With the impending drafts in the MLS coming up in just a few months, now is a good of a time as any to look at which of these drafts Orlando City should be focusing on. While the Dispersal Draft for Chivas USA will be happening this week and Orlando will get someone with the seventh pick in that draft, the more important drafts will be the Expansion Draft and the SuperDraft.
The Expansion Draft, which will happen Dec.10, will involve both Orlando City and the other new team, New York City FC. Essentially what will happen is certain players from all MLS teams will be left “unprotected” and will be entered into a pool for the draft. Orlando City will have ten picks, including the first overall, and will have a very good opportunity to get some quality veterans and potentially good role players.
The SuperDraft, which takes place Jan. 16, will involve the best collegiate soccer players from around the country. Over the years, there have been many good players who have gone in the draft, most notably goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who was selected way back in 2000 by the Miami Fusion. Orlando City will pick first in this draft as well, so this will be another chance for them to pick up on some very good young talent. After all, that is how coach Adrian Heath is trying to build the team.
Looking closely at these two drafts, however, it is clear which of the two is more important for Orlando, going into the inaugural season in MLS. While the prospect of quality youth players from the SuperDraft does sound enticing, the Expansion Draft is, in my opinion, where the Lions should be focusing the majority of their attention. For expansion teams, it is important to have players who are experienced in MLS.
While players like Kevin Molino and Darwin Ceren may be good on their own, they are not used to the style of play and the physicality that the league has. The players that Orlando would pick up would be able to mentor the younger guys, as well as the former USL Pro players, and help them understand the nuances of the MLS game. This could be imperative for such a young team and could, depending on the players chosen, make or break Orlando’s first season in MLS.
While the “unprotected” players won’t be known until early December, it’s certain that Orlando has been scouting heavily to see who they may want, come next month.
Having said this, the SuperDraft is still important for the Lions. The college players that are available are good quality and Orlando can definitely build around them for the future. However, I personally believe that the Expansion Draft will be imperative for the Lions if they want success in their inaugural season.