The 2019 Orlando City season is upon us and honestly who knows how this upcoming season is going to turn out. With that said, this might be the most excited I’ve been for an Orlando City season since the first year in MLS. Is it the return of the infamous ILF tailgate? Is it the Nani signing? Is it the injection of youth into the squad? I’ll give you some of my thoughts on the upcoming Lions season.
The highlight of the OCSC offseason is clearly Nani, the best Portuguese player in the World currently (don’t @ me). At the age of 32, Nani still has a ton to offer after a successful campaign with Sporting CP that saw Nani tally 8 goals in 20+ appearances and take home the Taça da Liga just prior to his transfer to Orlando City. Reports stated on Wednesday that Nani would be available for Saturday, I’d be shocked if he didn’t play at least 50-60 minutes after already being match fit from playing in Portugal. Nani brings an element to the squad that I don’t think we’ve had in recent memory. Able to beat his man, cross into the box or score from literally anywhere on the pitch. As someone who had watched Nani during his tenure at Manchester United, I can tell you that there will be days that Nani is the most frustrating player on the field. Consistency issues were a staple for Nani in England but on his day he’s an absolute joy to watch. I speak for everyone when I say I’m insanely excited for Nani’s debut and what he brings to the squad for the foreseeable future.
2.) The Goalkeeper Carousel
You know the Spider-Man meme of the two Spider-Man’s pointing at each other, that is quite literally the Goalkeeper position for Orlando City. None of the GK’s stick out for me in the slightest and that could be an issue as the season goes on. I was absolutely wrong about Bendik when he first arrived, though his fall from grace last season wasn’t pretty to watch. Brian Rowe has the most MLS experience it seems so he’ll probably get the nod between the posts but I’d personally like to see what Adam Grinwis could do as he showed some flashes during his 2018 season. What happens at the goalkeeper position this season remains to be seen. With one of the worst defenses in the league last season, goalkeeper might need to be a position that management addresses in the next transfer window.
3.) Youth Movement?
Perhaps the most exciting thing you first notice when looking at the squad is the amount of talented young players there are under the age of 23. Currently Orlando City has 11 players that are 23 and under which leads me to believe that Orlando City finally might be investing in young high-ceiling guys. Names that are regularly in the squad such as Mueller and Colmán are joined by Danilo Acosta and Jhegson Mendez who I expect to both play a decent amount of minutes this season. Not to mention the likes of 2018 #1 overall pick João Moutinho and Brazilian right back Ruan. Orlando City finally seems to be getting their act together in regards to investing in youth and while it may not pay off right away, we’ll see if the investment pays off in the next few years.
4.) JOC on the hot seat?
No, I don’t think on the 1st of March that James O’Connor is on the hot seat (It was just an interesting headline). While winning only 2 of his first 18 matches in charge of Orlando City left much to be desired. The lack of quality in the squad and the morale was so low at that point in the 2018 season that even more experienced managers probably wouldn’t have done much better, unless your name is Ole Gunnar Solskjær. Unless City absolutely shits the bed the first 15-20 matches of the season, JOC should survive this season playoffs or not. What happens after that is really up in the air but continuing to fire coaches mid season is never a good look.
5.) 2019 season predictions
As far as the upcoming Orlando City campaign goes, who honestly knows. With literally no expectations this season, this year could go in a number of different ways. A lot of so called journalists have written Orlando City off before the team even kicks a ball which makes this season even that more interesting. I’m going to take the optimistic route and say that OCSC sneaks into the playoffs but honestly if they don’t and they at least play attractive football and the younger guys continue to develop their game I’ll be happy.
This has been my 2019 Orlando City season preview. I hope to bring you all more content on a regular basis during the 2019 Lions campaign.