Starting centerback Lamine Sané and eight other players whose options were declined will not return for Orlando City in the 2020 season.
The club shared a thank you tribute to nine players on social media on Monday. The posts confirmed the departure of nine players — Sané, Cristian Higuita, Cam Lindley, Sacha Kljestan, Will Johnson, Adam Grinwis, Carlos Ascues, Shane O’Neill and Dillon Powers.
Sané formed the second half of the Lion’s centerback pairing alongside Robin Jansson during the 2019 season. He started in 25 games, dropping the team’s goals-allowed from 74 in 2018 to a club record low of 52 in 2019. But his $950,000 salary weighed on the Lions, clocking in as the second-highest salary awarded to a non-designated player.
Six of the nine players departing Orlando were midfielders, reflecting the turnover at the position that has been a focus of executive vice president of soccer operations Luiz Muzzi since the end of the season. Only six midfielders remain on the Orlando City roster now, including Josué Colman, who is still on loan in Paraguay.
The club also addressed the official departure of Higuita for the first time. The midfielder was the final member from the team’s inaugural MLS roster in 2015 to leave Orlando City. During five seasons with the Lions, Higuita netted six goals and added eight assists over the course of 103 games.
After his option was declined in November, Higuita told ProSoccerUSA he still held out hope to return to the club in the future.
“I want to return one day,” Higuita said said. “My dream, as I’ve told my wife, is in a couple of years once I know that time has come, I’d like to retire here with this team and hopefully that opportunity will come.”
The club shared a tribute video to Higuita’s five years with the club, including the hashtag #GraciasHiguita.
— Orlando City SC (@OrlandoCitySC) December 9, 2019