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Orlando City Could Use Another Fullback

The Lions’ roster is pretty well-rounded aside from a lack of depth at fullback.

SOCCER: JUL 30 MLS - Atlanta United FC at Orlando City SC Photo by Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

After the recent signings of Facundo Torres and Ercan Kara this off-season and the subsequent closure of the European transfer window, Orlando City’s roster is fairly complete on paper. It isn’t quite there though, and there are a couple more signings that I would like to see before giving the roster my (pretty meaningless) seal of approval. One of those is another attacking midfielder that plays through the center of the field. I will say that my hopes aren’t too high on that happening, and if it doesn’t I won’t be super upset about it. The other one I would like to see is in an area that I think is much more important, and that is fullback.

Orlando has sufficient depth across the board in almost every position. Striker is currently three deep and could be four if draft pick Jack Lynn is signed to a contract. Defensive midfielder is five deep, goalkeeper is three, center back is three (four if Nathan Dossantos is signed), and the team now has more bodies at winger after the signing of Torres. Another playmaking midfielder would be nice, but those don’t exactly grow on trees. There are only four fullbacks on the roster though, with Ruan, Joao Moutinho, Kyle Smith and Michael Halliday occupying the position for OCSC.

It’s not a paltry number, with the team having one starter and one backup but the position looks a bit thin in Orlando’s case. For one thing, both Joao Moutinho and Ruan have struggled with injuries in the past. They’ve both been so fragile during their time in Orlando that I’m praying simply writing about it doesn’t call down the vengeful thunder of the “lower body injury.” Kyle Smith is as dependable as ever and was a revelation during the first third or so of the 2021 season. Michael Halliday, meanwhile, just needs more game time. He played in six matches for a total of 383 minutes last year and while he never looked bad, he’s still very much growing to reach the MLS level.

The other thing with OCSC’s fullbacks is how much they’re asked to do. When starting, both Ruan and Moutinho are asked to get forward in the attack regularly, and log a large number of miles on their legs. Even if they didn’t have struggles with durability, the amount of running the two are asked to do would still take a toll on them. We saw that with Kyle Smith around a month into the summer last year. Smith was excellent and played every single minute until Emmanuel Mas was signed, but his level of play started to drop off as the miles accumulated on his legs.

The Lions actually went into the 2021 season with the same number of fullbacks as this year, although it wasn’t really the club’s fault. Jonathan Suarez was signed a year ago yesterday but following an arrest and allegations of sexual assault his contract was terminated, leaving Orlando with four fullbacks going into the beginning of the season. Following a rocky start to the season injury-wise for Ruan and Moutinho, the team signed Mas during the summer transfer window to help provide some additional depth.

In a perfect world, another mid-season signing won’t be needed. but the path to adding a player isn’t quite so easy now that the European transfer window is closed. There are still South American leagues that have transfer windows open and the Lions could make a trade for someone within MLS or even sign a player currently without a club. Will it end up happening? I hope it does as the Lions could use just a little more depth in that area.