Orlando City still has plenty of business to attend to in 2022, with the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Final set for September 7 and the mad dash for the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs on now through Decision Day on October 9.
With the Lions a game away from making 2022 a historic season, it’s exciting to think about the possibilities for the 2023 season, when Orlando’s revamped front line will have a full year in the system to gel and adapt to the unique rigors of MLS. Here are five exciting things to look forward to next year:
Young Uruguayans Flying High
Orlando City acquired two highly-touted Uruguayans this past winter in Young DP winger Facundo Torres and U22 Initiative defensive midfielder César Araújo. Both have enjoyed strong debut seasons in the U.S., with Torres racking up seven goals and seven assists in all competitions and Araújo routinely noted as one of the best young d-mids in MLS. The two have been crucial to Orlando’s run to the Open Cup final, with Torres scoring a crucial extra-time equalizer against Inter Miami and Araújo famously notching his first two professional goals in the semifinals against the New York Red Bulls.
Neither Torres, 22, nor Araújo, 21, are even close to the primes of their careers, and steady improvement from the pair should be expected. With both players signed to long-term contracts, Orlando fans can look forward to seeing their dual Uruguayan gems flourish into the future.
The Debut of Picotón
The Lions had planned a third impact young South American signing for 2022, lining up a deal to secure 20-year-old Argentine winger Gastón González from Unión de Santa Fe through the U22 Initiative. Set to arrive in early May at the close of the primary transfer window, González suffered an ACL tear in the final moments of his last game for Unión, ending his 2022 campaign before it began.
González has been in Orlando for months and remains on track in his rehab for a 2023 debut. Nicknamed “Picotón” or “Tonga,” González is a big, strong winger at six foot tall and nearly 180 pounds and features a cultured left foot he uses to whip in crosses to his strikers. While his Lions career was delayed through a cruel stroke of fate, Picotón should provide an instant spark come next season.
Under the stewardship of EVP of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi and Assistant GM and Technical Director Ricardo Moreira, Orlando City has been known for decisive and comprehensive transfer window action. Past highlights include the signings of Nani and Mauricio Pereyra in 2019, the triple dip for Pedro Gallese, Antônio Carlos and Júnior Urso in 2020, and this past winter’s haul of Torres, Araújo and DP striker Ercan Kara.
With the quality of MLS constantly improving, Muzzi and Moreira know they will have to act once again to strengthen the squad ahead of next season. With their eyes cast all over the globe, which players will be suiting up in purple in 2023?
The regime of Muzzi, Moreira and Head Coach Oscar Pareja have put an emphasis on building up Orlando City’s player development structure, promoting Homegrown players to the first team and growing the Academy through the additions of Orlando City B in MLS NEXT Pro and an all-new U-12 side. This year, Benji Michel became the first Homegrown player to reach 100 appearances for the first team in all competitions, while 19-year-old right back Mikey Halliday played a key role in helping the United States qualify for the 2023 FIFA U-20 World Cup in Indonesia and 2024 Summer Olympics in Paris.
The Academy is teeming with exciting young talent, including MLS NEXT All-Star Game MVP Favian Loyola, fellow All-Star Alejandro Granados, and 17-year-old striker Ethan Subachan among others already featuring for OCB in their mid-teens. Which young Orlando natives will be the next to take their MLS bow at Exploria Stadium?
MLS and More
Orlando City will host 17 MLS regular-season home games next year as usual, but there is more to the schedule than just league action. The Lions will once again challenge for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, a championship they will be defending if they defeat Sacramento Republic FC in the 2022 Final on September 7. New for 2023, Orlando City’s first Open Cup home game prior to the semifinals will be included with Season Ticket Membership.
Also new for next year will be the revamped Leagues Cup, which has been expanded into a month-long summer tournament involving every club in MLS, including Orlando City, and Mexico’s Liga MX. It’s a concept unique to world soccer that will mark the biggest competition yet between North America’s top two leagues. A Leagues Cup group stage match will also be included with Season Ticket Membership.
For more information on becoming a new Orlando City Season Ticket Member for 2023, be sure to visit our Season Ticket Member Benefits page here.