Another year, another season without playoffs for Orlando City SC. After spending most of the season in the race, the last 8 games saw a winless run that not only ended Orlando’s playoff hopes, but also the tenure of manager James O’Connor. The only positives that could really be taken from 2019 for Orlando were Nani having a spectacular season and Orlando making their first USOC Semi-final.
James O’Connor was promptly fired the day following a 5-2 decision day loss and replaced by Oscar Pareja on December 4. While James O’Connor reduced Orlando’s defensive woes by 22 goals from 2018, the results were not there and even with 9 more points from 2018, Orlando still finished in 11th place. Pareja, former Xolos, FC Dallas and Rapids manager, was brought in to bring a clear vision throughout the organization with former FCD executive Luis Muzzi and hopefully more results to lift Orlando to the playoffs for the first time in history.
While numbers in the stands may have faded a bit, the passion and hope within the Orlando City fanbase seems as fervent as ever renewed with the hope of our best manager and our best squad. My main question involving this squad is “Who will score the goals?” Orlando was one of the worst offensive squads last year with the only two double digit scorers being Nani and Tesho Akindele.
Tactics & Key Players
Orlando has capitalized on the loan/free transfer market in recent seasons bringing in Nani, Mauricio Pereyra, Antonio Carlos and Pedro Gallese who I expect to all play major roles in the club in 2020. This midfield is extremely deep in every position, so while Pareja has utilized a 4-3-3 and 4-2-3-1 in the past, I would expect the club to take advantage of their midfield depth and talent and play a 4-2-3-1 this season.
General tactics would be overlapping on the right side heavily with Brazilian speedster Ruan and Homegrown speedster Benji Michel. Centrally the play will go through Sebastian Mendez and Mauricio Pereyra who love the ball at their feet and to play it quickly as well. The left side will be more of individual skill with Nani and Joao Moutinho.
Goalkeeper: Pedro Gallese – I fully expect to be Pedro Gallese to be the best GK in MLS this year and a top 5 fantasy option for your team in most gameweeks.
Defenders: Ruan is a guaranteed start at RB and showed an offensive game and potential for assists especially later in the season. Robin Jansson and Joao Moutinho are starters when healthy and the other CB spot should be Antonio Carlos filling the void of the departed Lamine Sane. Orlando’s CB stocks are rather deep with Jansson, Carlos, Rodrigo Schlegel, Alex De John and Kamal Miller (default backup LB).
Midfielders: In a 4-2-3-1, I would expect the 2 to be Sebastian Mendez and newly acquired Brazilian Junior Urso, with the 3 being Nani, Pereyra and Benji Michel. Midfield backups being Uri Rosell, Andres Perea, Chris Mueller, David Loera and Jordan Bender. Pereyra will generally be in the 10 role and should definitely be on your fantasy radar, in his 6 games he showed ability to send in and get assists excellent through balls and set pieces, play quickly in tight spaces and a willingness to come back on defense. In his 6 games, he played 395 min and ended up with 3 assists which easily could have been more if not for Orlando’s poor finishing. I have Pereyra has a genuine top 15 MLS Fantasy midfielder.
Forwards: Dom Dwyer is the presumed starter even with his terrible 2019 campaign to be backed up by Tesho Akindele, Santiago Patino and Daryl Dike. Benji Michel can play forward as well but is more likely to start at Right Winger in 2020. Dom Dwyer has come into 2020 with “a point to prove “and even reverted to his haircut from 2013 which saw him score 4 goals for Orlando in the USL Championship that year. Even a Dwyer that scores 15 goals would be an amazing boost to Orlando and did score 6 of his goals in 2019 with his head still being a legitimate set piece threat.
Other than the usual overhaul of players who weren’t playing or producing, probably we will get to see the fully implemented version of Muzzi-Pareja partnership in Orlando this year. Mostly it’s the new players headlined by Pedro Gallese
My current expectations are for Nani($10.5), Gallese($5.5) and Pereyra($8.5) to be your top tier, every week plug and forget type of players. Outside of that, Ruan($5.5) and Michel($5.5) will be the two most appealing players, both will probably be around the midprice range and will be worth a shot in most matchups. Generally, I expect Orlando’s players to be usable in 80% of their games this year but will not be a team you are going to pick the maximum from on any given week. Solid, but not spectacular. Given the extraordinarily large budgets to start the year as most teams have millions in leftover money, Orlando may not be as appealing, but could grow into appealing options based on form and player price changes tightening your budget as the year goes on.