As Orlando City prepares to launch its third Major League Soccer regular season under Head Coach Oscar Pareja, we’ll be taking a position-by-position look at the 2022 Lions to give you a full roster breakdown leading up to Orlando’s home opener, presented by Orlando Health, against CF Montréal at Exploria Stadium on Sunday, February 27 at 1 p.m.
So far, we’ve gone through Orlando City’s goalkeepers, defenders and midfielders. Today, we’ll conclude with the position that has seen by far the most turnover on the Lions’ roster – the attackers.
Orlando City has refreshed their forwards this winter, with familiar faces leaving and tantalizing talents coming through to replace them. Nani, Daryl Dike and Chris Mueller, Orlando’s three top goal scorers during Pareja’s time in charge, all departed the Club during the winter window. Nani and Mueller ran down their contracts and left for Venezia and Hibernian, respectively, while Dike was sold to English Championship side West Brom.
Fortunately, Luiz Muzzi and his front office struck quickly to reinforce the front line. After a drawn out and tense negotiation, 21-year-old Uruguayan phenom Facundo Torres arrived on a Young Designated Player deal from CA Peñarol, where Torres departed having won a league championship. Already capped 10 times for Uruguay’s senior national team, Torres is considered one of the top prospects in all of South American soccer, and his dynamic style of play should win him plenty of fans in Orlando.
Austrian striker Ercan Kara was announced as Orlando’s next Designated Player not 72 hours after Torres’ signing became official. The 26-year-old Kara has spent the last two years tearing up the Austrian Bundesliga, with his 24 goals since the start of the 2020/21 season ranking second in the league behind former Red Bull Salzburg star Patson Daka, who has since been sold to Leicester City in the English Premier League. Kara also broke into the Austrian national team in March and has since earned seven caps.
Orlando City also added one for the future through the 2022 MLS SuperDraft, signing No. 18 overall pick Jack Lynn to a professional contract last week. Key attacking players like Dike, Mueller and Cyle Larin all came to Orlando through the draft, and there is hope within the club that Lynn could be the next college player to make a major pro impact in Central Florida. Lynn, a center forward, is coming off a terrific four-year career at Notre Dame in which he scored 31 goals.
There are returning faces in the attack as well. Benji Michel and Silvester van der Water will help out Torres around the attack, with Michel bringing directness and speed while van der Water supplies shots and crosses with his hyper-skilled left foot. Homegrown Wilfredo Rivera, a teenager who has carved out a spot with the Puerto Rican national team, is also in the picture out wide.
Alexandre Pato could be the x-factor for Orlando City this year. The Brazilian missed most of 2021 after sustaining an injury in last year’s season opener, but returned on a one-year contract for 2022 hopeful for a second chance to show what he can do. Considered one of the most talented players in the league, Pato has been sharp and fit this preseason and could very well elevate Orlando’s attack to the next level. He’ll have support in the striker group from both Kara and Tesho Akindele, who is back for a fourth year in Orlando. Akindele, who led the team with three goals this preseason, will be starting his eighth season playing for Oscar Pareja between Orlando and FC Dallas.