2018 Key Transfers: Orlando City

With the 2018 MLS season drawing ever closer, we have been running through the standout transfers for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we take a look at Orlando City and their key signings ahead of the 2018 MLS season…

To say it’s been a busy winter at Orlando City would be an understatement. The club have been one of the busiest in MLS since their 2017 campaign came to an end. Plenty have gone, and plenty more have come in as the Lions prepare for a new-look team this season. The outcome appears to be positive. Jason Kreis has revamped his midfield. They started last season with six wins from seven but then completely dropped off, eventually finishing 10th in the East with 39 points. They need to be more consistent and will hope their new-look squad can fire them into the playoffs for the first time. This will be their fourth MLS campaign, so it’s time to start delivering.

Key Signings

Sacha Kljestan: The big question this winter was: ‘Who is going to replace Kaka for Orlando?’ The answer is Sacha Kljestan. The Lions made a big move for the Red Bulls star, sending Tommy Redding and Carlos Rivas the other way. In Kljestan, Orlando have acquired the league’s leading assist provider from both the 2016 and 2017 campaigns. At 32, there are some concerns about his fitness but he has played 97 regular season games over the past three seasons in New York – an average of 32 games a season. This one makes a lot of sense.

Lamine Sane: The Lions made a major move to strengthen their defence with the signing of 30-year-old Senegalese international Sane. The centre-back joins from Werder Bremen, where he scored two goals in 40 appearances. Prior to moving to Germany, he enjoyed a seven-year stay with French side Bordeaux. He will bring vital experience to Orlando and should be a great addition to the backline, so long as he can adapt quickly.

Justin Meram: The signing of Meram has to be one of the best this offseason by any MLS side. The winger is dangerous out wide or in a more central playmaking position and knows the league inside out. All seven of his professional seasons to date have been spent in Columbus but he wanted a new challenge and got his wish as Orlando made a major move for him. They sent $1.05 million in allocation money to the Crew, as well as an international roster spot. Meram has 40 goals and 35 assists in 200 league and playoff appearances and should be a really good addition.

Josue Colman: Another exciting attacking addition for Orlando comes in the form of Paraguayan winger Colman. The 19-year-old joins as a Young DP and will hope to nail down a regular starting role under Kreis in 2018. He joins the club from Cerro Porteno in Paraguay’s top flight after helping them win the Clausura title last year. He will have the right players around him to ensure he fulfils his potential in Florida.

Oriol Rosell: Orlando have signed a great accompaniment to all their attacking moves in Uri Rosell. The former Sporting Kansas City midfielder joins from Sporting CP in Portugal. A total of $400,000 was sent to FC Dallas so that Orlando could secure the No.1 spot in the league allocation order. Rosell is a tough-tackling holding midfielder, who knows the league and at 25, should be a great addition.

Notable Departures

Kaka: Undoubtedly the biggest loss for the Lions this offseason was Kaka. The Brazilian legend retired after his three-year contract with the Lions ended. He failed to lead the Lions to the playoffs as he had hoped but he was an incredibly instrumental figure in and off the pitch, helping to shape Orlando’s identity in MLS and on the world map. He was a three-time MLS All-Star and recorded 24 goals and 22 assists in 75 games.

Giles Barnes: Another attacking player to move on is Barnes. The English-born Jamaican international has joined Liga MX side Club Léon after his option was declined. He scored three goals and added two assists in 34 games last season and leaves MLS after six seasons in which he represented Houston, Vancouver and Orlando.

Antonio Nocerino: The Italian midfielder had his option declined at the end of the 2017 season after failing to ever live up to his billing. He joined from AC Milan and was expected to impress but scored just one goal in 52 games and didn’t register a single assist in two seasons.

Carlos Rivas: Rivas was sent to the Red Bulls along with Tommy Redding in exchange for Kljestan. His departure released a Designated Player slot for the Lions but his dynamic play style might be missed. He played 78 games over three seasons with Orlando, scoring eight goals and picking up 13 assists. Those numbers aren’t DP level though and that’s why he’s been allowed to move on.

Cyle Larin: Larin’s departure couldn’t have gone less smooth. The Canadian striker travelled to Turkey in January to train with Besiktas, without the consent of Orlando. He was contracted to the Lions through 2019 but decided to ignore his contract and tried to force through a move to Besiktas. He eventually got his way as Orlando accepted at least $2.3 million from the Turkish giants. But bad feelings aside, Larin led the team in goals in each of his three seasons and his presence will likely be a big miss in attack.

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2018 Key Transfers: New York Red Bulls

With the 2018 MLS season drawing ever closer, we will be running through the standout transfers for all 23 teams over the course of the winter transfer window. There have been a number of key signings and significant trades which should ensure the new season is as exciting as ever before. Today we take a look at New York Red Bulls and their key signings ahead of the 2018 MLS season…

The New York Red Bulls came close to shocking Toronto in the Eastern Conference Championship game last season but ultimately fell just short. It was a trend of their season. They were good, but saw several close games slip away from them. Jesse Marsch has responded by adding to his already talented squad this offseason. A couple of key faces have gone but the Red Bulls look younger and more dynamic heading into the new season. Their high pressing and intense style of play should ensure they continue to fight at the very top of the East.

Key Signings

Alejandro “Kaku” Romero Gamarra: Undoubtedly the signing of the offseason for the Red Bulls, Gamarra arrives after a long and drawn out transfer saga. But the key is, the Red Bulls have got their man. He signs as a Young Designated Player from Argentine side Huracan and will be tasked with replacing the creativity of Sacha Kljestan. At 23, the winger nicknamed “Kaku” is an exciting arrival for the league as a whole and Marsch will hope his new No. 10 can instantly adapt to his new surroundings.

Carlos Rivas: Rivas is yet to really feel settled in MLS after three frustrating years at Orlando City. He played 78 games and scored eight goals but now Rivas has the tough task of making a new-look Red Bulls team successful. After heavy losses this offseason, Rivas is an exciting spark of pace which could help add sharpness to  RBNY.

Tommy Redding: Academy product Redding has been heavily sought out since his debut for Orlando as an 18 year-old. In his three seasons for the Lions he amassed 38 matches. At the age of 21 now, Redding has the chance to move his career up a step as he should be pushing to start for the Red Bulls. He will suit the system and is another young addition to what should be a competitive squad in 2018.

Cristian Casseres Jr: To anyone but a professional scout, Casseres will be a completely unknown entity. A Venezuelan youth international, he is only 18 years old, and has only 15 professional club matches to his name. Casseres was signed as a discovery signing by the Red Bulls and could well be the next big MLS talent. One to keep an eye on…

Notable Departures

Sal Zizzo: Winger turned fullback Zizzo has joined Atlanta United after his option was declined by the Red Bulls. In his three seasons in The Big Apple he managed 72 appearances and became their starting right back. Having been in MLS since 2010, his stint in the league continues and he’s still only 30 years old.

Gideon Baah: A very disappointing end for a promising defender; Baah has been left without a club after the Red Bulls declined his option at the end of 2017. It’s upsetting for Baah as injuries have not been kind to the Ghanaian. He leaves New York with a meager nine appearances to his name and will hope to find a new challenge soon, if he can stay healthy.

Mike Grella: Perhaps one of the most underrated players in the league. Grella has left the Red Bulls for the Columbus Crew. He enjoyed three very good years for the Red Bulls in which he scored 16 times in 73 games. Injuries halted his progression last summer and the franchise have decided now is the right time to move him on. Some fans may remember him being selected by Toronto FC in the 2009 SuperDraft before rejecting them to join Leeds United in England.

Sacha Kljestan: One of the biggest shock transfers this offseason so far. For a big name and talent like Kljestan to be moved on takes some doing. The playmaker moves south to Orlando, with Rivas and Redding moving the other way (as mentioned above). At 32 years old, New York Red Bulls have definitely replaced him with fresher legs. But his quality is unquestioned and he will be a huge loss. The fact he registered 51 assists over three seasons highlights just how effective a creator he is.

MLS Fantasy Focus: Drop your Revs defenders ahead of Round 9

By Jamie Dawe & Sam Martin

Another double gameweek provided us with the full return to form of 2015 Supporters’ Shield champions New York Red Bulls, NYCFC’s first home victory of the season and the frighteningly common sighting of another beautiful Didier Drogba goal. Five years ago, who could’ve imagined David Villa, Didier Drogba and Giovani Dos Santos all scoring on the same weekend in the same league – with that league being in the U.S.!!?

Week 9 Review

The Good:

Seattle Sounders vs Columbus Crew Jordan Morris

Seattle Sounders forward Jordan Morris ($8.2) scored for his third-straight league game as Seattle made it three home wins in a row. The Sounders are certainly making up for their sloppy start to the season – possibly affected by finally having real grass at their home stadium, CenturyLink Field. Likewise, the Red Bulls, having won just one of their opening seven fixtures, made it back-to-back wins with their 4-0 victory over a previously high-flying FC Dallas side this week. Mike Grella ($8.1) has scored in both of their last two games and picked up 9 points for the week, impressively adding to his 14 from the week before. Remaining in New York, NYCFC’s Spanish legend David Villa ($11.4) netted yet another double in his side’s 3-2 win against an uncharacteristically poor Vancouver. This brace, plus a solid performance against Montreal on Wednesday, gained Villa an unbeatable 21 points for the week. Despite Villa adding his 5th and 6th goals of the season, it was only NYCFC’s second win of the year and their first at home! Carlos Rivas ($9.4) netted a 90th minute equaliser to earn his Orlando side a point on their travels away to New England Revolution. However, OCSC are still on a four-match winless run that they will be desperate to curb.

The Bad:

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It was a poor week for LA Galaxy and especially their former Chelsea defender Ashley Cole ($7.7), who picked up two yellow cards within 32 seconds of each other. The first was for time wasting, with the second given out for a poor tackle, which saw LA reduced to 10 men. This was Cole’s first red card since 2012 and meant he obtained 0 points for the week…and at least a one match ban. San Jose’s Anibal Godoy ($7.2) saw red a short way into the second half in his team’s 1-1 draw away to Philadelphia. The Earthquakes remain winless on the road this season and Godoy’s contribution certainly didn’t help their cause last weekend. It was also a poor weekend defensively for FC Dallas, who let in four against a Red Bulls side that had previously lost their ability to score! Following a 3-0 defeat in Round 7 against the Whitecaps, Dallas have lost top spot in the Western Conference. Goalkeeper Jesse Gonzalez ($5.9) will be bitterly disappointed with the loss, as he has only just been reinstated as the No. 1 after being ousted by Chris Seitz ($4.7).

Week 10 Preview

Quick Tips:

The Easy Choice: Sebastian Giovinco ($12.4)

If you are one of the small proportion of managers that does not own this Italian maestro, now is certainly the time to sign him up. Toronto play their first home game of the season against a Dallas side that have conceded seven goals in their last two games. With Giovinco’s ability to gain bonus points without even scoring, he’s a must have for Round 9.

Sebastian Giovinco Toronto FC 2016

The Low-Budget Superstar: Lamar Neagle ($7.7)

Neagle has been performing terrifically for DC United this season and it would be a shock if he fails to build on his terrific form (which has seen him pick up an average of over 5.5 points a game) against a defensively weak NYCFC backline.

The Form Pick: Shkelzen Gashi ($9.2)

Gashi has been in terrific form over the past few gameweeks, picking up two goals and two assists in April alone. His Rapids team face a strong Real Salt Lake side this weekend but that surely won’t stop the twice Swiss League top scorer from using all of the tricks in his incredibly vast book.

The Must-Sell: New England Revolution Defenders

With both Je-Vaughn Watson ($6.9) and Chris Tierney ($8.1) out injured, the Revs defence is looking depleted. They still have Andrew Farrell ($8.0) and Jose Goncalves ($8.0) fit, but I can’t see them keeping many clean sheets or gaining many bonus points with both Watson and Tierney missing. However, MLS is a notoriously unpredictable league and it’s open for the Revs backline to prove me wrong…

MLS Preview and Prediction: Houston Dynamo vs Orlando City

Competition: Major League Soccer – Houston Dynamo vs Orlando City

Venue: BBVA Compass Stadium – Friday, March 13 – 19:00 ET (23:00 GMT )

Match Odds: Houston Dynamo 19/20 – Draw 11/5 – Orlando City 11/4

Match Preview

Houston Dynamo welcome Orlando City to the BBVA Compass Stadium on Friday evening for the first match of gameweek two in the 2015 MLS season.

Houston Dynamo enjoyed a successful start to the season last weekend as a 66th minute Giles Barnes goal earned Owen Coyle‘s men a hard fought 1-0 victory in a tight game at home to the Columbus Crew.

Orlando City’s first ever competitive encounter at home to fellow MLS debutants New York City provided late drama as they came back from 1-0 down to secure a draw thanks to a 90th minute deflected free-kick by star man Kaka, despite being down to ten men for the last seven minutes after Aurelien Collin saw red for a dangerous tackle on David Villa.

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The Dynamo will be pleased that they have the comfort of being able to enjoy the home advantage for the second week running. They fared considerably better on home soil in the 2014 season (P17, W8, D4, L5) than they did on the road (P17, W3, D2, L12).

Adrian Heath‘s Orlando team head to Houston for what will be their first away game in MLS history, so they’ll be hoping to begin life on their travels with a good performance and positive result.

Houston Dynamo recorded a convincing 3-0 win over Orlando City in their final preseason game at the end of February with goals coming from Boniek Garcia and Brad Davis, although Orlando finished the game with only nine players after Collin and Carlos Rivas were sent off.

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With the competitive element now being introduced, that will act as a key motivational factor and we can expect to see a much tighter contest between these two sides compared to the one we saw in preseason.

Houston will of course be hoping for a repeat performance and result but Orlando showed some promising signs in their opening game last week and the Lions will provide a stronger attacking threat this time around.

Team News

Houston Dynamo have no injuries or suspensions, so Owen Coyle has a full squad to choose from as they hope to make it two wins on the bounce.

Orlando City defender Aurelien Collin will be suspended following his red card last weekend. Forward Martin Paterson may be unavailable after he missed the game with New York City because of a groin strain. Goalkeeper Tally Hall remains out with a long-term injury.

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Key Points

Houston Dynamo’s form: W

Orlando City’s form: D

Key Stat: Houston Dynamo haven’t earned a point when conceding the first goal at home since November 2013 when they came back from 2-0 down to earn a 2-2 draw with the New York Red Bulls. They have conceded the first goal four times on home soil since then and have gone on to lose on each occasion. So if Orlando can get themselves into the lead, they may fancy their chances of seeing it out.

Key Player: Tyler Deric – The Houston Dynamo goalkeeper was given a chance to shine and was kept busy by the Columbus Crew attack last weekend as he made six saves on the way to securing a clean sheet. He can expect more of the same on Friday as Orlando boast an array of talent in offensive areas so Deric will need to be on top form.

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Score Prediction

Houston Dynamo 1-1 Orlando City – Houston Dynamo edged out a win in their last game while Orlando City showed great spirit to fight back from a goal down late on, so both will be confident. This should be another tight contest.

Orlando City bolster attack by signing Martin Paterson and Carlos Rivas

Orlando City SC have made two more important moves to strengthen their squad ahead of the debut campaign in Major League Soccer by bringing in Northern Irish forward Martin Paterson and Colombian Carlos Rivas.

Paterson joins the Lions on loan for the season from Championship club Huddersfield Town and the 27-year-old will hope to find himself playing consistent football after struggling for the past couple of seasons.

The Northern Ireland international has been with Huddersfield since joining in 2013 from Burnley, with whom he played in the Premier League, but has been sent out on loan twice in the past 12 months.

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After ending last season with Bristol City, Paterson then joined League One side Fleetwood Town for the first half of the current campaign but an injury cut short his time there and he moves to MLS hoping to become a key player with Orlando City.

“Martin is an experienced striker who will be a valuable asset for the team and our younger players in particular,” Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath told the club’s official website. “We’re very pleased to have him with the Club for our first season in MLS.”

Orlando also confirmed the signing of Colombian forward Carlos Augusto Rivas today and the left-midfielder, who can also play as a striker, is an exciting addition.

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The 20-year-old joins from Colombian side Deportivo Cali, with whom he won the Superliga Colombiana in 2014, in his third year with the club.

Rivas scored 12 goals in 29 appearances last season and he could be a real star for Orlando City in 2015 and beyond.

“We’ve had our eyes on Carlos for quite some time now,” Adrian Heath said. “He ticks a lot of the boxes that we look for in players, and we believe that he’s an exciting midfielder who will certainly contribute for us moving forward.”

How important will the additions of Martin Paterson and Carlos Rivas be for Orlando City?