Last year was easily the best season in club history for Orlando City, a rebuild well ahead of schedule under Oscar Pareja. The veteran MLS coach enters year two in charge of the Lions, widely regarded among the top teams in the Eastern Conference in 2021.
They won’t be sneaking up on anybody this time around.
- MLS Reg. Season: 4th in the Eastern Conference (41 pts - 1.78 PPG - 11-8-4, +15 GD)
- Audi MLS Cup Playoffs: Eliminated in Conference Semifinals by New England Revolution, 3-1
The former Manchester United star is entering his third MLS season, boasting 18 goals and nine assists in 49 appearances in the league thus far. The 34-year-old still has plenty left in the tank.
Pereyra was one of Orlando’s breakout stars in 2020, a key cog helping make the Orlando attack tick. The former Uruguay international had two goals and five assists last season.
Urso was one of the club’s key additions this time last year and he lived up to his billing, providing a strong two-way presence in central midfield. He appeared in all 23 of Orlando’s regular season games in 2020.
Young Player to Watch
After filing a one-time switch from Colombia, Perea is a US international. The 20-year-old appeared in all 23 Orlando games last year in his debut campaign and will certainly be a regular at the heart of Pareja’s midfield in 2021.
- Alexandre Pato: He’s not the first huge Brazilian name to come to Orlando. Following in the footsteps of Kaka, Pato signed after a spell with Sao Paulo and the former AC Milan and Brazil national team striker has been on fire in preseason. How will it translate to the regular season?
- Silvestre van der Water: The Dutch winger adds to an already talented group alongside the likes of Nani, Chris Mueller and Benji Michel. Van der Water joins from Hercales in the Netherlands, where he had three goals and four assists during this year’s Eredivisie before the transfer.
- Daryl Dike: Currently tearing up the Championship on loan at Barnsley, Pareja continues to insist Dike will return this summer, but there is plenty of intrigue surrounding his future with rumored interest from the Premier League. Keep an eye on him and his future.
- Dom Dwyer: Dywer missed most of 2020 with an injury and exited this winter, marking the end of a three-and-a-half season run in Orlando after a blockbuster trade from Sporting KC. He had 24 goals with the club.
- Kamal Miller: Miller departed via the Expansion Draft to Austin FC then a quick trade to CF Montréal. The Canadian international offered valuable depth and competition at both center and left back.
Projected Starting XI
- Goalkeepers (3): Brandon Austin, Pedro Gallese, Mason Stajduhar
- Defenders (7): Antonio Carlos, Michael Halliday, Robin Jasson, Joao Moutinho, Ruan, Rodrigo Schlegel, Kyle Smith
- Midfielders (11): Jordan Bender, Joey DeZart, David Lorea, Sebastian Mendez, Benji Michael, Chris Mueller, Andres Perea, Nani, Mauricio Pereyra, Oriol Rosell, Junior Urso
- Forwards (6): Alexander Alvarado, Tesho Akindele, Matheus Aias, Alexandre Pato, Wilfred Rivera, Silvester van der Water
Armchair Analyst's Breakdown
- Strength: A deep and talented central midfield, a six-deep collection of wingers — enough to hopefully keep Nani fresh and rested for the playoff push this year — an excellent central defense, and Best XI-caliber guys at right back and goalkeeper. Orlando City are loaded.
- Weakness: Center forward, with what appears to be the imminent departure of Daryl Dike, is a question mark while left back, with the long-term injury to Joao Moutinho, seems like an obvious and glaring weakness right now. Those two guys were integral last year and replacing them will not be easy.
- Charles Boehm: 1st in East
- Tom Bogert: 6th in East
- Susannah Collins: 2nd in East
- Charlie Davies: 4th in East
- Matthew Doyle: 4th in East
- Sam Jones: 3rd in East
- Michael Lahoud: 3rd in East
- Joe Lowery: 5th in East
- Jillian Sakovits: 4th in East
- Greg Seltzer: 3rd in East
- Steve Zakuani: 2nd in East