Editorial (February 2, 2018) – Orlando City SC could be having the best off-season of an team in Major League Soccer, outside of the recent Cyle Larin news. They’ve made big inter-league trades for midfielders Sacha Kljestian and Justin Meram. They’ve made some international moves as well.
Orlando City Loading up and a Possible Return to the Diamond?
The Lions have been disappointing in their three years in MLS. They have yet to make the playoffs. Last year, despite a new soccer-specific stadium and respected MLS Head Coach Jason Kreis, the team finished second to last in the Eastern Conference.
Reinforcements from MLS and Abroad:
The club immediately set out this off-season to rebuild the team. MLS veteran and New York Red Bulls captain Sacha Kljestian was obtained in an Orlando-friendly trade. They just recently acquired Meram for just over $1 million in allocation money. Just this week, they made a trade with FC Dallas to obtain Oriol Rosell (formerly of Sporting KC) through the league allocation order.
With all these moves combined with Dom Dwyer who was acquired last season, the attack and midfield looks completely different from last season. They’ve still got some questions on the back line as defense was one of their weaknesses that has not been addressed as much through off-season signings. Tarek and a healing Jonathan Spector will certainly help.
Kreis seems to be getting type of team and types of players he wants in place, regardless.
2018 Tactical Preview:
How Orlando will line up is still up the air. They’re definitely in position to play a more possession style of play, fitting in with Kreis’s philosophy going back to his time coaching Real Salt Lake.
Formation wise, they have a few options. Kljestian and Meram could each play as a No. 10. Meram could be an underneath forward with Dwyer. Kljestian was primarily a No. 6 when he played in Europe. Colman could play on the wing or centrally.
I may be too much of a tactical nerd for the old RSL teams, but I think Orlando could return to Kreis’s 4-4-2 diamond formation. Rosell was the Kyle Beckerman of Sporting KC for several years, including 2013 when they won MLS Cup (against Kreis and Beckerman). Put him at the base of the diamond to distribute and shield the back line.
Kljestian is a veteran No. 10 who sees the pass before the pass and distributes. That’s the Javier Morales role. Meram can be the withdrawn striker working underneath Dwyer, who will be running at and antagonizing opposing center backs. Throw Colman on one of the wings and let the rest of the midfield battle for that other spot in the four.
The other distinct possibility is a 4-2-3-1. Rosell and Dillon Powers or Yoshimar Yotún can be in the two spot. Have Dwyer up top with Colman, Kljestian, and Meram in the midfield. Spector and Tarek can lead the four man back line in either case with Joe Bendik in goal.
The way the Cyle Larin situation ended with disappointing for the organization, but they were able to get a reported $2.3 million transfer fee out of it. That’s probably money they had already spent (or at least earmarked) for the various deals and contracts mentioned above. Other than that, this has been an extremely successful off-season for the Lions. The big question remains where will Kljestian and Meram line up in relation to each other. No matter what, on paper this team is in position to complete for the playoffs.