Orlando City SC has been gaining a lot of attention in the soccer community lately. So, it seems an appropriate time to examine some numbers behind OCSC to give fans something to look for as the Lions prepare for the MLS 2015 season.
Former FIFA World Player of the Year and marquee signing Kaká will suit up for the Lions in their newly released kit wearing his trademark number 10 for Orlando City’s inaugural season. The 32-year-old World Cup veteran brings name recognition and ample experience to the new MLS outfit. Kaká has won silverware with every team he has been a part of, a trend he aspires to continue as he enters into a new challenge in the MLS. He will be a valuable asset on the field, but will be equally important in exposing the club to markets worldwide.
The gaping hole in Orlando’s current roster is the lack of a natural number 9… or any forwards at all. With the midfield taking shape nicely and the back line overflowing with youth and potential, there is an increasing need for a player to spearhead the attack. Despite being several months away from preseason, the fans are anxiously anticipating who our man up top will be.
In the USL Pro season last year, Orlando only gave up eight goals at home. For an expansion team it is going to be crucial that the Lions make the most out of their home games. In regular season play, OCSC were undefeated at home and only failed to take full points in an early season draw. The Lions will look to carry over their home form into MLS play, making the Citrus Bowl a fortress that few teams can penetrate.
Orlando’s roster may be in the early stages of development, but it certainly excels in one area: Youth. Seven of the nine outfield players are under the age of 25, including two U.S. Youth Internationals defenders. With the MLS Expansion Draft coming up, experience will be crucial if the Lions want to have a successful introduction to the League. However, having a plethora of prospects in your ranks is how you achieve long-term success. The future looks bright for Orlando City SC but we need to acquire some veterans to help mentor those long-term projects.
It’s been six years since an expansion team made playoffs in its inaugural season. Orlando City has the opportunity to match the feat that Seattle Sounders FC achieved, and in doing so, establish itself as perennial playoff contenders. With the Eastern Conference wide open next year, Orlando is presented with a unique opportunity to break the trend of expansion teams underwhelming.
Despite the club only being four years old, Adrian Heath has instilled a winning mentality in the squads he has managed. With five pieces of silverware in their brief USL Pro life, OCSC arguably has the most momentum of any expansion team entering Major League Soccer. Even though MLS is a different animal, a winning mentality translates across leagues and could be a key differentiator for Orlando City.
While Orlando’s home record last season was near perfect, their away record could be a cause of concern for the Lions. With four losses and four draws in fourteen games, Orlando City dropped points in over half of their games on the road. Against tougher competition in a stronger league, stealing points away from home can mean the difference between playoffs and ending a season early.
Tampa Bay Mutiny, Miami Fusion, and now Orlando City SC. As MLS kicks off the 2015 season, the league will see the third attempt at a Florida-based team. With the folding of the former two clubs, some people still have their doubts that Florida can support a Major League Soccer team. Only time will tell if their worries are justified, but those who have followed the league since inception can all agree that Orlando enter a much more mature and developed league.
Two of our players who will wear the purple and white in our kickoff year will in fact be on loan from our partner club, S.L. Benfica. Both Estrela and Rafael Ramos are members of the Youth Portuguese National Team and are promising prospects for Benfica. Establishing a relationship with the Portuguese giants early on in our MLS life could be a significant ingredient that yields long-term success. Receiving these two players in Orlando City’s inaugural year is a precedent that will hopefully reap rewards year in and year out.
Orlando has possession of the number one draft pick for both the Expansion Draft and the MLS SuperDraft. While there are many areas in need of attention, Adrian Heath will more than likely use these drafts to obtain a proven MLS goal scorer and stability across the back line. With the acquisition of veteran goalkeeper Tally Hall, Heath already has his number one between the sticks. However, Hall will be recovering from an ACL injury he suffered while on duty with former club Houston Dynamo. So, don’t be surprised if you see Heath bring in a backup goalkeeper who can make an immediate impact for the Lions as Hall finishes his recovery.