ORLANDO, Fla. — Orlando City declined the option of 10 players on Thursday — Carlos Ascues, Alex De John, Adam Grinwis, Cameron Lindley, Shane O’Neill, Dillon Powers, Greg Ranjitsingh, Uri Rosell, Lamine Sané and Mason Stajduhar.
The most notable of that group is Sané, who served as the second key link of the centerback pairing, starting 25 games on the backline this season.
Midfielders Cristian Higuita and Will Johnson and forward Sacha Kljestan are also now out of contract.
These 13 players clear up more than $4.9 million in cap space for Orlando City, including Kljestan’s $1.1 million guaranteed salary and Sané’s $950,000 guaranteed salary.
The club announced it is currently negotiating a permanent transfer for defender Ruan.
The Lions could still negotiate new contracts with any of the players whose options were declined or whose contracts have expired.
Orlando City finished the 2019 season with a 9-15-10 record, finishing on an eight-game winless skid that led to the firing of former head coach James O’Connor. Two months later, the club remains in the midst of a coaching search. The Lions didn’t utilize the November trade window and its roster remained untouched during the 2019 Expansion Draft earlier this week.
The team didn’t pick up any options in the midfield, an area that remains the key focus of the offseason.
Orlando City exercised options on the contracts of five players for the 2020 season, bringing the roster tally up to 15 contracted players.
The team preserved critical links of the team’s defense from 2019 after the backline set a club record for fewest goals allowed in a single season, exercising options on defenders Kamal Miller and Kyle Smith. Miller broke out in his rookie season to step into a starting role due to injuries, while Smith survived the departure of O’Connor, who brought him to Orlando from Louisville City FC.
Goalkeeper Brian Rowe will return to the Lions for 2020 after notching 110 saves this season. Centerback Robin Jansson will also remain with the team after holding down the core of the backline last season. The team will also retain João Moutinho, a young outside back who provided a versatile threat up the flanks but struggled with injuries throughout the season.
The Lions also extended options to forwards Tesho Akindele, Chris Mueller and Santiago Patiño. Akindele served up a resurgent season in his first year with Orlando, netting 10 goals to finish second in scoring only behind Nani. A fan favorite, Mueller offered a midseason scoring surge and energy off the bench, while Patiño made the most of limited minutes in his rookie season.
Midfielders Sebastián Méndez, Mauricio Pereyra and Robinho, as well as forwards Josué Colmán, Dom Dwyer, Benji Michel and Lions’ captain Nani also have guaranteed contracts that run through the 2020 season.
Without a head coach in place, executive vice president of soccer operations Luiz Muzzi is currently controlling all roster moves for the club while also leading the coaching search. After firing O’Connor, Muzzi made clear he was willing to take his time making moves to acquire a new coach and mold the roster.
The club will now look ahead to Nov. 25, when MLS free agency opens. Free agency includes out-of-contract and option-declined players who are at least 28 years old and have completed a minimum of eight service years. The complete list of free agents will be released on Nov. 22.