Orlando City has officially announced the signing of 21-year-old USMNT forward Nicholas Gioacchini. As originally reported by Tom Bogert of mlssoccer.com, the Lions have added the 2021 CONCACAF Gold Cup champion from Caen in France’s Ligue 2. The young forward joins the club on a two-and-a-half-year deal that will run through the end of the 2024 season, with a club option year for 2025. The timing of his availability will depend on receipt of his International Transfer Certificate, but he’s already in Orlando and will wear No. 20 for the club.
The club confirmed it was a free transfer, no Targeted Allocation Money was used, and Caen will retain an undisclosed percentage of a future transfer fee.
“Niko is an exciting young player that has a great ability to break lines and has a keen eye for goal,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “He’s begun to work his way into the national team pool already and we look forward to him furthering his young career with us here in Orlando.”
“[Orlando is] a place where I felt at home,” Gioacchini said in Orlando City’s release. “A club with a history of being very family-like and the fans…The fans, the stadium, it’s a place where there’s a lot of energy and that’s for sure a part of the reason I decided to come. [Playing in MLS is] one of the parts I’m most excited about. Coming home, that feeling of coming back to my home country and getting the experience to play against the rising MLS and being a part of it. That’s a great feeling.”
Gioacchini had been with Ligue 2 club Caen since 2019, although he was on loan at Montpellier in Ligue 1 last season. Gioacchini has made eight appearances for the senior side, scoring three goals and adding two assists.
The forward and his family moved to France when he was just 15 years old. He joined Paris FC in 2015 and was in the team’s youth academy until 2017, when he appeared in six games during the 2017-2018 season with Paris FC B, scoring twice. He played in 22 matches with Caen B in 2018-2019, scoring seven times, and then followed that up with 49 appearances with Caen’s senior side from 2019 to 2021 scoring six goals. Gioacchini went on loan to Montpellier B for a brief spell during the 2021-2022 season, scoring four goals in just three games. He was loaned to Montpellier’s senior side the remainder of the season, failing to score in 28 appearances. He came off the bench 25 times in those 28 matches and contributed three assists.
What It Means for Orlando City
Set to turn 22 in a few days, Gioacchini is a young player with room to grow, and this transfer is a low-risk, high-reward move by Luiz Muzzi and company. Additionally, as a Kansas City native, he won’t require a work visa before being eligible to play, and he also won’t require an international roster slot. He should be someone who can come in and contribute much sooner rather than later, and he fits the club’s current profile of acquiring younger players instead of signing experienced 30-somethings. Orlando City will provide a place where Gioacchini can get top flight minutes, regular playing time, and reinvigorate his young career.
Position-wise, he can play up top or on the wing — an area where Orlando City desperately needs some help. Benji Michel and Jake Mulraney haven’t been producing or even taking much focus away from Facundo Torres’ side of the field this year. If utilized on the wing with the line-breaking skills Muzzi discussed above, he could take some of the pressure off of Mauricio Pereyra and Torres, bringing more balance to the attack. The big question will be where he is most comfortable playing. Just because he can play winger doesn’t mean he sees himself as a winger, but there’s a very good chance Oscar Pareja and Luiz Muzzi will want to use him there and certainly wherever the club is planning to use him has already been discussed prior to inking this deal.
The striker position is pretty well stocked with Ercan Kara, Alexandre Pato, and Tesho Akindele, although with Pato and Tesho’s numbers not being the best this year, it wouldn’t be shocking to see the young American get some spot starts up top as well. Some recent reports and rumors from overseas suggest that Pato’s time in Orlando could be coming to an end, so Gioacchini could fill multiple needs with his versatility.
The best case scenario is that he comes in, nails down the starting job on the wing opposite Torres, and provides the offensive boost that Orlando City has been badly missing in recent weeks. At worst, he’s a cheap acquisition who simply doesn’t work out and Gaston Gonzalez takes over the starting job next year as originally intended.
Either way, on the surface this is a sensible move with the potential to become a great piece of business for both Gioacchini and Orlando City.
Here is a look at what he can do from his 2020 Caen campaign.