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Orlando City’s Summer Signings are Proving Their Value

Orlando’s new faces are proving to be smart signings at a time when the team really needed some.

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Orlando City SC Nathan Ray Seebeck-USA TODAY Sports

Orlando City needed reinforcements during the summer window. Silvester van der Water and Sebas Mendez were both transferred, which left the Lions with positions that needed to be filled. Even before their departures though, the team had some depth and firepower issues at winger and defensive midfield, and a summer schedule that was packed to the brim with games was beginning to take its toll. Help arrived in the form of three players — striker/winger Nicholas Gioacchini, winger Ivan Angulo, and defensive midfielder Wilder Cartagena. Their arrivals have helped provide a spark for an Orlando team that was beginning to sputter, and I’d like to take a look at the impact they’ve provided.

Let’s start with perhaps the easiest one of the three to break down — Ivan Angulo. Winger, specifically left wing, has been perhaps the most troubling position for Orlando City this year. Benji Michel, Jake Mulraney, and van der Water all played in that role with varying degrees of success, but at the end of the day, none of them were the consistent threat that OCSC needed out left. That allowed teams to focus on stopping Mauricio Pereyra and Facundo Torres, which severely hampered the Lions on the offensive end of the field. Enter, Angulo.

There was initially some concern among parts of the Orlando City fanbase when Angulo’s signing was announced, and I was one of the people who harbored some doubts about the acquisition. His four goals and five assists across 65 appearances prior to joining the Lions didn’t set pulses racing, and it was unclear how much he would be able to aid a largely struggling corps of wingers.

I’m happy to have been proven wrong. In his six MLS appearances Angulo has three assists across 343 minutes, but more than that, he’s just oozed danger. He’s got great speed and isn’t afraid to take on his defender 1-v-1, and since he likes to stay a bit wider, it helps open up more space in the middle of the field. He’s looked better with every passing game, culminating in a stellar performance in the 4-0 demolition of Toronto FC in which he led the team in both passing accuracy and shots, had a primary and secondary assist, and absolutely ran his butt off all night long. He has locked down the starting job on the left wing and with good reason.

Then, there’s Cartagena. The defensive midfielder arrived as cover for Cesar Araujo and has proven to be a solid backup in recent games as Araujo has been absent with an illness. He’s got a lot of experience and it’s beginning to show. He tends to look calm and composed on the ball, isn’t afraid of putting a strong tackle in, and has a deceptively good range of passing. His best performance to date also came in the Toronto game, and he’s started to look more comfortable as he’s gotten some more minutes in his legs. He isn’t at Araujo’s level, but he isn’t supposed to be. He’s still a very effective player, and he offers the team more going forward than Mendez, the man who he replaced.

Finally, there’s Gioacchini. The United States Men’s National Team prospect is the most familiar of three signings because of his links to the national team, and while he hasn’t made as big of an impact as the latter two, by no means has he been bad. Niko has only played 134 minutes across six matches, whereas Cartagena and Angulo have both logged over 300, so he simply hasn’t had as much opportunity to contribute. With that being said, when he’s been on the field he’s looked lively and hasn’t been afraid to get involved going forward. His best moment came against the Seattle Sounders, when he did very well to cut back inside the box and draw a penalty. He’s definitely shown some promising things out there, and will be an interesting player to watch moving forward.

Signing players midseason is rarely an easy affair. New faces have to come in and adapt to the team, tactics, and style of play on the fly, all while potentially adjusting to a new country and an unfamiliar language, and uprooting their personal lives. They also might be short of match fitness, which adds another wrinkle to integrating them into the team. Despite those challenges, OCSC’s new bodies are proving themselves to be smart acquisitions, albeit in a fairly small sample size. Time will tell if they pan out over the longer term, but for now they have been exactly what this team needs.