As the 2016 MLS season edges closer, we’ll be publishing each team’s MLS 2016 Season Preview. Today we take a look at what Orlando City will be hoping to achieve in their second season.
Orlando City will have undoubtedly enjoyed their first season in MLS last year, as they provided entertainment and drama throughout. They will obviously be disappointed not to have made the playoffs, but that should spur them on to go one better than their seventh place finish last season. Adrian Heath has made more changes to the squad this offseason and will hope that the whole club will improve following the experiences of their inaugural campaign in Major League Soccer. The challenge this time around will be to start much better, as the Lions only won one of their first five games in MLS a year ago. But having ended 2015 with five wins from six, there is reason for optimism in Florida. Huge wins over LA Galaxy (4-0), Columbus Crew (5-2) and the Red Bulls (5-2) proved they can cope with the biggest clubs in MLS and so they could be dark horses for success in 2016.
Last season’s finish:
Eastern Conference – Position: 7th – P34 – W12 – D8 – L14
What needs to change this year?
The Lions must try and shore up defensively. They conceded 56 goals – the second highest amount of in MLS – last term and need to work on shutting teams out more regularly, having kept just seven clean sheets in 34 games. They could also benefit massively from improving their home form. The Citrus Bowl became one of the loudest stadiums in MLS last year but the players let their fans down too many times on home soil. Orlando had the fifth-worst home record in MLS in 2015 and need to try and make the Citrus Bowl more of a fortress this season.
Key changes to squad:
Ins: Joe Bendik – Goalkeeper, Richmond Laryea – Midfielder, Hadji Barry – Forward, Devron Garcia – Midfielder & Antonio Nocerino – Midfielder
Outs: Tally Hall – Goalkeeper, Corey Ashe – Defender, Eric Avila – Midfielder, Lewis Neal – Midfielder, Estrella – Midfielder & Danny Mwanga – Forward
Kaka – Midfielder – It’s impossible to look at anyone else as the key player for Orlando. Kaka is the captain and the most influential man in the team. He ended 2015 with nine goals and seven assists in 28 games and will expect to build on those numbers this time around. He is 33 years old now but still has the quality to create a chance from anywhere on the field. Orlando need Kaka to be at his best if they are to challenge high up the Eastern Conference this year.
One to Watch:
Devron Garcia – Midfielder – The 20-year-old Honduran international is one of six players to have been signed this offseason but is certainly one with plenty of scope for success. Garcia joins Orlando from Honduran side CD Vitoria, where he scored three goals in 39 matches, but it’s his contributions on the defensive side of the ball that really count. He thrives in the defensive midfield role and will hope to force his way into the first-team lineup quickly, despite competition for places in that area of the Lions squad. He has already represented Honduras at U17 and U20 levels and will be hoping to make an impression in 2016.
Eastern Conference – 7th – The 2016 season should be another exciting one for Orlando City and it would be a shock if they were to go backwards in their second campaign. We’ve predicted they will end the season in seventh place once again, but they have the potential to finish higher and will be expecting to make the playoffs. The Eastern Conference is set to be even more competitive this year and it will be fascinating to see how Orlando City perform in their second campaign. If Cyle Larin can repeat his fine season, and that’s a big ‘if’, they should do very well, while the addition of Antonio Nocerino is one that could prove to be an extremely good piece of business.
What are you expecting from Orlando City in 2016?