CHICAGO — After Santiago Patino stepped up to the podium, his dream of playing for Orlando City realized, he took a breath to steady himself.
“This is harder than scoring goals,” he said.
Patino was selected No. 3 overall by Orlando City in Friday’s MLS SuperDraft in Chicago. The Lions secured him after being blocked from signing him as a Homegrown player between his junior and senior seasons at Florida International University.
“I think I did a good job in the combine,” he said. “My years at FIU, I did a really good job. Every time I woke up in the morning, just going to make sure I did my best and leave everything to God’s hands.”
He added with a laugh, “That means today, I had a feeling I was going to go early, but not that early.”
The 6-foot-1, 190-pound striker, a graduate of Freedom High in Orlando, played for Orlando City’s development academy (specifically, the under-18s) for “seven or eight months” before going to FIU. Patino’s Homegrown status was challenged by the league when Orlando City went to sign him, and the deal fell through.
That doesn’t matter anymore. Patino — a player Orlando City executive vice president of soccer operations Luiz Muzzi said was always a Homegrown player — is with Orlando City. He signed a senior deal with MLS before the start of the draft, a contract that’ll be picked up by Orlando City.
“It’s incredible,” Patino said. “Like I said before, they always have opened the doors for me. They always told me, ‘You’re going to be a Homegrown.’ That’s what I wanted at first. Things didn’t work out, but I’m glad that happened now. You know, I’m a Homegrown, I’m from Orlando and I can’t wait to be there.”
Patino provides some depth in the attack, something Orlando City desperately needs. He scored 12 goals as a senior with FIU and trained with Orlando City early in the 2018 season when Dom Dwyer and Stéfano Pinho were injured.
Patino said he’s looking forward to working with Dwyer, who scored a team-high 13 goals for the Lions last season.
“When I went to train with them, I was just with them only for a week,” Patino said. “I can’t wait for him to teach me stuff that he knows and grow as a player. Right now, that’s the point. I’m coming into a new league. It’s a new level for me, but I know working hard, doing things right and learning from the right people, I will grow that way too.”