8 Predictions For Orlando City in 2014

What Lions fans should look forward to and start worrying about this season
by Chris Kimball   |   Friday, March 14, 2014

Purple Pride – column on Orlando City SC (OCSC) & the Orlando & Central Florida area soccer scene.

The great physicist Niels Bohr once remarked that making predictions is very difficult, especially when they're about the future.

Having said that, here's what to expect from Orlando City in 2014.

Dennis Chin will have a breakout season

Orlando's svelte striker has displayed periods of brilliance but hasn't been consistent enough to become a force in the league. This season the pieces will fall into place. At age 26, Chin is entering his prime, and with Orlando's improved midfield he can expect better, more consistent delivery in the final third. Chin will boost his stats this season, netting 13 goals and making a solid case for a MLS roster spot.

Woes on the wing

Going into the season there has to be concern about the rightback position. Though Bryan Burke is expected back from rehab, it's unknown whether he will recover his 2013 form. The other options available to Coach Heath are newcomers Tyler Turner, Joseph Toby and possibly Tommy Redding. All are young players with no professional experience. Turner is the early favorite for the starting spot having seen most of the minutes in preseason, but one would expect to see reinforcements quickly from Sporting Kansas City or elsewhere if things don't stabilize early on.

Darwin Ceren will be team MVP

Already this preseason Ceren has shown what a dynamic player he can be. With excellent quickness, ball skills and vision, the Salvadoran will be impressive to watch against USLPRO competition. Expect Corey Hertzog and Dennis Chin to be doubled over in exhaustion from the shear number of darting runs they'll be making at the other end of Ceren's penetrating passes. He's also a workhorse, providing great energy and pace over 90 minutes. Ceren figures to become the creative spark igniting a formidable Lions offense.

Home field disadvantages

The ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex is an excellent venue with much to offer: pristine grounds, free parking, up-close seating. But its drawbacks will become apparent as the season wears on. The low bleachers don't provide an ideal vantage point from which to survey the field. Most of the seats have sight lines obstructed by columns. And the venue's location can be irksome for fans traveling from the city. No doubt the WWSC will still be packed with raucous support all season, but ultimately the Disney venue will leave fans yearning even more for 2015, if that's even possible.

Miguel Gallardo will earn an MLS contract

There will be plenty of time in the coming months to discuss individual players and their chances of making the MLS squad. Looking at the current roster it would not be surprising to see five players – in addition to the 4 already slated for MLS – suiting up for Orlando City on opening day, 2015. One of those players will surely be Miguel Gallardo. The Lion's goalkeeper has shown plenty of MLS quality, boasting great reflexes and instincts. Factor in the strong leadership he provides and Gallardo should become the one player who makes the trek from Austin to Orlando to MLS.

Lions will fall early in the US Open Cup

Based on talent alone there is no reason Orlando City can't go deep into the US Open Cup tournament ... except they won't. This year the Lions will be wearing bulls-eyes on their jerseys, not because they're the favorites, but because they're the team going to MLS in 2015. Consequently, MLS squads will be anxious to throw down the gauntlet and push harder. Expect to see fewer reserve players on the field against Orlando in the middle rounds of the tournament. A fourth round birth for Orlando would be a success.

Fewer points in 2014

Including Orlando, 4 USL PRO teams had MLS affiliations last season. This year it's 11 teams. The league is more competitive with fewer bottom-feeders (i.e. Antigua), so points will be harder to earn. Last year's Commissioner's Cup was essentially a 2-team race between Orlando and Richmond. Expect a tighter battle at the top of the standings this season. In 2013, City earned 54 points over 26 games (16-6-4). If they can equal that tally in 2014, with 2 additional games on the schedule, it will be an excellent result. Prediction: 15-8-5 for 53 points.

Champions again

2014 being City's final season in USL PRO makes this prediction more difficult. By August it should be evident which players have potential MLS futures with Orlando and which players do not. Will players who have underperformed through the summer begin thinking about their next destination before tying a bow on this campaign? It's difficult to predict how cohesive or motivated the squad will be in that environment. Nonetheless, the volume of talent available, Adrian Heath's ability to keep players engaged, and the organizations desire to leave a lasting mark in USL PRO should all be enough to elevate the Lions atop the championship podium one final time. This time it will be in Richmond, a 2-1 affair in which Brad Rusin's head will net the winning goal on an in-swinging corner kick delivered by Luke Boden in the 63rd minute.

Take it to the bank.

NEXT UP: March 15 - Orlando City vs. Stetson University, Seminole Soccer Complex, Lake Mary, Fla. 7 p.m. EST.

Chris KIMBALL

Nationality:
USA
College:
William & Mary
Club Domestic:
Orlando City
Club Foreign:
Tottenham Hotspur
Christopher is editor of Orlando Soccer Daily, covering the beautiful game for central Florida. A retired music exec turned soccer fanatic, he landed in Florida via Paris & Boston. When not working he's usually chasing after his 2 sons or suffering after
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