The move was Orlando’s second major attacking addition of the winter, following the acquisition of midfielder Sacha Kljestan from the New York Red Bulls earlier in January. And while Lions head coach Jason Kreis made clear that there are no sure things in the transfer market, he believes that Colman will be a major contributor as Orlando attempt to make the playoffs for the first time in club history in 2018.
“We, of course, hope it’s going to be massive,” he told MLSsoccer.com ahead of Monday’s MLS Combine doubleheader. “We believe in this kid, we’ve done a lot of work around him both from a playing standpoint as well as a character standpoint and we believe in what we’re doing. We know there’s no 100-percenters in MLS, but we think the odds are stacked in our favor.”
Colman signed a five-year deal with Orlando, and will be added to the club’s roster as a Young Designated Player. The club began scouting him about a year ago when they began plotting a succession plan for Kaká, who retired this winter after three years with the club. They saw him last winter and last summer before first engaging in serious discussions about acquiring him this offseason.
Orlando were impressed with Colman’s quickness, speed of thought and ability to create in the attack, though they would like to see him improve in front of net after scoring just one goal in 32 total league games in 2017.
“I think the first thing that stood out was just kind of the intensity with which he played and the rate at which he played. I feel like he has a large volume for high-intensity work,” Kreis said. “Then of course you jump right away to his technical abilities: He’s a crafty player, good 1-v-1 player, sees passes, is able to hit passes and looks like a guy that can make and take goals.
“The area that he hasn’t really taken the next step with in his playing is he hasn’t scored a lot of goals,” Kreis continued. “So, it’s a player that we look at and we think that maybe in a little bit of a different system or in a spot where he’s a little bit more of a central figure could score some more goals. We believe he’s capable of that and we certainly think he can make goals.”
Capable of playing as a winger, No. 10 or second striker, Kreis said Colman struggled a bit through the early portion of the year, but responded well to help Cerro Porteño to the Clausura title in December. His ascendance has Orlando feeling bullish about his 2018 prospects, even as they acknowledge that past inconsistency.
“He really kind of struggled in the first half of the season. We saw him go through some frustrations with that, which I think was good to see, actually,” Kreis said. “To have a young player like that, I think feel some real frustration in his career and respond extremely positively in the fall, now I think he’s been on a real uptick and we think we’re getting him at the exact right time.”
Beyond Colman, Kreis feels like he’s starting to get Orlando in a more comfortable place ahead of his second full season in charge. The Lions had some expensive players that didn’t produce much last year. They’ve jettisoned a few of those contracts this winter, and the additions of Colman, Kljestan and the new contract to Dom Dwyer have Kreis feeling positive about his prospects, even if the club do end up shedding striker Cyle Larin in a transfer.
“I think we’re entering the new season with the feeling that this is really the first opportunity that we’ve had to make a major stamp on the roster and build it the way we want to build it,” he said. “Really excited about that. Wish we were a little bit more complete right now heading into preseason starting next week, wish there weren’t a few holes left to be filled, but that’s the nature of the game.”