By MIKE GRAMAJO
Although they haven’t met on the field yet, Orlando City SC will consider themselves winners of their first square off with New York City FC in Wednesday’s Expansion Priority Draft.
The Lions won the initial lottery to decide which team picks first, and OCSC coach Adrian Heath was able to come away with a few valuable assets, scooping up the first picks in December’s MLS Expansion Draft and January’s SuperDraft.
Additionally, Heath took advantage of a gaffe by NYCFC coach Jason Kreis to also nab the top spot in the underrated USL Pro/NASL Player Priority Ranking.
“I think we pretty much got what we were after,” Heath said afterward. “We’ve got some good young players (already), but now we need to get some MLS players. Obviously, we think with the Expansion Draft and SuperDraft, we can get some players that can come in and contribute straight away.”
NYCFC used its top pick on allocation ranking instead of the SuperDraft, but Heath offered assurances that Orlando City might still add a second designated player to join Kaká.
“We’re working behind the scenes to make one or two things available when the appropriate time comes,” Heath said. “We’ll wait and see what comes our way and where we think we are in terms of the squad when it gets a little but closer to January. I think that would be the time something might happen on that front. We haven’t ruled it out, (but) at this moment we’re not close to a second DP.”
The Lions majority owner Flavio Augusto Da Silva has made it no secret in the past when he told members of the media and fans that his plans are to attract high-profile Brazilian players to Orlando. Proof off that came in the summer signing of Kaká, who is currently on loan.
With the two-team Expansion Draft up next on Dec. 10, Heath mentioned to reporters that Orlando City will focus on experienced MLS players, which is perhaps a reference to the fact that four of the club’s seven players that have signed MLS contracts so far are still just teenagers.
Add to that three players from the USL Pro squad that are currently in negotiations for MLS deals.
“We’re hoping we can get something done,” Heath said. “Luke (Boden) has been with us a long time and the other two are young boys that we think have a future going forward.”
Midfielder Adama Mbengue, who came up from Orlando City’s U-23 squad, is one of the players currently being looked at for a potential MLS contract with the Lions. Having played as a winger in 2014, the 20-year old served as an important piece to Orlando City’s emphasis on possession. Harrison Heath, the son of the Lions head coach, is the third player being courted for 2015.
Additionally, with no goalkeeper or forward yet signed for Orlando City, Heath reiterated his commitment to filling those voids come December.
Although the upcoming drafts will be important, Orlando City’s biggest task now might be pursuing work permits for their international players to exclude them from the eight-player international limit.
Orlando City currently have five international players signed for 2015, and potentially three more international players on their way if Boden, Mbengue and Harrison Heath all sign for Orlando.
However, Heath told reporters that general manager Paul McDonough will sort that out, hinting that a few of those players may be able to receive work visa’s before the start of the 2015 season.
One thing Heath did confirm is that long-time assistant coach Ian Fuller will remain on his coaching staff for Orlando City’s inaugural MLS season.
It’s a busy few months ahead for the Lions, but after Wednesday’s results, the future looks bright.
What are your thoughts on what Heath had to say? What was your reaction to how the Expansion Priority Draft went for OCSC? What do you think Heath should focus on now?
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