How Orlando City Will Build Its MLS Roster

The first thing you notice when you look at Major League Soccer’s recently released off-season calendar of events is that MLS loves to hold drafts. There are six different events with “Draft” in the title coming up between now and the first kick of the 2015 season.

Between the Chivas USA Dispersal Draft and the MLS SuperDraft, we’ll see the Expansion Draft, Waiver Draft, and two phases of Re-entry Draft. Any/all of these could provide quality talent for Adrian Heath as he builds Orlando City toward becoming a competitive MLS club.

We’re still not sure if Orlando City and NYCFC will take part in the Chivas USA Dispersal Draft—or even exactly when it will be held—but it would seem unfair for the league to allow teams with existing rosters to get an even bigger head start on the two new expansion franchises. Then again, MLS gonna MLS sometimes, and it’s probably time to start getting used to that.

What would be equitable for both the newbies and existing MLS clubs would be for the two new teams to participate in the Dispersal Draft, but to then make players chosen automatically exempt from being taken in the Expansion Draft. This makes the most sense, which is precisely why it’s doubtful to happen. The Dispersal Draft is the only activity on the off-season calendar without a fixed date, but it is supposed to happen sometime before the Dec. 10 Expansion Draft, so it will be soon.

One event I’m particularly interested in is the half-day trade window on Dec. 8, the day after the MLS Cup Final. Half a day isn’t a lot of time to get things done, but this presents clubs an opportunity to get their ducks in a row before the Expansion Draft. It might turn out to be one of the more eventful days of player movement in the off-season. Or…nothing might happen. It could go either way.

Lee Nguyen, Waiver Draft steal.
Lee Nguyen, Waiver Draft steal.

The first major event for Orlando City is likely to be the Expansion Draft. Heath will be looking for experienced MLS players to fill in the roster of players already in place, or about to be signed (a second DP, perhaps?) through exhaustive international scouting. The OCSC staff has talked extensively about adding battle-tested MLS veterans and the Expansion Draft is the place to do that.

One overlooked aspect of the Expansion Draft is that Orlando City and NYCFC might be able to get a protected player they want via trade if a team covets an unprotected player. A goalkeeper like Zac MacMath of Philadelphia might be a guy who is available and wanted by a number of teams. Although Orlando City has Tally Hall, a guy like MacMath might be too valuable a commodity to ignore, despite not being a position of primary need. A savvy team can use the Expansion Draft to build assets it can use later to target areas of the roster that must be addressed.

The Waiver and Re-entry Drafts will provide other opportunities to find experience. How important can the Waiver Draft be? New England acquired MVP candidate Lee Nguyen that way. Philadelphia nabbed Conor Casey from Colorado in the Re-entry Draft.

Aside from that, January will provide an opportunity to find diamonds in the rough as both the MLS Caribbean Combine and the last of Orlando City’sfour tryout camps will take place in the first month of 2015, just before the club’s preseason trip to Brazil.

Finally, the SuperDraft on Jan. 15 will help the Lions build for the future. Some of the players selected in the SuperDraft may end up on loan at Louisville City. Useful players taken in the SuperDraft, such Tesho Akindele of Dallas, contributed right away. Ethan Finlay and Justin Meram of the Columbus Crew are SuperDraft success stories who developed over time.

Trading future picks for current players is another option. NYCFC has already traded future draft choices to secure the rights to players. Orlando City could easily do the same.

A lot will happen between now and the first pre-season game in club history. Orlando City’s roster must first be built. It is already in the works with negotiations of international signings/DPs and will continue through the following busy MLS off-season calendar:

2014-15 MLS Off-Season Calendar

TBD — MLS Dispersal Draft for Chivas USA

December 7, 2014 — MLS Cup Final

December 8, 2014 — Half-day Trade Window

December 10, 2014 — MLS Expansion Draft

December 10, 2014 — Trade Window opens at the end of Expansion Draft; closes on December 11, 2014, at 5 pm ET

December 10, 2014 — MLS Waiver Draft

December 12, 2014 — MLS Re-entry Draft, Phase One

December 12, 2014 — Trade Window opens at the end of Re-entry Draft Phase One; closes on December 17, 2014, at 11 am ET

December 18, 2014 — MLS Re-entry Draft, Phase Two

December 18, 2014 — Trade Window opens at the end of Re-entry Draft Phase Two

January 2-5, 2015 — MLS Caribbean Combine

January 9-13, 2015 — MLS Combine

January 15, 2015 — MLS SuperDraft

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