Editorial (August 23, 2018) – First and foremost, this season is a wash. Orlando City SC need to look ahead at next year, rather than looking to try to get back into the fray. Another disappointing year will come and go, without the Lions making the MLS playoffs. They will complete their fourth season, and its already time to look ahead to next year. Here are thigs things that Orlando City need to do before next season kicks off:
Five moves Orlando City need to make to compete in 2019
1. Look for talent in the system
They should be bringing in past Orlando City B players and youth players into the fray to finish this season. This should develop a few players that maybe wouldn’t normally get an opportunity. Of the 28 players under contract for Orlando City this season, only 2 have come from Orlando City B and their youth teams.
That just isn’t enough to compete in a league where homegrown players and talent are becoming more and more important. The less a club has to spend on transfers, the more they can focus on talent that is in-house.
2. Plan for the 2019 MLS SuperDraft
The one and only first overall selection Orlando City received at the MLS SuperDraft was Cyle Larin back in 2015. While that relationship ended poorly, there was a streak there where Larin was a serious forward in the league, even winning Rookie of the Year.
Orlando City also need to keep their draft pick. City traded their 8th overall pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, for Atlanta United defender Donny Toia. Instead, they should be looking for young stars to build around. Their place in the standings will result in a high pick, even after the new expansion team selects first. If they are able to land another Chris Mueller next season, they will be better for it.
3. Start from scratch
There are 28 players under contract until the end of 2018, but only nine are under contract for next season. This sets up an opportunity to rebuild the team and evaluate what the plan is going forward. There is certainly some youth on the squad that could develop (Cam Lindley, Chris Mueller, Pierre da Silva), but there is also a number of players over 30 who will need replacing.
Will Johnson and Sacha Kljestan are secure for another season, but Jonathan Spector could be out the door come January. Since Kaka left, Orlando has failed to find a creative midfielder to initiate the attack, but that is okay. Rather than trying to hit the jackpot with an experienced played past their prime, City should rely on youth and grow the team collectively.
4. Make Dom Dwyer the main man
Dom Dwyer was drafted by Sporting Kansas City in 2012, but can be remembered for lighting up the USL Pro with Orlando City in 2013. He helped the club during the season and made an immediate impact. So much so, that Dwyer was recalled by Sporting Kansas City during their playoff push.
It was quite a year for Dom Dwyer, who pushed Orlando City to finish first in the league, and then returned to Sporting to help them win the MLS Cup. Dwyer returned to the Lions in 2017 after being traded for allocation funds, and marked the most expensive transfer in the league at the time.
The last half of the 2017 season through this season, Dwyer has led the attacking line and scored plenty of goals. Dwyer was also called up to the United States Men’s National Team the same day that Dwyer was traded.
Orlando City need to give Dom Dwyer the keys and have him run the team, make him the face of the franchise, and potentially give him the armband. There is no reason he shouldn’t be contending for a goal scoring title next year. He is already sitting 5th this season and hasn’t played particularly well.
5. Contract extensions
With such few players returning next year, there is a list of contracts that need to be extended by the end of 2018. Yoshimar Yotun, Cristian Higuita, and Jose Villarreal are stars of the club, out of contract, and need to be brought back. Chris Mueller, Tony Rocha, and new boy Carlos Ascues also need to be brought back.
If City let their players leave or turn down contracts, they will find themselves scrambling for players who may be unwilling to join a last-place franchise. The sooner the deals are completed, the better for the front office.