Three Big Questions

Three big questions following Orlando City SC's 2022 season


The 2022 MLS campaign has long been over and the unforgiving nature of the single-elimination Audi MLS Cup Playoffs sends another six clubs to the offseason after Round One, joining 14 clubs that missed the postseason.

Here, we'll be covering three questions for every team moving forward. Think of it as an exit interview, if you will. Matt Doyle, as always, has you covered on his preeminent season-in-review for each club (Orlando City version). Read that, too.

He has gifs. It’s tough to beat gifs.

The big picture

Orlando City SC were consistently inconsistent in 2022, varying seemingly week-to-week. Stepping back for a macro-level view, the club can look at the season with a smile, thanks to winning the US Open Cup (Orlando’s first MLS-era trophy) and booking a 2023 Concacaf Champions League spot. They also narrowly made the playoffs on Decision Day.

That postseason run was quickly over with a 2-0 loss at CF Montréal in Round One. Orlando’s offseason can go in a few different directions here.

Which key out-of-contract players will depart?

Orlando City have a bunch of regulars who are out of contract, including Pedro Gallese, Joao Moutinho, Mauricio Pereyra, Benji Michel and Alexandre Pato. The loan for summer signing Wilder Cartagena has an option for 2023 as well.  

Gallese, Moutinho and Pereyra each started at least 28 games. Pato was a regular starter before his injury. Michel appeared in 31 games, a key attacking substitute when used off the bench. Those are a lot of minutes potentially in flux.

Early signs for Moutinho are it’s very likely the left back will leave for Europe. A handful of clubs have reached out to sign him on a free. It may be difficult to keep Gallese, given the Peru international goalkeeper has teams in Liga MX interested in signing him on a free deal as well. That could get expensive. Pato has his injury concerns. Pereyra was a Designated Player last year. Orlando have a lot to sort through immediately as the offseason begins.

So far, the few teams that have announced end-of-season roster updates have created few big-time decisions. Orlando do not fall into that category. They have many internal decisions to figure out before looking external.

Will Orlando open a DP spot? If so, where will they use it?

Pereyra could have been bought down off his DP spot in 2022, the team announced last December when he re-signed a one-year contract, but ultimately he wasn’t.

If Pereyra returns on a new deal, I’d be surprised if he’s a DP. That would open a DP spot (next to Facundo Torres and Ercan Kara). The only way that could be filled internally is if a new deal for Junior Urso comes, which makes him a DP. (I believe Urso is out of contract after 2023, if the reports stating he signed a four-year deal when originally signed are indeed true.)

Last winter, Orlando swung big to bring in club-record signing Torres, who had a strong first season in MLS with 9g/10a in 33 league matches. The results on Kara have been a bit more mixed via 11g/3a in 29 league matches, but he’ll be back for 2023 regardless. Those are key resources devoted to one winger and one center forward.

Central defense is set. The Lions are stacked at central midfield, so much so that Ecuador international Sebastian Mendez was out of the rotation and then traded in the summer to LAFC. Meanwhile, Uruguayan d-mid Cesar Araujo was really good.

Depending on Pereyra and Pato’s respective futures, that could increase the likelihood of targeting a No. 10 with that final DP spot. Or a versatile attacker who can play up top or on the wing, so as not to block Kara, but also offer an alternative at center forward.

Which young players can step up in 2023?

Araujo, signed via the league’s U22 Initiative, was an immediate hit during year one. Torres, at 22, was as well, even if that was expected given his pedigree, talent and price tag upon joining from Uruguayan side Penarol. Outside of that pair, they didn’t get a ton from young players.

Perea was buried behind Araujo on the depth chart. Gaston Gonzalez got injured (ACL tear) in his final Argentine top-flight game before joining Orlando, so the U22 Initiative signing never made his MLS debut. Nico Gioacchini didn’t win regular minutes after joining midseason, as the USMNT forward signed from French side Caen. No homegrowns stepped up either.

Oscar Pareja brought a ton of players through during his time with FC Dallas. Perhaps next year more young players will join Araujo and Torres with steps forward.

Depth chart as of Oct. 18
ORL depth chart - Bogert year-end
A couple more thoughts:
  • If a few of those out-of-contract players leave, Orlando will have a lot of minutes to fill.
  • Will Kara look better in year two?
  • How can this group take the next step forward?
  • How will a CCL run impact a currently-thin group?