MLS 2015 Season Preview: Orlando City SC

As the 2015 season draws closer, we’ll have a new MLS 2015 Season Preview up everyday. Today we take a look at what Orlando City SC will be hoping to achieve in their first-ever season…

The arrival of Orlando City SC into Major League Soccer is fast approaching and we are excited to see what they have to offer. Expectations to perform will be high, but with Kaka leading the team they stand a strong chance of finishing at the top end of the Eastern Conference in their inaugural season. As it is their first ever campaign people will question how much they can achieve, but their introduction to MLS is exciting and we are looking forward to seeing how it all unfolds.

Last season’s finish: N/A (Inaugural Season)

Orlando City players huddle up in preseason action (Photo: http://www.orlandocitysc.com/)

Orlando City players huddle up in preseason action (Photo: http://www.orlandocitysc.com/)

What to expect this year:

Seeing as it is their initial season we obviously cannot compare previous campaigns, but with the players they have bought in there are high expectations. With big signings Orlando have to reach the playoffs and much comparison will be made between them and fellow expansion franchise, New York City FC. With Kaka at the heart of the midfield we can expect classy counter-attacking play led by a calm experienced head. Aurelien Collin will play a major part into how they perform defensively and his MLS experience is vital. Bryan Rochez has been brought in as a Designated Player up top and he will be expected to score the goals that fire Orlando to success this year.

Key changes to the squad:

As it is their first season the squad building at Orlando was vast. Their key additions are:

Ins: Kaka – Midfielder (Designated Player), Bryan Rochez – Forward (Designated Player), Aurelien Collin – Defender, Brek Shea – Midfielder, Donovan Ricketts – Goalkeeper, Amobi Okugo – Defender

Outs: N/A 

Key player: Kaka – Midfielder

Kaka Orlando City SC

There isn’t much to say about former Ballon d’Or winner that already hasn’t been said. He will play a pivotal role in Orlando’s first season and his experience in the squad is unparalleled. Playing at the top level and wrapping up European honours such as the Champions League, La Liga and Serie A mean he is the star. The 2002 World Cup winner will take the pressure for the Lions’ performances on the field and will improve the players around him. The rest of the Orlando squad can learn so much from Kaka and the number 10 will need to be at his brilliant best to set examples and keep his side composed. The 32 year old is a natural finisher and will show why he is regarded so highly by driving the side on with his midfield surges and range of passing. Kaka has always been a pleasure to watch and don’t expect that to change in MLS.

One to watch: Bryan Rochez – Forward

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The Honduran forward has an impressive goals-to-games ratio for former club Real Espana with 30 in 62 and he could be a dark horse for the Golden Boot this season. He has showed in glimpses what he is about in Orlando’s preseason campaign and will need to prove he is worthy of the DP tag Orlando have given him. The 20-year-old striker will enjoy working with Kaka and the service he should receive gives him a good chance of continuing his impressive scoring record.

Predicted finish: Eastern Conference – 2nd

Orlando should have a strong first season and we are expecting big things from them. With the squad they have we can expect them to put up a good challenge against everyone they face. The team is strong throughout with experienced defenders, and creative midfielders and Adrian Heath has one of Major League Soccer’s strongest team’s on paper. With Kaka at the heart of it all we are just counting down the days until kick off now.

How will Orlando do in their first-ever MLS season?

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Predicted Orlando City starting XI if the league began today

Orlando City SC now have the core of their squad together ahead of their first ever season as a Major League Soccer franchise after the MLS Expansion Draft helped them to add numbers.

The Lions now have 20 players to choose from and although more will be added before they kick off in March, we now have a good idea about what the team will look like.

Don’t miss: Predicted New York City starting XI if the league began today

With the current roster, it is likely that head coach Adrian Heath would play a 4-2-3-1 formation to accommodate the high number of midfielders in the squad.

Goalkeeper: Donovan Ricketts

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The Jamaican shot-stopper was selected with the first overall pick of the Expansion Draft and will start the season in goal for Orlando. Tally Hall will battle for a starting job when he returns from injury but Ricketts has the job nailed down for now. He played 32 times for the Portland Timbers last year and is a solid goalkeeper.

Right-back: Tyler Turner

18-year-old right-back Tyler Turner could be set to start the season for Orlando as the club don’t have a more experienced player to fill in on the right side of defence. Turner likes to attack down the flanks and that could be something Heath wants to see from his team. Will be good to see a young player like Turner given a chance.

Centre-back: Aurelien Collin

Aurelien Collin is a vastly experienced central defender and a great signing for Orlando City. He has spent the last four seasons with Sporting Kansas City and brings a wealth of crucial experience to the backline. Collin played 26 times last season and will expect to see more game time than that in 2015.

Centre-back: Heath Pearce

Heath Pearce is another experienced MLS defender. The 2015 season will be his eighth in the league and he will look to form a solid partnership with Collin at the heart of the Orlando defence. Pearce played 23 games for Montreal last season.

Left-back: Luke Boden

English left-back Luke Boden will likely start the season as the teams left-back. He has been with Orlando City since 2011 and made the USL Pro Team of the Season in 2014. The Lions have been linked with Ashley Cole but that move is unlikely at this point and Boden will hope to prove his worth if given a starting job.

Defensive-midfield: Amobi Okugo

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Amobi Okugo was acquired in a trade with the Philadelphia Union and he will look forward to being a regular in the Orlando lineup next season. At just 23, he has a bright future ahead of him. He has played 32 times in the past two seasons for the Union and will look to replicate that in 2015.

Defensive-midfield: Estrella

Estrella is just 19-years-old but he has the chance to become an integral part of a youthful looking squad with the Lions. He joined Orlando City last July and scored one goal in five games in their USL Pro campaign. Could be one to shine.

Right-midfield: Kevin Molino

Kevin Molino has been with Orlando City since 2011 and has made over 80 appearances for the club in that time. He has plenty of experience and will be looking forward to playing in Major League Soccer. At just 24, he has time to develop as a player and has the perfect platform to do so.

Left-midfield: Tony Cascio

It’s difficult to assess exactly who will start on the left side of midfield for Orlando City but at this stage, Tony Cascio looks the most likely option. The 24-year-old was selected with Orlando’s second pick in the Expansion Draft and will hope to nail down a regular berth in the team after only appearing six times for the Houston Dynamo last term.

Attacking-midfield: Kaka

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The star. Kaka will need to be the key man in this team every time he steps onto the field. The Brazilian playmaker is set to experience Major League Soccer for the first time and will hope to hit the ground running with so much expected of the first, and only current designated player signing.

Forward: Jairo Arrieta

Unless a star striker is signed, Jairo Arrieta is expected to be the man to score the goals in the Orlando team. He was selected in the sixth round of the Expansion Draft after netting five times in 23 appearances for the Columbus Crew in 2014.

Trade crazy! All the MLS trades from a busy window on Monday

Major League Soccer clubs across the country have been busy acquiring players today. The half-day trade window gave MLS teams four hours to trade players for the first time this offseason. Clubs could also re-sign their own players.

11 players were on the move on Monday as 10 different clubs were involved with some form of trade in the final opportunity to reshuffle squad’s before Wednesday’s MLS Expansion Draft.

The Expansion Draft gets underway at 19:00 (UK time) on Wednesday and the offseason trade window will reopen after the draft ends.

Here are all today’s trades in what has been a busy day:

Michael Harrington: Portland Timbers – Colorado Rapids

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The Colorado Rapids acquired defender Michael Harrington from the Portland Timbers in exchange for allocation money. The 28-year-old made 25 appearances for the Timbers last season and should shore up a leaky Colorado defence that conceded more goals than anyone else in 2014.

Nat Borchers: Real Salt Lake – Portland Timbers

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The Timbers quickly replaced Harrington by bringing in Nat Borchers from Western Conference rivals Real Salt Lake for allocation money. The 33-year-old centre-back was with RSL since 2008 and started 32 games last season. Borchers was one of five players the Timbers signed on Monday.

Josh Williams: Columbus Crew – New York City FC

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New York City have bulked up their defence with the addition of Josh Williams from Columbus Crew in exchange for allocations funds. Williams, 26, made 14 appearances for the Crew this season.

Andrew Driver – Joe Willis/Samuel Inkoom: Houston Dynamo – DC United

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English winger Andrew Driver joined Eastern Conference winners DC United from Houston Dynamo in exchange for Joe Willis and Samuel Inkoom. The Dynamo have bolstered their defence by bringing in goalkeeper Willis and right-back Inkoom while DC have added another attacking option in Driver.

Amobi Okugo:  Philadelphia Union – Orlando City SC

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Orlando City brought in three players on Monday. Amobi Okugo was the first as the 23-year-old holding midfielder joined from Philadelphia Union in exchange for allocation money and a 2016 2nd Round SuperDraft pick. Okugo made 32 appearances for the Union in 2014, scoring and assisting two goals.

Aurelien Collin: Sporting Kansas City – Orlando City SC

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Orlando’s second pick-up was Aurelien Collin. The dominant centre-back will undoubtedly give the Lions a solid defensive leader. He joins Orlando in exchange for allocation money and future considerations. Collin, MLS Cup MVP from 2013, made 26 appearances for Sporting Kansas City in 2014, scoring twice.

Tally Hall: Houston Dynamo – Orlando City SC

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The third acquisition Orlando made was goalkeeper Tally Hall who joins from Houston in exchange for allocation money and an international roster spot. Hall and Collin will need to keep the Lions defence solid in their inaugural season in MLS next season.

C.J. Sapong: Sporting Kansas City – Philadelphia Union

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Philadelphia bolstered their attack with the addition of C.J. Sapong from Sporting Kansas City in exchange for the Union’s highest first-round pick in the upcoming SuperDraft. Sapong scored twice in 20 appearances for SKC in 2014.

Bernardo Anor: Columbus Crew – Sporting Kansas City

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After seeing Collin and Sapong leave, Sporting Kansas City brought in someone in the form of midfielder Bernardo Anor from Columbus Crew. Anor joined SKC in exchange for allocation money after scoring six goals with one assist in 27 games this year.

Omar Salgado: Vancouver Whitecaps – New York City FC

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New York City also made a move to improve their attacking options ahead of their debut season by bringing in Omar Salgado from the Vancouver Whitecaps in a swap for Future Considerations. The 21-year-old only played eight times for the Whitecaps in 2014.

Joe Nasco – Dimitry Imbongo/Geoffrey Castillion: Colorado Rapids – New England Revolution

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MLS Cup Final losers New England Revolution also made a move in the short trade window by bringing in Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Joe Nasco and a third round pick in the upcoming SuperDraft. In exchange the Revs sent forwards Dimitry Imbongo and Geoffrey Castillion as well as a second round SuperDraft pick.

Expansion franchises New York City and Orlando City also picked up international roster slots for the 2015 and 2016 seasons from DC United. Both clubs will now be looking ahead to Wednesday’s highly-anticipated Expansion Draft.

What did you make of Monday’s busy day of trading in MLS?