Orlando City SC has been fairly busy with its roster moves recently, signing Brazilian defender Gustavo and Colombians Carlos Rivas and Cristian Higuita (although their signings are still pending approval).
With these additions, the total number of players right now for the Lions is up to 25. Needless to say, the team as it currently stands has depth at almost every position. But where do the three new guys figure into Adrian Heath's master plan?
Gustavo, as reported by the Orlando Sentinel's Paul Tenorio, will likely be the starting center back alongside Aurelian Collin. The fact that he is a veteran of multiple leagues probably helps with that decision, as well as his physical play, which we talked about in his player profile.
This gives youngster Tommy Redding time to grow and get used to being a professional player. This move also allows USMNT veteran Heath Pearce to be the Lions’ go-to defensive bench player, since he can pretty much play any position in the back four.
Rivas is a player who could play in multiple positions. We talked about him possibly playing striker for the Lions, which is a very good possibility, looking at some of his highlights. There is also the possibility of Rivas playing in the left midfield position, alongside Kaká and Kevin Molino.
This could move Brek Shea back into the left fullback position. Shea has played there in the past and Heath even mentioned it during Shea’s player introduction a while back. Depending on the contract they agree to, Rivas may be a starter or bench player. Reports from Colombia suggest that Orlando paid a $1.5 million transfer fee for the winger/forward, so it could go either way in terms of his role with the team.
Higuita is a bit more of a mystery in terms of his role within the club. He is a midfield player for sure, but there are multiple sites that list him as an attacking midfielder and others that list him as a defensive midfielder, including Paul Tenorio.
The attacking midfield seems just a bit too cluttered right now, so the smart bet would be Higuita playing in the defensive midfield. If he were to play in that position, he would be competing for time with Darwin Cerén, Estrela, Harrison Heath and Amobi Okugo. With the possibility of some players being loaned to Louisville, this would open up a possible slot for Higuita to fit right into.
Heath will have plenty of depth and potential when it comes to his team this year. The depth aspect will come into play when players begin to be called away on international duty during the summer. This potential aspect could become an issue because, simply put, there's a lot of potential. Many of the players being signed by the team are young and unproven. There is plenty of upside to these players, especially Rivas who was apparently getting looked at by some big European teams, and Heath is experienced in developing young talent over the years.
However, there is still a lot of risk involved taking such big chances with so many young players. If history repeats itself for Orlando, the gambles will pay off in the long run and the Lions could potentially have one of the best young rosters in the MLS. At this point, however, we can only wait and see.