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2023 MLS Draft: Orlando City Selects Defender Abdi Salim at No. 17 Overall

Lions go defense with their third first-round pick in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft, selecting the Syracuse star.

2022 Division I Men’s Soccer Championship Photo by Andy Mead/ISI Photos/Getty Images

Orlando City closed out its three first-round draft selections in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft by selecting Syracuse defender Abdi Salim with the No. 17 overall pick. Salim becomes the second Syracuse defender drafted by the Lions, who took Kamal Miller in the second round in 2019. The Lions switched gears after drafting two attacking players to pick up some defensive help.

Salim appeared in 27 games in college, missing some time due to an injury he sustained his sophomore season. He made 22 appearances in 2022 (19 starts), logging 1,735 minutes. He did not score or assist on a goal his most recent year, and provided one goal during his collegiate career. He helped the Orange win the 2022 NCAA national championship, attempting two shots during the final against Indiana in a game that ended 2-2 and went to penalties.

A Kenyan refugee, Salim ans his family migrated to Buffalo, NY when he was just three years old. He began his collegiate career with Buffalo State, where he was named SUNYAC Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. After transferring to Syracuse, he injured his knee after playing in eight matches (all starts) his sophomore season. He took 2021 off with a medical redshirt before returning to help his team win a title in 2022. He started every match in the ACC tournament and College Cup on the way to the championship — the school’s first ever in men’s soccer.

What It Means for Orlando City

Orlando City needed some depth defensively at multiple positions and Salim is reportedly a guy who is versatile enough to play either inside or outside on the right side of the back line [Note: this is a correction, as the MLS broadcast gave out information that Salim was left-footed]. At 6-foot-1, he has decent size and can learn and develop behind veteran Antonio Carlos upon his arrival in Orlando.

I don’t believe Salim will require an international slot, given the length of time he’s been in this country.

While players taken late in the first round of the draft or lower are considered longer shots to make the first team, the Lions can develop Salim with some OCB appearances if need be, but with a strong preseason camp, he could stake a claim to get onto the team sheet for the MLS side.

Since Salim can play inside or outside, he can provide cover in two spots if he makes the team.