Orlando City’s Ivan Angulo Thriving in New Role



Most of Orlando City’s starting lineup is set heading into the 2023 MLS season. However, due to a lack of defensive options in the first two preseason scrimmages, Oscar Pareja has played Ivan Angulo at right wingback. It’s a decision that already appears to have promise.

Following the 2022 MLS season, starting left back Joao Moutinho decided to leave the club for Italy’s Serie A. Just before the MLS SuperDraft, the club traded starting right back Ruan for the second overall pick. As a result, it looked like the club would have to fill those two positions.

Instead, Pareja has been playing with a formation change this preseason. During his first three seasons in charge, the Lions displayed primarily in a 4-2-3-1 or 4-4-2 formation. However, the team has played with three center backs and two wingbacks for the first two preseason contests.

One positional change has been dropping Wilder Cartagena from a defensive midfielder to a third center back. Newcomer Luca Petrasso has taken the starting left wingback spot in those games, but that leaves one position open.

While veteran fullback Kyle Smith is available at right back, Homegrown defender Mikey Halliday is also an option. The club moved him between right back and right midfield for Orlando City B last season, potentially preparing him for the role. But Pareja may have something else in mind.

Orlando City acquired Angulo on loan from Palmeiras on July 25 of last year. The attacking midfielder did quite well, playing regularly down the stretch for the Lions. He ended the 2022 season with 11 appearances, seven starts, and 711 minutes, while recording three assists. He provided speed and technical ability on the wing, which was beneficial in the team’s U.S. Open Cup final win and run to the MLS Cup playoffs.

While those abilities make for a good attacking midfielder, they also make for a quality wingback. Saturday night’s preseason match against FIU offered the first extended view of the 2023 Lions, and the first half showed the team’s best wingback option. While Petrasso played well and set Jack Lynn up for what should’ve been the opening goal, Angulo created a lot of trouble for the FIU defense. Even considering it was a college team, the Colombian was one of the most dangerous players on the field.

The Lions played most of the first half through Angulo on the right wing. He showed his ability on the ball by taking on defenders and creating chances in the box. However, Angulo’s offensive abilities aren’t the question.

The primary difference between attacking midfield and wingback is the defensive responsibilities. Following the team’s 3-1 win over FIU Saturday night, Angulo said that he’s getting used to his new position, despite this being the first time he’s played it. He went on to say that he’s ready to take on the challenge of a more defensive role if that’s where Pareja chooses to play him when the season starts.

Halliday could take over the right wingback position, should the team stick with it, but the 20-year-old has only made 15 total appearances for the first team and only played 537 minutes across all competitions. Angulo might be the best equipped player for that position. He’s been very good offensively this preseason and will only improve defensively, especially since he appears to be embracing his new role.

Given that he’s only briefly played the position, he’s still developing in the role. But Angulo played well Saturday night defensively and didn’t make any crucial mistakes. If the Lions go with three center backs this year, he won’t have to be stellar defensively because, in most cases, he’ll have support behind him.

Prior to the start of preseason, it looked as though the right back position would be a battle between Halliday and Smith. However, Pareja threw a curveball by playing Angulo at that position. It appears as though he could start at right wingback when the regular season starts on Feb. 25.


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