Ercan Kara, 2022
Orlando City signed Austrian forward Kara on Jan. 27, 2022. The former Rapid Vienna striker joined as a DP on a three-year contract with club options for 2025 and 2026. Kara was initially going to play right in front of Alexandre Pato before the latter suffered a season-ending injury. However, Kara was the team’s best striker last season, scoring 12 goals with three assists in 33 games in all competitions. The primary problem with Kara is that he needs good service to score and the Lions were unable to provide that service throughout much of the season. However, he’s only been on the team for one season so we’ll see where he ranks among DPs when his time in Orlando is over.
5. Yoshimar Yotun, 2017
Peruvian international midfielder Yotun joined Orlando City on Aug. 4, 2017 from Malmo FF in Sweden. Yotun immediately became the team’s primary playmaker, scoring six goals and providing 14 assists in 32 appearances. Yotun represented Peru in the 2018 FIFA World Cup and was an MLS All-Star the same season, but the club transferred the midfielder to Liga MX side Cruz Azul when an offer came in following the 2019 MLS season.
4. Facundo Torres, 2022
Orlando City signed 21-year-old Penarol winger Facundo Torres on Jan. 24, 2022, making him the club’s 12th all-time DP. The young midfielder quickly became a key part of the club’s success in 2022, scoring 13 goals and providing 12 assists in 40 appearances in all competitions. His biggest impact came in the U.S. Open Cup run when he recorded a goal and an assist in the semifinal and a brace with an assist in the final. Orlando City wants to keep Torres as long as possible, but the young player is reportedly receiving attention from big European clubs. If he stays, he could be one of the club’s best DPs so far.
3. Nani, 2019-2021
Portuguese international midfielder Nani joined Orlando City on Feb. 18, 2019. The signing of the former Manchester United player was questioned by many nationally but he soon proved to be an excellent addition. In four years with the club, Nani played 88 games with 73 starts, scoring 31 goals and recording 26 assists. As captain, he led the Lions to their first two MLS Cup playoff appearances in 2020 and 2021. The veteran had trouble staying on the field late in the 2021 season and the club declined to pick up his option at the end of the year.
2. Mauricio Pereyra, 2019-2022
Orlando City acquired Pereyra on July 30, 2019 while the midfielder was out of contract. Pereyra played in six games and recorded four assists in his first few months with the club but really made his presence felt the following season. Named club captain heading into the 2022 season, the Uruguayan has made 98 appearances with 88 starts in all competitions, scoring six goals and providing a club-record 35 assists. He signed a new two-year contract this off-season, but the club bought down his contract with Allocation Money so he’ll no longer take up a DP spot.
1. Kaká, 2015-2017
Kaká was the first DP signed by Orlando City on Sept. 9, 2014 and the second player signed to an MLS contract. The former FIFA World Player of the Year did well for the club, scoring 25 goals and recording 22 assists in 78 appearances, but his impact was just as great off the field. A friend of former marjority owner Flavio Augusto da Silva and former CEO Alex Leitao, Kaká helped bring attention to the club as the Lions made the jump from the country’s third division into the first division. Orlando City needed to draw people to the stadium for this somewhat unknown team and a big name like Kaká did that. He also knew his role as a club ambassador. On Feb. 9, 2015 following an open practice, he signed autographs for nearly two hours, ensuring everyone who wanted one got his signature. The impact he had, both on and off the field, is why he’s the top DP signed by the club so far.
Orlando City has signed 13 Designated Players dating back to 2014. Some of these signings have been successful but others have been disappointing. The club has done much better of late, with the last four DP signings being among the best. With a DP slot currently open and another that could be vacated if Torres is sold overseas, that’s a good sign moving forward as the Lions bring more high-priced talent into the area.
How do you view Orlando City’s Designated Player signings through the years? Let us know how you’d rank them in the comments below.