BRADENTON, Fla. — Orlando City goalkeeper Mason Stajduhar couldn’t wait to get started at preseason training camp.
This year’s camp at IMG Academy is the first time he’s been healthy at the start of preseason training since – by his reckoning – 2016. It’s a chance for him to shine. Really, preseason training at IMG Academy is a chance for Orlando City’s three goalkeepers to prove they’re up to the task of starting for an MLS team.
“It was a very, very anxious offseason,” Stajduhar said. “It was way too long. I was ready to go after I took two or three weeks off after the season ended. I’ve been waiting for this since November or so. I’m very excited to be back in training.”
The team’s three signed goalkeepers – Stajduhar, Adam Grinwis and Greg Ranjitsingh – are it, according to executive vice president of soccer operations Luiz Muzzi. The Lions are set at the goalkeeper position, at least for now, so all signs point to one of them being the starter when Orlando City opens its season at home against NYCFC on March 2.
All three keepers are young in their MLS careers. The Lions traded veteran goalkeeper Joe Bendik to Columbus Crew SC after Orlando City declined to exercise his club option. Earl Edwards Jr. was traded to D.C. United after his contract expired.
“We have three guys that are really good goalkeepers,” Muzzi said during the MLS Player Combine. “I’ve been asking guys about Mason and Mason is back and fully healthy and been training. Met Adam [at] training.
“That’s not to say that we wouldn’t be looking at a goalkeeper eventually, but that’s not our top priority right now. We may end up getting somebody else. Right now, we have three quality goalkeepers and if any one of the three has to play, I’m very comfortable with any one of the three.”
University of Delaware goalkeeper Todd Morton also is at preseason training.
Stajduhar is a Homegrown player who sat out last season to battle bone cancer but is back and fully healthy. Grinwis was signed by the team ahead of the 2018 season and earned a chance to start near the end of the year. Ranjitsingh is the newest goalkeeper on the team. He was signed from Louisville City, Lions head coach James O’Connor’s previous team. He won two titles with Louisville City and recorded shutouts in both championship games.
“We’ve really clicked,” Ranjitsingh said. “Before the training even started, we got together before preseason and trained a little bit. I think we have some good chemistry and we’re all getting along, and the banter is great, so I’m excited to work with them.
“It’s amazing. I’ve been in the USL for four years just waiting for my opportunity. I’m super-excited to finally make the jump to MLS, especially with Orlando City.”
Grinwis, who started the final four games of last season and started five games total last year, said he wants to re-earn his starting spot from last season. Those five starts in 2018 were the first five starts of his MLS career. He conceded six goals, but he was the team’s starter when it snapped a 14-match winless skid with a 2-1 victory over Columbus Crew SC.
“I think, coming off of last season, it was my goal to come in here and re-earn the starting shirt,” he said.
“I know that’s not an easy thing in MLS, especially with only a few games under your belt, but I felt really confident with how my games went last year and I’ve worked incredibly hard this offseason. I don’t take a day for granted. You’ve got to earn it every single day.”
Grinwis added the chemistry between the goalkeepers has been strong over the first few days of preseason training and that goalkeeper coach Thabane Sutu is looking for fitness and sharpness during the early days at IMG.
“It’s been fun,” Grinwis said. “It’s been hard work. I think we all have similar mentalities in how we like to go about training. Thabane has been pushing us. Greg and Mason have been fantastic. Todd, the other goalkeeper who has been training with us, unbelievable. All in all, it’s been a very productive preseason so far.”