Orlando City SC still has a ways to go before its first MLS roster is finalized, but after acquiring three accomplished veterans on Monday and adding another 10 players in Wednesday’s Expansion Draft, the club is feeling very good about where it stands.
Orlando head coach Adrian Heath and general manager Paul McDonough brought in talent at every level of the field on Wednesday, selecting former Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts with the first pick of the Expansion Draft and adding experienced defender Heath Pearce, Costa Rican international Jairo Arrieta, and former Orlando USL-PRO midfielder Lewis Neal, among others.
“We know we needed experience and I think with the trades we made on Monday and the picks we took today, we feel really comfortable,” McDonough told reporters on a conference call following the Expansion Draft. “We have a few more things yet to announce, but we feel really good with where we are right now. We’re really happy. I think we have a good balance, good depth and good versatility within the group.”
The 10 expansion picks give Orlando 22 players on its current roster. Wednesday’s additions will join Designated Player Kaka, three-time MLS All-Star defender Aurelien Collin, promising 23-year-old midfielder Amobi Okugo and longtime Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall – who is recovering from a torn ACL suffered in August – in the Sunshine State.
Despite Hall’s presence on the roster, Orlando seems intent on keeping Ricketts, with the two-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year likely to serve as the club’s starter at least until Hall’s scheduled return from injury in the summer.
“He’s hugely experienced, over 100 caps for Jamaica, but more importantly, he’s been absolutely fabulous in this league,” Heath said of Ricketts. “Obviously, Tally Hall, who we [acquired] earlier, he’s got an injury and we want to give Tally every bit of time to get fit and ready before coming back. We thought [Ricketts] was the best available player out there and we think he’s going to be a great fit for us moving forward.”
Filling out Orlando’s selections were ex-Rapids attackers Tony Cascio and Danny Mwanga, former Philadelphia midfielder/forward Pedro Ribeiro, Columbus defender Eric Gehrig, ex-Seattle defender Jalil Anibaba and forward Mark Sherrod, who got off to a promising start in Houston before tearing his ACL halfway through his rookie year of 2014.
The Orlando Sentinel reported shortly after the Expansion Draft that Orlando would send Anibaba to Sporting Kansas City as part of the deal that brought Collin to OCSC on Monday. That report has yet to be confirmed by either club.