ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando City are leaving no stone unturned when it comes to compiling their roster for the 2015 Major League Soccer season, their first after winning two titles in four years in USL PRO.
While the club have been finalizing contract offers with holdovers from their 2014 roster, the pieces won’t truly start coming together until December, when the club take part in the MLS Expansion Draft.
Orlando City currently have just nine players under contract, including designated player Kaka and USL PRO MVP Kevin Molino (pictured above). The Expansion Draft will serve as one of three pillars to help fill out the rest of the roster.
“It’s going to be a combination of things,” Orlando City president and founder Phil Rawlins told MLSSoccer.com. “The Expansion Draft allows us to bring in some experienced MLS players, which we need to add to our roster ... Then the SuperDraft, this is going to be a great year for the college [players] with a lot of good kids coming out in the draft.
"Then intermixed with all of that, we’re doing our scouting. We’re looking at players all over the world to add to our squad. Between those three legs to the stool, we’ll build a competitive team.”
Orlando City and New York City FC will each select 10 players from a pool of unprotected MLS players in the Dec. 10 Expansion Draft. The 2015 MLS SuperDraft will take place in January. Orlando City claimed the top pick in both drafts last month.
“They all have their different merits, but I think the Expansion Draft will be important for us to gain experienced players that know the league,” Orlando City general manager Paul McDonough said on Friday.
“Getting the first pick is valuable for us because we know we’re going to get a guy that we really want, and from there it’s a little bit of a domino effect,” he said. “The thing we found is that depending how things go and who teams pull back, the mock drafts look very different depending on who gets picked first or a team picking a guy sooner than you'd think.”
McDonough has worked alongside head coach Adrian Heath and his coaching staff regarding a multitude of possibilities when it comes to the Expansion Draft, but too many unknowns remain at this point.
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“It’s a lot of speculation, so we just need to think about what we think the teams are going to do as far as protecting and leaving players unprotected,” McDonough said. “We’ve done a few mock drafts in and among ourselves, and with a few people from outside the club to give us a different perspective, and we’ll continue to do that leading up to the Expansion Draft.”
While Heath continues to scout abroad, Orlando City will host open tryouts in Charlotte (Nov. 16), Tampa (Dec. 6), Miami (Dec. 13) and Orlando (Jan. 17) before the 2015 MLS season approaches.
Along with Kaka and Molino, midfielders Darwin Ceren and Estrela join defenders Rafael Ramos, Tyler Turner and Tommy Redding on the current 2015 roster. Defender Luke Boden and midfielder Harrison Heath finalized their MLS deals with the club on Monday. Negotiations with midfielder Adama Mbengue are still ongoing.
“We trust in Adrian. He’s been doing a great job and he’s a great coach,” Orlando City majority owner Flávio Augusto da Silva said. “We have a lot of conversations around the world trying to prospect new and good talent, so it’s going to be very exciting days from now until March 2015.”