A Look at Former Lions Who Might Be Available to Return

Orlando City, over the course of its four-year existence, has fielded about 45 players over the years. Since I wrote about what happened with this team’s past players, it seems only fair to look all the way back to 2011 and see what happened to some of the best players to put on an Orlando City jersey.

Mechack Jérôme

Jérôme was one of many players to come to Orlando from the Austin Aztex back in 2011. The right back played in 33 games for the Lions over two years, scoring once and adding four assists. His talents were then noticed during preseason training camp by MLS powerhouse Sporting Kansas City, who signed him after a trial with them in early 2013. After only 12 appearances for SKC, the club waived him in March of 2014. The Montreal Impact were quick to pick him up and Jérôme went on to play with the reserves squad for a few games, before he was released in June. Currently, Jérôme is without a club.

Lawrence Olum

Another Aztex product, Olum played the entire 2011 season in Orlando before being signed by Sporting Kansas City just after the season ended. Olum has gone on to have a very successful run in Missouri, having played in almost 70 games over the past three years, and has had many opportunities in the starting 11 this past year. Olum has also gone on to represent his native Kenya in international competition, accruing two caps for the “Harambee Stars.” Yesterday, he and SKC mutually agreed to part ways. He is reportedly seeking a deal in Malaysia.

Lewis Neal

A product out of Phil Rawlins’ club, Stoke City, Neal was an instrumental player for the Lions’ first season in USL Pro. Having transferred in from Shrewsbury Town in England, Neal went on to start 21 games for City and scored four times in the process. He is also known for scoring City’s first ever goal during a preseason game against the Philadelphia Union at the Citrus Bowl. After his first season with Orlando, the midfielder was signed by D.C. United and has been there since 2012. Neal has secured 53 caps for United and has scored twice.

John Rooney

A bit of an interesting signing at the time, John, the brother of Manchester United star Wayne Rooney, was brought in for the 2012 season. His tenure with the club was a bit unimpressive, only seeing the field nine times and scoring twice. Most of the games late in the season, he was not even on the bench. Needless to say, Rooney was released after the season and went back to England. After bouncing around some English Championship teams, Rooney has now found a home with supporter-owned Chester FC, a team in England’s fifth division. He has played 41 games and scored seven times for the Seals.

Matt Luzunaris

A fan favorite in 2012, Luzunaris had a breakout year for the Lions. After a loan stint in 2011, Orlando signed him to a full contract after the San Jose Earthquakes released him. Luzunaris played in 18 games that year and scored nine times, good for second on the team and third in USL Pro. Luzunaris was named to the USL Pro Team of the Year for 2012. Unfortunately, Orlando and the striker parted ways after that year, with much confusion as to why. Luzunaris was quickly picked up by the Rochester Rhinos, also of the USL Pro, for the 2013 season. Unfortunately, his first season in New York ended abruptly, due to a broken tibia and fibula in his leg in a game against the Harrisburg City Islanders. Luzunaris was able to come back this past season and played in seven games for the Rhinos.

Yann Songo’o

Part of the Sporting Kansas City loan package that brought Dom Dwyer to Orlando in 2013, Songo’o played in 12 games for the Lions and scored once before his contract with Sporting was terminated by mutual consent. The center back signed for Blackburn Rovers in the English Championship. Officially not having made an appearance for the first team, he was loaned out to Ross County in the Scottish Premiership for this year. He has played in 17 games and scored three times for the “Staggies.”

Jamie Watson

Finally, we come to a player who was considered the heart and soul of the Lions—the man, the myth, the legend: Jamie Watson. Watson was the fan favorite for the supporter groups and the face of the franchise in the early years. Not only was he good off the field, but he thrived on it. In three years with the club, Watson made 60 appearances and scored 23 goals. Most fans were hoping he would be able to make the jump with Orlando City to the MLS, but alas, it was not meant to be. Before the 2014 season began, Watson was signed by Minnesota United of the NASL, ending his tenure with the Lions. Since he has joined Minnesota, Watson has made 17 appearances and scored once.

With all of these players possibly being available for Orlando City to bring back for its inaugural MLS season next year, who do you think the Lions should reinstate for another go around?


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