Orlando City has already had a somewhat busy off-season. Midfielder Junior Urso ended his three-year run with the team to return to his native Brazil, and the club signed two players prior to the start of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. However, the club has more to do between the end of the World Cup and the start of the 2023 MLS season.
In addition to Urso leaving, the Lions entered this off-season with some key players out of contract. The club re-signed club captain Mauricio Pereyra to a two-year deal on Nov. 23, but have yet to agree to terms with Joao Moutinho, Pedro Gallese, or Benji Michel.
It’s likely that Michel will return next season. A product of Orlando City’s academy, the Homegrown Player hasn’t played at a level where he’s desired by bigger teams in Europe. Orlando City also offered him a bona fide offer, allowing for first right of refusal for the player. The same goes for Gallese, meaning that the two will likely not play for any MLS teams other than Orlando City.
The problem with Gallese is that his exemplary play has made him a potential target for European clubs. The Peruvian international probably could’ve gone overseas prior to joining Orlando City, but decided to play in the United States instead. At 32 years old, he’s still in his prime as a goalkeeper and it’s essential that the club retains him for next season.
Two players who could be problematic are Moutinho and Facundo Torres. Rumors that Moutinho could head to Europe began surfacing during the season and Spezia Chief Football Officer Eduardo Macia confirmed that the club is trying to acquire the 24-year-old left back. Moutinho officially becomes a free agent on Jan. 1, and it’s hard to see him not joining the Serie A side.
Orlando City recognizes this possibility and has already made a move in preparation. On Nov. 9, the club sent up to $400,000 in General Allocation Money to Toronto FC for 22-year-old defender Luca Petrasso. While the Toronto FC Homegrown Player spent much of the 2022 MLS season in the midfield, he’s also an experienced left back. If Moutinho does depart, Petrasso may be his replacement, although he could be the backup for a new left back signing.
Torres is still under contract with Orlando City but has already garnered attention in England. Reports from earlier this month indicate that Arsenal FC is interested in the 22-year-old attacker. Nothing will likely happen with the English giants, or anyone else, until after the World Cup because Torres is currently in Qatar with Uruguay, but the forward could ask for a move if the current Premier League leaders are intent on signing him.
When it comes to Torres, Orlando City doesn’t currently have a replacement. The club signed Felipe Martins to a one-year deal on Nov. 22 and Gaston Gonzalez is recovering from a knee injury, but there is currently nobody on the roster that can make the impact Torres does in the team’s attack. Nicholas Gioacchini could’ve filled that role eventually, but he was picked up by St. Louis City FC in the MLS Expansion Draft. However, all is not lost if Torres does leave this off-season.
Orlando City was able to sign Pereyra using Targeted Allocation Money (TAM), keeping him from taking up a Designated Player spot with his new deal. Torres is on a DP deal as well, so his departure would allow the club to make a big move. The club would prefer to keep Torres rather than losing a young promising player, but two open DP spots do offer some intriguing options.
Overall, Orlando City is in a good position as the off-season continues. The club moved quickly to take care of some of its needs, but there are still moves to be made. Little is usually done during the World Cup, as the world’s best players are focused on the quadrennial tournament. But Orlando will need to move quickly following its conclusion in order to agree to terms with players or find their replacements.