MLS Eastern Conference Preview, Predictions

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Orlando City SC

Last year’s results: 19-5-4, lost in the first round of the USL Pro playoffs

Head coach: Adrian Heath, who coached the USL team for the last four years

Offseason additons: most of the team

MLS returns to Florida after a 13-year hiatus, and Orlando is poised to make the most of their inaugural season. Kaka is the big name, of course, but the Lions used the various mechanisms available to them to construct a squad with a healthy amount of young talent around him.

Orlando has shown a penchant for players who were in need of a change of scenery. Aurelien Collin’s partnership with Matt Besler had taken a turn for the worse in Kansas City. Brek Shea, at just 25, had already flamed out in England. Danny Mwanga, Pedro Ribeiro, and Amobi Okugo were all high draft picks whom the Philadelphia Union couldn’t find a way to build around. All have potential, and it’s on Adrian Heath to make the most of it.

Kaka is the playmaker in the attacking midfield, and it will be his job to provide service to a youthful and less-heralded front three. On the right is 24-year-old Kevin Molino, who scored 27 goals over four seasons for Orlando in the USL. On the left will be Carlos Rivas, a 20-year-old from Colombia. Up top is the other DP, Bryan Rochez, who at age 20 already has experience in Honduras’ national team. All of them are unproven at the MLS level, but again the potential is there.

Glass half full: Orlando has a better foundation than just about any previous expansion side. They carried over some of a roster that was dominant at the USL level, and added Kaka, Brek Shea, and another DP in striker Bryan Rochez. They used the expansion draft smartly, and have the talent and ambition to reach the playoffs in the East.

Glass half empty: Over the last decade, the 2009 Seattle Sounders are the only expansion team to make the playoffs in their inaugural MLS season. And in many of those years an even greater portion of the league qualified than now. Kaka aside, this is mostly a roster of ex-USL players and young castoffs from other MLS teams. There are question marks in defense, including the conversion of Brek Shea to fullback. They might not be ready to compete this year.

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  • Anonymous

    Six teams make the Eastern Conference playoffs this year. As ridiculous as that may sound, even worse is that NYRB will not be one of them. NYCFC has a better chance.

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