ORLANDO (February 19, 2020) —
This season, Orlando City aims to rewrite their narrativ as being a club that cannot reach the postseason.
The team has a new coach, a new head of soccer operations and new players coming in. Amidst the optimism, the club released a short video titled “Bleed Purple.” It is part of a two-part story that goes behind-the-scenes with Orlando City as they prepare for the 2020 MLS season. Written and directed by their director of video production, Derek Cody, this is Bleed Purple, Part 1.
Indeed, hope seems to be the general mood around Orlando City as the club approaches the season. They have a new Executive Vice President of Soccer Operations, Luiz Muzzi, who arrived in Orlando last winter. His hiring led to Oscar Pareja becoming the team’s new head coach in December.
Last season wasn’t one to remember in Central Florida. Orlando managed to accumulate just 37 points from their 34 regular-season matches, but they did have some success in the U.S. Open Cup as they made it all the way through to the semi-finals. They lost out to the eventual winners of the competition, Atlanta United, in the semi-finals.
Notable Returning Players
On defense, Orlando City will look to João Moutinho (from Lisbon) and Kamal Miller who both did well last season. Spanish Midfielder Oriol Rosell, a Catalán who has also played in Portugal for Sporting Lisbon and OS Belenenses, will again take on a holding midfield role, with the the Brazilian Robinho and Uruguayan Mauricio Pereyra called on to provide an attacking impetus from the middle of the park.
They main attacking threat will be Portuguese forward Luis Nani. He will be helped by Tesho Akindele, Chris Mueller and Dom Dwyer. Between the sticks, Bryan Rowe will be expected to remain as the club’s number one after a solid first year in which he kept seven clean sheets in 32 appearances.
Full-back Ruan will also remain with the club, after the club exercised its option to purchase the Brazilian on a permanent deal following a year on loan with the Lions from Sport Club Internacional (Porto Alegre) last season.
Notable Players In
30-year-old midfielder Júnior Urso from Brazilian giants Corinthians is the Lions’ large acquisition during the offseason, signing for a reported fee of $900,000. Additionally, Orlando brought in three players on loan for the 2020 term, all with the option to buy at the end of the season. Colombian midfielder Andres Pera joins from Atletico Nacional and defender (centre-half) Rodrigo Schlegel, from Racing Club.
The third player to join on loan is Antônio Carlos, from Brazilian Série A side Palmeiras, where he has registered 56 appearances since joining the club on loan in July of 2017. He registered 22 appearances and had a goal and an assist for Plameiras in 2018 as the Verdão won the Brasileirão Serie A title. He also had eight Copa Libertadores appearances. Carlos has made 12 appearances for Palmeiras in 2019, nine in league play and three in the Copa Libertadores.
Orlando City have added Peruvian shot-stopper Pedro Gallese, who they have signed on a free transfer from Mexican side Veracruz.
OCSC have also brought in three midfielders, two of which are homegrown players. David Loera has come in from NC State Wolfpack, while Jordan Bender has graduated from the Orlando City B team to move into the first-team squad.
Orlando City acquired five players in the 2020 MLS Superdraft. With the fifth pick overall they selected Virginia forward Daryl Dike, followed by Wake Forest midfielder Joey DeZart in the second round. After acquiring additional selections via trade, Central Florida defender Jonathan Dean and Providence College goalkeeper Austin Aviza were also selected in the second round. Florida International defender Nick O’Callaghan was selected with the fifth pick in the third round, the Lions’ final selection.
|Sacha Kljestan||M||34||USA||LA Galaxy||free|
|Carlos Ascues||CD||27||PER, VEN||Alianza Lima||free|
|Cristián Higuita||M||25||COL||Junior FC||free|
|Cam Lindley||M||22||USA||Indy Eleven (USL)||free|
|Dillon Powers||M||28||USA, ITA||Dundee Utd.||free|
|Lamine Sané||CB||32||SEN, FRA||FC Utrecht||free|
|Will Johnson||M||32||CAN, ENG||–||–|
|Greg Ranjitsingh||GK||26||Minnesota Utd.||draft|
|Adam Grinwis||GK||27||USA||Sacramento Republic USL||free|
Paraguayan midfielder Josue Colman remains out on loan at Cerro Porteño with the conclusion of his 18-month loan deal coming at the end of the 2020 campaign.
Goalkeepers (3): Pedro Gallese, Brian Rowe, Mason Stajduhar
Defenders (8): Carlos Antônio, Alex De John, Robin Jansson, Kamal Miller, João Moutinho, Ruan, Rodrigo Schlegel, Kyle Smith
Midfielders (10): Jordan Bender, Júnior Urso, David Loera, Sebastian Jhegson Mendez, Chris Mueller, Andres Perea, Nani, Mauricio Pereyra, Oriol Rosell, Robinho
Forwards (5): Tesho Akindele, Daryl Dike, Dom Dwyer, Benji Michel, Santiago Patinoo
Oscar Pareja seems to have a way to improve a club in short time, as evidenced by his work at Colorado and FC Dallas previously. He has put an emphasis on putting the players through intense workouts thus far in preseason, which Muzzi agrees is key for building a strong base.
“We did three-a-days in Mexico,” Muzzi explained. “You see guys doing seven o’clock [sessions], doing lunchtime workouts on the beach, and then doing five o’clock training sessions. All the guys had very good energy, a great vibe, everybody’s working hard, so we’re very excited for the season. We think we have great things ahead, and we can’t wait to start playing real matches.”
The 2020 season begins with a home match on February 29 against Real Salt Lake. Orlando City then travels to Commerce City to face the Colorado Rapids on the road in their second clash of the season.
Optimism is high that this could be the year that the Lions finally make the postseason MLS Cup tournament.