Orlando City announced the signing of 2023 MLS SuperDraft pick Abdi Salim today. The center back agreed to a one-year deal, with club options for 2024, 2025, and 2026. The Lions chose the Syracuse product with their third pick of the first round and 17th overall selection.
“Abdi has impressed us so far this preseason and we’re really happy with the work ethic and professionalism that he’s shown us to this point,” Orlando City Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi said in a club press release. “We see certain raw qualities within his game that we think fit well with us here and we think he’ll really be able to develop those within our system and take himself to the next level.”
Salim has played in two of the Lions’ three preseason games, starting both and playing all 180 minutes. His debut was in a 2-0 win over Minnesota United and he played in a 3-1 win over FIU.
The Kenyan native’s family moved to Buffalo, NY as refugees when Salim was three years old. He started his collegiate career at Buffalo State, being named SUNYAC Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year. Following a year in his home city, Salim transferred to nearby Syracuse University.
The 6-foot-1 defender played in eight games (all starts) during his first season for the Orange, but missed his second season because of an injury. His breakout season was in 2022, when he made 22 appearances (19 starts) and recorded 1,735 minutes. He helped the Orange win the 2022 ACC Championship and NCAA national championship, taking a pair of shots against Indiana in the national championship game. However, he played every minute of the postseason.
What It Means for Orlando City
The signing of the center back adds depth to the position. Robin Jansson and Antonio Carlos return as starters and Rodrigo Schlegel might start, as the Lions have been playing with three center backs throughout this preseason. The only other center back on the roster prior to today’s signing of Salim was Homegrown product Thomas Williams, so another center back was needed if the team continues with its preseason formation.
Salim will probably be behind Williams off the bench, so he may not see many minutes in the 2023 season. Additionally, the team could play the versatile Kyle Smith in the position if the Lions are looking for more professional experience. However, the club sees Salim as a player that could help the team in the future.
It’s likely that Salim will spend some time with Orlando City B this season in MLS NEXT Pro. He’s still young and the club’s second team will provide valuable minutes in the team’s system for him to develop and mature as a player.
Orlando City now has two of its four 2023 MLS SuperDraft picks under contract as forward Shak Mohammed was a Generation Adidas signing.
The remaining draft pick in camp yet to be signed is forward Duncan McGuire. Orlando City also selected defender Luis Grassow in the second round, but the Kentucky product retired from soccer for personal reasons on Jan. 20.