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: Columbus Crew

With the 2018 MLS season drawing ever closer, we will be running through the key additions and losses 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 Columbus Crew’s key transfers and what it could mean for them in the 2018 MLS season…

Columbus Crew are heading into the 2018 season with plenty of uncertainty still surrounding the club. Relocation concerns are still hanging over the franchise and key players have moved on to rival teams. Gregg Berhalter is preparing for his fifth-straight season as the Crew head coach but he knows the team needs some more firepower if they are to make the playoffs once again. They finished fifth last term after a strong end to the season and beat Atlanta and New York City FC in the playoffs. However, they couldn’t get past Toronto FC in the Eastern Conference Championship game. They ended the season on a high, on the field, and need to try and hit the ground running with a new-look team this time around…

Key Signings

Mike Grella: Grella has proven himself as a dangerous playmaker in MLS since joining the Red Bulls ahead of the 2015 season. He scored 16 goals and added 13 assists in his first two seasons with the Red Bulls but was ruled out for the season back in June last year. He was picked up by Colorado in the re-entry draft but instantly traded to Columbus in return for a second-round draft pick in 2019. The Crew will hope he can stay injury-free and settle quickly into a new-look Columbus attack.

Gyasi Zardes: Alongside Grella will be fellow new arrival Gyasi Zardes, who has been sent to Columbus from the Galaxy following a big trade for Ola Kamara. Zardes had been with his hometown club for five-straight years, but saw his involvement drop off massively over the past two seasons as a result of injury troubles and poor form. He needs to play more games, and should get that opportunity with the Black and Gold. He also needs to play in his natural attacking position, after being deployed at right-back during the latter stages of his time with the Galaxy. He has the potential to be a hit, but it’s a major ask for him to replace Kamara’s goals.

Milton Valenzuela: This is a player to look out for in 2018. The 19-year-old left-back has joined the Crew as a Designated Player on loan from Newell’s Old Boys with the option to buy. Valenzuela will be classed a Young Designated Player this season and is expected to be a regular starter at left-back, replacing the departed Jukka Raitala and Waylon Francis. He is an attacking full-back, who should suit Gregg Berhalter’s attacking style of play perfectly. Expect him to impress.

Notable Departures

Waylon Francis: The loss of Francis means Columbus are left thin at left-back. Raitala also left and although Valenzuela has arrived, the absence of Francis in the dressing room could be a blow after spending the past four seasons with the club. He has joined the Seattle Sounders, where he will hope to see more game time after two consecutive years of struggling to nail down a regular starting berth with the Crew.

Ola Kamara: Kamara’s exit had looked on the cards for some time and it was made official following the 2018 MLS SuperDraft as LA Galaxy sent Zardes and $400,000 in allocation money the Crew’s way. Kamara scored 34 goals in 59 appearances for Columbus over two seasons and his absence will more than likely be felt. Particularly if Zardes fails to hit the ground running.

Kekuta Manneh: Manneh was expected to be a hit in Columbus after joining from the Whitecaps last year but he managed just four goals and three assists in 19 games. He was offered a contract to remain with the Crew for the 2018 season but has decided to make the move the Liga MX instead with Pachuca. His loss adds to depth problems in attack as things stand, with Kamara and Meram’s departures leaving Columbus short of options in attack.

Justin Meram: Columbus made it clear they wouldn’t let Meram leave the club unless they received a significant offer this winter. That was even after the winger had made it clear he was looking for a move, as a result of relocation concerns and because he was looking for a new challenge. Everyone ended up happy. Meram got a new challenge and Columbus received a significant offer as Orlando City sent $1.05 million in allocation money as well as an international roster spot. Meram’s loss will no doubt be felt, both on the field and off it. He was a fan favourite after being drafted in 2011, going on to score 37 goals in 188 games.