Orlando City Still Has Needs to Fill

With the 2014 season about to kick off the Lions are a couple pieces short
by Chris Kimball   |   Monday, March 17, 2014

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

Orlando City wrapped up its preseason schedule on Saturday with a 3-0 win over Stetson University. It was a decisive win but not a surprising one. The upside down nature of the team's preseason schedule means that their toughest competition came in the beginning, at the Disney Pro Soccer Classic, and ended with relatively easy collegiate competition.

Front loading the preseason schedule is not ideal for a team trying to develop chemistry and form, and OCSC manager Adrian Heath has lamented the situation on several occasions. But with the preseason behind them now, Orlando City must prepare to take on the Charleston Battery on March 22, the opening of their final USL PRO campaign.

The squad Orlando City will take to Charleston is well balanced and has gelled nicely during the preseason considering the massive turnover (nine new players), but there are still some definite areas of need.

As of this writing there are just 17 players on Orlando City's roster. In addition, defender Bryan Burke is expected back from injury, and 2 players will arrive on loan from Sporting KC in the next days or weeks.

The 2014 roster as it currently stands:

GK: Miguel Gallardo, Carl Woszczynski

DEF: Luke Boden, Tommy Redding, Brad Rusin, Joseph Toby, Tyler Turner, Rob Valentino

MID: Yordany Alvarez, Darwin Ceren, Austin da Luz, Adama Mbengue, Kevin Molino, James O'Conner, Anthony Pulis

FWD: Dennis Chin, Corey Hertzog

The Lions are set at goalkeeper. Gallardo has started most of the preseason matches and has been in excellent form. He will undoubtedly be the starting keeper for as long as he can keep the job. Woszczynski has also been solid during limited playing time.

Defensively, the club will also add Bryan Burke to the roster when he finally escapes the rehab room. Burke is not officially under contract but has been training with the club all preseason. The team will need the veteran defender to recover his form quickly if they hope to stabilize the right back position.

As it stands, Heath is depending upon 18-year old Tyler Turner to defend the right flank. Turner has shown promise during the preseason but has also been indecisive on occasion. The loan options from Sporting KC appear limited, unless SKC is again willing to part ways with homegrown defender Kevin Ellis. Peter Schmetz is another option from SKC available to Orlando, but whether Coach Heath is interested in an untested 3rd round draft pick remains to be seen.

Orlando's midfield is solid and should be improved over last year's squad. The Lions brought back Alvarez to hold down the fort in the back and he has been impressive. Ceren, da Luz and Molino have combined well to open up the field and create scoring opportunities. Even Mbengue, who arrived late to preseason, has been sharp after settling in. O'Conner will undoubtedly see less playing time this season. But the veteran player/coach will have an important role in helping steady the ship if things get shaky. It just seems like the offense runs more smoothly when he's on the field.

Both of Orlando's strikers performed well during preseason so it will be interesting to see who gets the coach's nod for the season opener. Hertzog has shown better finishing, but Chin has a speed advantage and understands Heath's system.

The real question is whether Orlando City has enough fire power to carry the team for a full season. Neither player has been dominant in USL PRO, but both definitely have the skills and potential to become leading strikers in the league. Nonetheless, SKC manager Peter Vermes must be getting frequent calls from Adrian Heath requesting the immediate services of Sporting KC's first round MLS SuperDraft pick, Adnan Gabeljic.

Neither Orlando City or Sporting KC has provided a loan deadline date. However, given that SKC sent two players on loan to Oklahoma City Energy last week, one should expect Orlando to be welcoming a pair of new recruits at any time.

NEXT UP: March 22 - Orlando City vs. Charleston Battery, Blackbaud Stadium, Charleston, S.C. 7:30 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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