5 Free Agents Orlando City Could Take A Look At This Off-Season
The MLS recently released its free agency list for the 2021 season. The list contained a number of intriguing names. Names that could address some of Orlando's roster needs. I recently penned a piece addressing the needs in this current squad. There are still a few areas of need for Oscar Pareja to address, and he could do worse than some of the names on the free agency list. This is a purely speculative post, whereby I have compiled a short list of interesting players, from the free agency list, who could bolster Orlando City's roster.
Now, I want to preface this by saying I'm not suggesting Orlando City should sign all of these players. As a matter of fact, I don't actually see any of them happening. It's a controversial list, and seemingly not at all in keeping with the club's recruitment mantra. Like, not at all. The club's scouting department is far cuter than that. And I'd be remiss to suggest the team won't continue to unearth talent from far flung corners of the globe; they have done brilliantly in that regard. Not to mention, signing all of these names would bring the average age of the squad up considerably...
All that being said, there's a lot to be said for experience. Particularly in this league. So, there's an argument to say acquiring one or two of them could be good business, in my opinion. Anyway, it's just fun to hypothesise and speculate.
So, without further ado, let me dive into (what I believe to be) the 5 most interesting names on the free agency list, that could bolster Orlando City's roster:
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As I covered recently, Orlando have a significant need at left-back. Joao Moutinho is set to miss a large portion of the season, and with Kamal Miller having already left the club, that need has only intensified. The club could do a lot worse than Jordan Harvey. The 36-year-old is definitely heading into his twilight years, but he is still more than capable of doing a job in this league.
In 2019 the veteran defender was a mainstay of the LAFC backline, chalking up 28 starts and 2 substitute appearance on the MLS season. His role was reduced somewhat in 2020, making 8 competitive starts and 3 substitute appearances, as he competed with Diego Palacios and former Lion Mohamed E-Munir. Across his 11 appearances in 2020, he totaled 753 minutes of action for LAFC, with a PPG rating of 1.7, according to transfermarkt. Not too shabby.
Harvey also gives a certain amount of offensive output, as well as being a low defensive risk (only 12 fouls committed in 2020, and 8 conceded in his last 7 starts - LAFC are an expansive team.). He registered 1 assist in 2020, with a further 5 in 2019. He also scored 1 goal in 2019.
Orlando City could do a lot worse than bringing Jordan Harvey in on a free, as cover for Joao. My gut feeling is also telling me we'll target a left-back in the SuperDraft. What better role model to have around for a year?
Now, for most supporters there are two sides to this coin. There are the romantics who would love nothing more than to see Molino don the purple of Orlando City once more. And then there are the naysayers, who say we should let the past die. Kill it, if we have to. Sorry, it's been a while since I used a Star Wars reference in one of these posts. And I just couldn't help myself.
All that being said, let me propose a more pragmatic third viewpoint. We need pace and ability in the forward and wide areas. Molino ticks both of those boxes. Molino had a stellar year in 2020, scoring 13 times and tallying 4 assists. And he's only 30 years old. No spring chicken, but he's not done by a long shot.
Weirdly, at least statistically speaking, his 2020 season seems like an outlier. He scored 3, 2 and 7 across 2019, 2018 and 2017... Not great for an offensive midfielder/winger, but he's clearly in form now. So why not strike, whilst the iron is hot? Luiz Muzzi et al are undoubtedly searching for more youthful talent; but they could do a lot worse than Molino if those searches come up short. Molino simultaneously provides cover for Chris Mueller and Luis Nani. For me, he'd be worth a punt.
Mightn't be the most popular choice, given his connection to them lot down the road... But he's still a reliable performer in MLS. If you delve into his recent stats, you'll find that is still the case. Don't take them on face value.
Arguably, one of Orlando's greatest needs, is for cover and competition at the 10. The Lions really struggled without Mauricio Pereyra, at times. Whilst his best days are certainly behind him, Higuian could offer something to Oscar Pareja's team. If nothing else, at 36, he is an experienced head who has been in the league a long time.
On the face of it, he struggled massively in 2020: only registering 2 assists across 14 appearances for D.C. United and Fort Lauderdale. But it was only in 2017 that he posted 9 goals and 14 assists for Columbus. In 2018 and 2019 he posted 6 and 9, then 1 and 5. Statistically speaking he is on the decline, As I alluded to earlier, however, there is a little more to these statistics.
During his 14 appearances in 2020 he only chalked up 175 minutes, starting none of those games. Which is remarkable, really. During those 175 minutes, he had an 88% pass success rate and 0.2 key pass average. Which isn't bad at all. He still has an ability to break lines, which is vital in Oscar's system.
Pereyra would obviously, be the starter. But Higuian wouldn't be a bad replacement, for a few games, if we were in a pinch.
The journeyman striker is coming off the back of a reasonably solid 2020 season,in relative terms. The former Norwich City man scored 4 and assisted 2 in 11 starts and 7 substitute appearances. At 36, he's another 'golden oldie', but he's one that still knows where the back of the net is. In 2018 and 2019 he posted 14 goal seasons for the Vancouver Whitecaps and the Colorado Rapids. He's scored goals wherever he has been.
Whilst he's undoubtedly another player on this list whose best days are certainly behind him, he would still be a reliable back-up for Daryl Dike. Dike has surely done enough to cement his place as the first choise striker, but with no regular scorer in reserve (though I believe Benji Michel could be that), Kamara isn't a bad option.
Doubtless another controversial pick. The experienced defender not only has Fort Lauderdale connections, but has often been accused of being a walking red card. His sometimes combative and tempestuous nature, has only seen him awarded 2 red cards during his MLS career. Which, has blown my mind somewhat. That being said he's an experienced campaigner, particularly in MLS. He's also experienced international success with Panama, even captaining them at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.
Whilst he hasn't always been a guaranteed starter, he's featured in enough of Seattle's winning squads to be able to contribute to Orlando's newfound winning mentality. His stats for 2020 aren't too bad either, considering his relatively little game time. In 4 starts for Fort Lauderdale, he averaged 1 tackle and 2.5 clearances. Beckham FC shipped 6 goals in that time, and you get the feeling he was unfairly scapegoated for that. At least to a certain extent. Hence his return to the Sounders.
Torres returned to Seattle fro the end of the season, but looks set to be on the move again. There could be worse back-up options for messrs Carlos, Jansson and Schlegel.
What do you think? Are any of these players worth a deal? Let us know, via the usual channels.
*Statistics courtesy of mlssoccer.com, whoscored.com and transfermarkt.co.uk