Orlando City SC is paying close attention to the MLS Player Combine, which is being hosted in Orlando City Stadium.
The Lions own the No. 3, No. 27, No. 38, No. 59, No. 75, No. 94 and No. 96 picks during the MLS SuperDraft that starts Friday in Chicago. Orlando City has jettisoned 13 players since the end of a disastrous 2018 campaign, making room for new players.
So, what’s Orlando City looking for during the combine in its home stadium?
“Some good players, hopefully,” coach James O’Connor said with a chuckle during the first day of the Combine.
“I think, obviously, there’s a couple of positions that we’re looking at. I think it’s interesting, looking at the players to see who’s nervous, who’s performing well, maybe others that you think could perform a little bit better on the day. There’s a lot of factors that come into play in this event.”
Orlando City executive vice president of soccer operations Luiz Muzzi told Pro Soccer USA having the No. 3 pick is important.
“The unfortunate thing about having a No. 3 pick is that we had a bad year, right?” Muzzi said. “The good thing is that that bad year is behind us and now we’ve got a No. 3 pick. I think the combine has been losing a lot of the talent and the value because of all the Homegrowns and all that. But having a No. 3 pick, we need to do something good.
“You have to get someone who will be good for this club. Again, different scenarios. Do we keep that pick? Do we trade that pick? Do we go for a specific position? Do we go for best available? We’re working on all those scenarios, but I think with a No. 3 pick, we need to do something big.”
Orlando City enjoyed success during the 2018 draft. The Lions picked up Wisconsin alum Chris Mueller, who made 32 appearances (23 starts) for the team. Mueller scored three goals and was second on the team with seven assists.
Another successful draft would mesh with Muzzi’s vision of Orlando City becoming a younger side. O’Connor was hesitant to name specific areas of need within the team, but he said he’s been impressed with Muzzi’s vision.
“I think we’ve made some good additions,” O’Connor said. “There’s a couple of pieces we still need to add. I don’t want to come out and say there’s one specific area. I think there’s a couple of them that we’re trying to prioritize.
“There’s some aspects to those positions that we want to make sure we get right. Certainly, a little more speed, which is something we’ve looked at. There’s a lot of factors that we’re looking at and I think we can be pleased with some of the additions we’ve made.”
O’Connor said there are a host of factors he’s looking at when building his 2019 squad.
“It’s not just younger,” he said. “I think we want good players. We want people to be able to fulfill the criteria. Age, obviously is something that… the younger you are, the more capacity you have to run, I think. There’s lots of factors that people want to say. Is it younger or are we looking for bigger people? There’s so many factors that we go into.
“I think the players we’ve signed have been younger. I think there’s a few more that we will sign that [are] maybe similar age, maybe a little bit older. For me, the age factor is one piece to it, but there’s so many pieces to it. There’s the physical aspect, the mental aspect, the technical aspect – there’s so many aspects to what we’re trying to do.”