Orlando City made the signing official of 27-year-old Peruvian international midfielder Wilder Cartagena this morning. Pending the receipt of his P-1 Visa and International Transfer Certificate, Cartagena will join the Lions on loan for the remainder of the 2022 season, with an option to extend the loan through the 2023 MLS season.
The defensive midfielder was previously with Al-Ittihad Kalba SC in the United Arab Emirates’ UAE Pro League. He will wear No. 16 with Orlando.
“Wilder is a player that brings valuable high-level experience to the table and will add strong defensive depth for us in the midfield,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “His time at various clubs around the world and on the international stage have given him a wealth of knowledge about the game and we’re excited to have him with us now in The City Beautiful.”
The Lima, Peru native has appeared in 238 competitive matches in his 10-year professional career, scoring seven goals and adding seven assists. The product of Alianza Lima in Peru was promoted to the first team in January of 2012. He transferred to Portuguese club Vitória Setúbal FC in 2014 but did not play during the 2014-2015 season before returning to Lima to play with Universidad San Martín, where he logged 100 appearances and scored three goals from 2015-2017.
Cartagena moved on to Tiburones Rojos de Veracruz in Mexico, playing 24 matches in 2018 before returning to Alianza Lima, where he made 30 appearances in 2019. He then spent 2020-2021 in Argentina with CD Godoy Cruz, where he scored three goals in 20 appearances before moving on to Al-Ittihad Kalba SC in July of 2021.
On the international stage, Cartagena has 18 caps with the Peruvian National Team, where he was teammates with Orlando City goalkeeper Pedro Gallese, making his debut on Sept. 5, 2017 in a World Cup qualifier against Ecuador. He has made appearances in the Copa America and the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
What It Means for Orlando City
Cartagena’s arrival will provide coverage in the defensive midfield after the recent departure of Sebas Mendez to LAFC. He’s got a wide variety of experience in various leagues all over the world, but has never spent more than two seasons with any team in his career. At 27, this is a journeyman player and at least the Lions don’t seem to have a big investment. This could be an extremely short rental through the end of the year. If things go well, he could find a home in Orlando for a couple of years.
It’s unlikely Cartagena, who will require an international slot, will be expected to unseat Cesar Araujo, who himself has been so good since his arrival that he made Mendez expendable. However, it might signal that Junior Urso’s role will remain on the wing, for the most part, for the remainder of the season.
With the transfer window closing soon, it looks like there may not be much more business done by the club in 2022. Considering what other teams have added and what the Lions have lacked, that’s probably not what fans want to hear. Unless there’s a surprise waiting around the corner, Oscar Pareja will have to cook with the groceries he’s been given while looking longingly at the jar of Gaston Gonzalez that broke in the bag on the way home from the store.
The current roster is flawed, but talented. Last Wednesday night’s U.S. Open Cup match showed how well things can go when everything is clicking perfectly. Sunday’s loss at D.C. United illustrated how frustrating this team can be...well, every time things are not clicking perfectly, which has been most of the time. This is a team that could miss the playoffs entirely or make a deep run, and far too much hope for the latter relies on the health of Mauricio Pereyra, who departed the field on Sunday with a knee too painful to run on any longer. It also requires that Alexandre Pato and Benji Michel start hitting the target or that Ercan Kara — the team’s leading goal scorer — can find his footing in Pareja’s new-look side.