Orlando City

Chemistry and Impact More Important than Minutes for Orlando City’s Designated Players

Orlando City has built a deep squad in 2022, which means sometimes the Designated Players have been coming off the bench.



Dan MacDonald, The Mane Land

There have been multiple teams in Major League Soccer that bring a Designated Player onto the pitch from the bench as a substitute throughout this season. When it comes to Orlando City, astute fans have grown accustomed to seeing two of the team’s three DPs function in a reserve role.

To his credit, earlier in the year, Head Coach Oscar Pareja (when injury or international duty allowed) had attempted to roll with a three-DP starting lineup, but oftentimes that resulted in spacing issues and confusion. As the season has progressed, the Lions’ tactics have naturally evolved into the product we currently see on the field. Context is important as it could easily be looked at and surmised that OCSC is wasting its DP allotment on players who do not start the match, however, looking deeper, it is clear that Orlando City has been plagued by…well, strong depth.

After the off-season, which saw numerous departures and signings, many pundits predicted that the depth of Orlando City would be a strong building block of the 2023 campaign. With the exception of the back line (which I still feel could benefit from some additional help and depth), over the course of the season, the midfield and attacking positions have truly begun to embrace that preseason prediction. To their credit, Pareja and the front office staff may have built the deepest lineup in Orlando City’s MLS history, (back line not withstanding), and have demonstrated that for the team to be successful, the gameday lineup decision needs to be centered around fielding the best fit and chemistry among a wide array of weapons.

DPs Ercan Kara and Martin Ojeda have found numerous moments throughout the season to positively affect matches even without starting, as Kara is still sitting in third place for goals scored on the season (5), including what could still be considered the leading candidate for Orlando City goal of the year against Tigres in the Concacaf Champions League.

Meanwhile, newcomer Ojeda is having by all accounts a respectable first year with the club. He is tied for second in total MLS goal contributions (12) and leading the team in assists (8), while logging 310 fewer minutes than fellow Designated Player Facundo Torres this year.

In the convoluted word soup that is MLS salary mechanisms of DPs, Targeted Allocation Money (TAM), General Allocation Money (GAM), MLS U22 Initiative, and a host of other ways to work the salary cap, it is easy to over simplify the notion that because a player has a DP tag, they therefore should be on the field at every given moment. If anything, Orlando City is proving that the sum of the whole is greater than individual parts, and as long as the results continue to trend over the final third of the season the way that they have been, it matters little what a player’s specific contract designation may be.

The depth of the squad was further bolstered this week when Orlando City announced the return of former Lion Junior Urso, who departed the team at the end of the last season prematurely to attend to family matters in his home country of Brazil. What Orlando has essentially built is a team with a quality amount of veteran leadership and youthful exuberance, in which any given player is capable of being in the right place at the right time to impact the match. Thus far this year, 11 players have found the back of the net, and my gut tells me that number will only grow before the end of year.

What do you think about the depth that Orlando City has built this year and is it the main catalyst behind the Lions current holding fifth place in the Eastern Conference? Are you bothered that Orlando has been bringing DPs off the bench or do you think it’s more important that the players and their abilities fit at any given time? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, and as always, vamos Orlando!


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