After three seasons in Major League Soccer, Orlando City has still yet to make a playoff appearance and midfielder Kaka is on his way out. The club has failed to make an impact in MLS, leaving some to wonder what’s next.
Orlando City narrowly missed the playoffs in each of its first two seasons. The club showcased its developing talent and a solid recruiting base, paving a way for a breakout third year in the league. But the growing pains extended deep into year three.
WHAT WENT WRONG
When club legend Kevin Molino was sent to Minnesota in a preseason trade, there wasn’t a major effort to find a replacement.
Molino had 12 goals and eight assists for Orlando in 2016. An adequate secondary scorer and playmaker like Molino was never added to the Lions’ roster. Instead the team made do with Carlos Rivas and an aging Giles Barnes to replace Molino in the aggregate.
The area that lacked most for Orlando in 2017: scoring. The Lions’ attack has only managed 38 goals in 33 games. Veterans like Antonio Nocerino and Will Johnson failed to add any creativity. Others, like Matias Perez Garcia, simply didn’t fit the system and were sent packing.
Suddenly, role-playing midfielders like Molino and even Darwin Ceren were what was missing from Orlando’s lineup.
On the defensive side, Orlando made some positive moves. Before the season started, Orlando acquired Donny Toia, Jonathan Spector, and Scott Sutter. The Lions also signed Victor “PC” Giro from Fort Lauderdale Strikers, hoping the young talent would develop.
The start of the year was positive for Orlando City as the club went 6-1 out of the gate. But since the end of April, Orlando only managed to win four times – including a winless streak of eight games lasting throughout July and August.
While the defense conceded just three times in those first seven matches, opponents have tallied 49 times since. The backline also lacked depth as reserves were unable to fill-in successfully when there was a defender injured or suspended.
Which brings us to the Lions’ lack of discipline. An Orlando player was sent off eight times this season, including four defenders. Playing so many games shorthanded was a product of bad luck and poor defending.
Adding Dom Dwyer helps bolster a scoring attack that lacked a real punch in the 2017 campaign. But now, a search begins for a leader in Orlando and someone who can take the place of someone like Kaka.
Unloading Kaka opens up some serious money and opens the door for a quality player to come into the squad. Look for Orlando to add a designated player during the winter window, and perhaps a big name one as well.
There’s also a desperate need for some creativity to be added to the equation in the form of a winger or attacking midfielder. Yoshimar Yotun is a welcome addition to the side, but there’s a deeper need for more players like him. Players who can spread the play up the sides of the pitch and create chances from all parts of the field.
Maybe that signing comes in the form of DP to replace Kaka, or maybe finally replace Molino. But that still leaves a small gap in defensive depth. A couple of depth signings at the back could be of significant value for Orlando next season and may even be the final missing piece to a first playoff berth.
So despite a truly awful season and losing their best player Kaka, it’s not exactly time to push the panic button in Orlando. The parts are in motion for a reboot that could work its magic as early as next season. There is still significant work to be done this offseason.