Optimism and Caution Both Warranted as Orlando City’s Season Looms



The off-season in any sport can be a great time for reflection, refreshment, and reloading. The 2023 MLS preseason is now officially underway and fans of Orlando City will soon be reunited within the friendly confines of Exploria Stadium. Expectations this time of year are understandably at an all-time high but should fans be all aboard the hype train after an off-season of roster turnover and building or should they have slightly more tempered expectations of OCSC heading into the season?


In a 34-game season, any club is bound to experience moments of glory and despair. In 2022, Orlando City was no exception to this rule. Since we last saw Orlando City on the pitch — in a 2-0 loss on the road in Montreal during the first round of the MLS Cup playoffs — 111 days have passed. Sprinkled into what can only be viewed as a roller coaster season of highs and lows (I am looking at you, losing record against Wooden Spoon recipients D.C. United) throughout the MLS regular season was arguably the brightest moment in club history; winning the U.S. Open Cup in front of a sold-out stadium of 25,527 fans.

Preseason coach-speak, more times than not, includes the lofty goal of winning a championship. While that is a great goal to aspire to, the fact of the matter is that only one club in the last 10 years has won back-to-back MLS Cup championships. After qualifying for the playoffs the last three years in a row, Orlando City has arguably transcended the time when simply qualifying can be considered the end of a successful season. And, while fans may expect more this year after such build-up during the off-season, Decision Day 2023 is a long way off in the distance.


To succeed in this league, a team needs a dedicated front office and coaching staff, the right combination of players on the field, health, and a little luck. The 2022 season saw the Lions dip their toes dangerously close to the deep end of the injury pool, and as the injuries piled up, team depth was pushed to the brink. With significant injuries to key players like Antonio Carlos, Ercan Kara, Alexandre Pato, and Robin Jansson, as well as minor knocks to other role players on the roster, the Lions were certainly stretched thin from time to time.

This off-season has allowed players to rehab and refresh and, while players like Jansson and Gaston Gonzales have returned to the training ground, 2022 should serve as a reminder of how quickly expectations can and must change if the injury bug starts to bite.


Every off-season is a chance to reload a team with fresh talent. Coming in as the third-highest spending club in the Concacaf region for 2022, the roster moves that have been made this off-season may eventually be regarded as one of the best reload jobs in Orlando City history. Keeping players like Pedro Gallese and Mauricio Pereyra, while acquiring young talent across several different positions, and adding a third Designated Player in Martin Ojeda has drawn accolades from national soccer pundits. These moves may also position Orlando City to reap the benefits down the road of profiting from the sale of the young promising talent that the club has spent the last four months acquiring. Success on the field is not directly tied to spending money off the field, but it certainly doesn’t hurt. Caution still needs to be exercised when it comes to early season expectations, however, as adding numerous new pieces might mean that success isn’t found right out of the starting gate. Players still need to fit and complement each other for 90-plus minutes on the pitch.

Opening day of the 2023 season feels like it is right around the corner, and for the next 22 days, I know that I am going to be trying my best to temper my expectations for the new season. Simultaneously, I’ll be counting down each moment with unbridled excitement until the Lions take the field again. As the off-season draws to an end, what are your expectations for Orlando City in 2023? Let us know in the comments below!


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