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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MLS Preview and Prediction: Orlando City vs Chicago Fire

Competition: Major League Soccer – Orlando City vs. Chicago Fire

Venue: Orlando Citrus Bowl – Friday, March 11 – 19:00 ET (00:00 GMT) 

Match Odds: Orlando 21/20 – Draw 5/2 – Chicago 5/2

Match Preview

Orlando City welcome Chicago Fire to the Citrus Bowl in the first Friday night fixture of the 2016 MLS season this week in what promises to be an entertaining Eastern Conference clash.

Both sides were involved in two of the most dramatic games on opening weekend, with Orlando scoring two stoppage time goals to draw 2-2 with Real Salt Lake, while Chicago fell 4-3 to NYCFC in a seven-goal thriller.

The Lions will expect to build upon their very late showing against RSL by beating Eastern rivals Chicago on Friday night, but will have to do so without Kaka as he remains out with a thigh problem.

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Adrian Heath’s side are a dangerous attacking unit, proven by the fact they have scored ten goals in their last five home games in MLS. They should cause the Chicago defence plenty of problems based on the Fire’s showing against New York City last week.

Veljko Paunovic will be disappointed with the way life started as Chicago head coach in Sunday’s home opener, but he did oversee an encouraging preseason run and will be looking for an important win in Florida this week.

The Fire may have looked vulnerable at the back, but they attacked well and have major attacking threats in David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike.

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This will be the fifth meeting between the two clubs in less than a year after they faced off four times over the course of Orlando’s inaugural season.

The Lions did not lose to the Fire in any of the three regular season meetings (W2 D1) but did fall 3-1 in the quarterfinals of the US Open Cup. The two sides met once at the Citrus Bowl, playing out a 1-1 draw in late August and both sides will expect to find the net once again here.

Team News

Orlando will be without Darwin Ceren following his red card picked up in last week’s draw with Real Salt Lake. Adrian Heath will also be without star man Kaka for the second-straight week, as the Brazilian playmaker is struggling with a thigh strain. Conor Donovan and David Mateos also remain sidelined through injury, while Bryan Rochez is a doubt. The positive for Orlando is that new signing Antonio Nocerino should make his debut for the club following his move from AC Milan this winter.

Chicago will be sweating over the fitness of striker Gilberto as he is struggling with a calf strain picked up in the defeat to New York City last weekend. Eric Gehrig remains out with a foot injury but other than that Veljko Paunovic has a full squad to choose from.

Key Points

Orlando City’s form: D

Chicago Fire’s form: L

Key Stat: Chicago have not won a regular season game on the road in their last 25 attempts (D7 L18) – a stretch that has now lasted 20 months.

Key Player: Cyle Larin – The Orlando striker scored one and assisted one of Orlando’s two stoppage time goals last weekend and looked a threat throughout. He will expect to find the net against a Fire defence that looked unorganised as they shipped four against NYCFC last week.

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Score Prediction

Orlando City 3-1 Chicago Fire – Orlando should be able to get off the mark for the 2016 season with a home win at the second attempt here. They rallied late to earn an extraordinary point last week and should build on that with a better showing over 90 minutes on Friday. The Fire looked extremely poor in defence last weekend and may struggle to contain Cyle Larin. Antonio Nocerino is expected to make his debut and will also expect to hurt the Fire’s backline. Both sides should find the net but the Lions look set to edge an entertaining encounter. Chicago’s hideous away record will do little to increase their supporters’ confidence.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Orlando City SC vs FC Dallas

Competition: Major League Soccer – Orlando City SC vs. FC Dallas

Venue: Citrus Bowl – Saturday, July 11 – 19:30 ET (00:30 BST)

Match Odds: Orlando City 7/5 – Draw 12/5 – FC Dallas 19/10

Match Preview

Orlando City take on FC Dallas on Saturday night for the first time in MLS at the Citrus Bowl.

Orlando are back on home soil after their 1-1 draw with Real Salt Lake last weekend, which has seen them draw on level points with Columbus Crew and New England Revolution. However the Lions have played two games less than their Eastern Conference opponents.

Although they sit third in the Eastern, the teams are split by fine margins, with second to seventh place separated by just four points.

Adrian Heath was under enormous pressure to turn things around, and three wins in their last five outings has seen his side on the up.

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Top scorer Kaka, will miss the game due to suspension after his red card last weekend. While second top scorer Cyle Larin is in Gold Cup action with Canada. Leaving Orlando light in front of goal.

FC Dallas play away from home for the sixth time in eight matches but bounced back after their impressive 3-0 rout over New England Revolution at Toyota Stadium last weekend.

Like Orlando, FC Dallas’ top scorer Blas Perez is unavailable as he is on International duty with Panama in the Gold Cup.

FC Dallas’ away form is something that does need to be addressed, in eight games on the road they have won just twice and lost six, which been their achilles heel.

Dallas will be hoping to capitalise on the fact Larin and Kaka are missing for Orlando and take all three points.

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Team News

Plenty of absentees from both teams due to Gold Cup commitments, Orlando City have Cyle Larin and Darwin Ceren away. Injuries to Kevin Molino (ACL), Martin Paterson (knee), Tony Cascio (back) Aurelien Collin (hamstring) and Brek Shea (groin) weaken the squad. Kaka’s suspension doesn’t make things any easier.

FC Dallas are without five players away on international duty; Tesho Akindele, Kyle Bekker, Moises Hernandez, Je-Vaughn Watson and Blas Pérez. They have no injury concerns.

Key Points

Orlando City last five in MLS: W/W/L/W/D

FC Dallas last five in MLS: D/L/D/W/W

Key Stat: Leaky – The two sides they have conceded forty five goals between them this season.

Key Player: Fabian Castillo – The Columbian has seven goals this season and five assists. He is Dallas’ leading scorer in the absence of Perez and he could take advantage of Orlando’s weakened squad.

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Score Prediction: 

Orlando City 0-1 FC Dallas – A tight affair between the two, but the one goal could sneak it especially with both teams light due to injuries and international commitments.

MLS Preview and Prediction: Orlando City vs Columbus Crew

Competition: Major League Soccer – Orlando City vs. Columbus Crew

Venue: Citrus Bowl – Saturday, May 30 – 19:30 ET (00:30 BST – Sunday, May 31)

Match Odds: Orlando City 5/4 – Draw 12/5 – Columbus Crew 21/10

Match Preview

Orlando City and Columbus Crew clash in MLS for the second time this season when they meet at Citrus Bowl on Saturday evening.

Head coach Adrian Heath can be very happy with Orlando’s last two results as they picked up a valuable point in a 1-1 draw away at San Jose Earthquakes last weekend, and thrashed LA Galaxy 4-0 at home the week before.

The win over the Galaxy was the Lions’ first ever victory at home and they’re now sixth in the Eastern Conference standings with 13 points from their opening 12 games.

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If Orlando avoid defeat in this game, it will also be the first time they have strung together a run of three games without defeat.

Columbus Crew are fourth in the Eastern Conference with 15 points and drew their last game at home to the Chicago Fire in disappointing fashion as they let a two-goal lead slip, conceding a devastating last-minute equaliser to tie the game.

The Crew have managed just one victory in their last four games (D1, L2) and also haven’t won a game away from home yet this season, so they’ll be looking to break that trend (D2, L3).

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Gregg Berhalter’s Columbus side eased to a 3-0 victory when these two sides met in the reverse fixture in April, thanks to goals from Federico Higuain, Justin Meram and Kei Kamara.

Team News

Orlando City will be without Pedro Ribeiro (hamstring) and Kevin Molino, while Lewis Neal (neck), Tony Cascio (back) and Aurelien Collin (hamstring) are all doubts. Brek Shea will miss the game through suspension after his red card against San Jose.

Columbus Crew midfielders Wil Trapp (concussion) and Ethan Finlay (toe) are both doubtful.

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Key Points

Orlando City’s last five: L/D/L/W/D

Columbus Crew’s last five: W/L/W/L/D

Key Stat: Columbus Crew have conceded at least two goals in their last four matches in MLS.

Key Player: Kaka – The Brazilian has been excellent in Orlando’s recent good performances and will be vital to his side once again.

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Score Prediction

Orlando City 2-2 Columbus Crew – Orlando are full of confidence after their last two games and there’s always goals when Columbus play, but they just can’t win away from home. A high scoring draw could be the order of the day.

Former Burnley man feels Citrus Bowl ‘can be a fortress’ for Orlando

Orlando City finally won their first MLS home game this weekend, thumping LA Galaxy 4-0 in front of a 40,000 crowd at the Orlando Citrus Bowl.

Orlando’s Martin Paterson made his debut in the 83rd minute, replacing Brek Shea. The 28-year-old Northern Irish striker suffered a hamstring injury, causing him to miss the opening of the season, and he was delighted with his teams win.

The Lions are now fifth in the Eastern Conference after winning three, drawing five and losing three and the stadium oozed relief after the long wait came to an end for that elusive first home win. Paterson has urged his team to build upon this result and turn the Citrus Bowl into a place teams dread visiting.

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“It was only a matter of time until we turned this tide at home,” he is quoted as saying by MLSsoccer.com.

“I think we got what we deserved, and our players got what we deserved. I don’t think the next team will look forward to coming in here. I think this can be a fortress, and now we can turn the tide and really put teams to the sword.”

It is early doors to suggest that the Citrus Bowl can be a fortress given this was Orlando’s first home win but it is exactly what the Lions’ fans want to hear from their players.

Their next home game is against Eastern Conference rivals Columbus Crew on May 30.

Can the Orlando Citrus Bowl become a fortress?

Orlando City unveil CRAZY new purple pitch at Citrus Bowl

Orlando City have continued to make their mark on Major League Soccer by introducing the league’s first-ever coloured pitch at the Orlando Citrus Bowl by laying a purple surface made from 100% grass.

The Lions have enjoyed a solid start to life as a new MLS Expansion Franchise and currently sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference after four matches.

They face another tough test on Friday as they host last season’s Eastern Conference winners, DC United on the brand new purple surface, and head coach Adrian Heath thinks the coloured pitch could give them a major advantage against opponents this season.

Orlando City's new purple turf at the Orlando Citrus Bowl (Photo: OrlandoCitySC.com)

Orlando City’s new purple turf at the Orlando Citrus Bowl (Photo: OrlandoCitySC.com)

“Our players will be virtually camouflaged against the pitch making it difficult for the opposition to spot them making runs. Imagine Kaká slipping into the box unnoticed and unmarked. Lethal,” Heath said.

Orlando City are the first MLS side to wear purple kits and they have entered the league looking to do things differently, something club founder and president, Phil Rawlins is proud of.

“I mean, purple is really our thing, man. We’ve painted the City purple, served purple beer at our parties, and even had purple sand at our groundbreaking – this is really just the next progression in our mission to make everything purple.”

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The surface may be purple but it is made from 100% grass and Dr. Chris Jones from TurfRite Labs –the laboratory who manufactured the pitch – thinks it will be perfect for soccer.

“When Phil Rawlins first approached us about growing purple grass we thought he was crazy. But it turns out not only was it possible, it actually has properties which make it perfect for bounce, performance and durability.”

The purple pitch at the Orlando Citrus Bowl is of course a fantastic April Fools stunt, but don’t rule out the Lions trying it for real in the future.

What do you make of the purple pitch? Is it a good idea?

MLS Preview and Prediction: Montreal Impact vs Orlando City

Competition: Major League Soccer – Montreal Impact vs Orlando City

Venue: Olympic Stadium – Saturday, March 28 – 16:00 ET (20:00 GMT)

Match Odds: Montreal Impact 17/20 – Draw 12/5 – Orlando City 100/30

Match Preview

Montreal Impact take on Orlando City at the Olympic Stadium on Saturday in an Eastern Conference clash that will see the visitors head to Canada for the first time in the club’s history.

The Impact are searching for their first win of the season, whereas opponents Orlando will be searching for their second win, although they come into this game off the back of a home defeat to the Vancouver Whitecaps.

Montreal will be playing in front of their own fans for the first time in this MLS season after two consecutive away games.

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Orlando’s mixed start to their debut season in MLS sees them currently sitting in third place in the Eastern Conference, only one point behind leaders New York City, but level on points with the New York Red Bulls.

Montreal are excelling in the CONCACAF Champions League and are just one game away from the final.

If they can take that kind of form into their MLS season, they will be staring down the table as opposed to looking up it.

A creditable draw away at New England last weekend could be a platform on which they can build a successful season and shock the critics who had immediately written them off at the beginning of the campaign.

Team News

For Montreal Impact, the huge news is that rookie Cameron Porter is out for the rest of the season with an ACL injury that he picked up against New England. Dominic Oduro could return after his knock last weekend though. Much like other MLS teams, some players have been called up for international duty and Montreal will be without Ambroise Oyongo, Laurent Ciman and Maxim Tissot. The good news for the Impact is that Romario Williams will not be travelling with the Jamaican national team and should be available.

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Orlando City’s Martin Paterson is still struggling with a hamstring injury, while there is still doubt over Carlos Rivas, Bryan Rochez and Cristian Higuita. The Lions will be even more depleted than Montreal as several players have been called up by their national sides including Brek Shea, Rafael Ramos, Darwin Ceren, Cyle Larin, Estrella, Conor Donovan and Kevin Molino.

Key Points

Montreal Impact’s form: L/D

Orlando City’s form: D/W/L

Key Stat: Montreal Impact didn’t win any of their opening eight matches last season.

Key Player: Kaka – Orlando will be without a whole host of key players but Kaka’s sheer brilliance and genius on the pitch will prove too much for the Impact.

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Score Prediction

Montreal Impact 0-1 Orlando City – It’ll be a difficult game for the Lions but they should scrape through by just the single goal.

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.