2020 Season Preview: The Midfielders
All this week, we'll be running a series of previews of the 2020 Orlando City squad, going position by position and giving you the scoop on every player on the roster. Today, we'll go through Orlando's options in central midfield.
The engine room has seen perhaps the largest overhaul of any position on the field for Orlando City in 2020. Veterans Sacha Kljestan, Will Johnson, Carlos Ascues, and Cristian Higuita all departed the club in the offseason, with newcomers both young and experienced in to replace them.
Just three players return to the midfield for 2020. Sebas Méndez is the headliner, a stalwart for Orlando in 2019 who also starts regularly for his native Ecuador. Méndez displayed a startling maturity that betrayed his young age (still just 22!), playing a beautifully simple style and making smart tackles. He gives Oscar Pareja the choice of deploying him as a pure No. 6 in a three-man midfield or as a No. 8 in a two-man pivot. Barcelona academy graduate Uri Rosell is back as well on a new contract, providing his uniquely gifted passing from the No. 6 spot.
The third returner might as well be a new player. Uruguayan playmaker Mauricio Pereyra, signed last summer after a phenomenal six years at Russian side Krasnodar, takes KakÃ¡'s famed No. 10 jersey and comes into the season fully acclimated and fit after his first true preseason with the club. Even with less than ideal fitness and limited time to develop chemistry with his teammates, Pereyra notched three assists in six appearances last year and ranked third in MLS in assists per 90 minutes from when he made his debut to the end of the season. Pereyra will be expected to connect the dots on the attacking end in 2020.
The truly brand-new players offer plenty of reason for excitement, too. JÃºnior Urso, literally "the Bear," roars into Exploria Stadium from Brazilian powerhouse Corinthians, whom he helped lead to the prestigious Campeonato Paulista title last year. Urso's workrate is astonishing-he played nearly 4,000 minutes across all competitions in 2019, more than any player in MLS, while playing one of the most physically demanding positions on the field. The Bear is a ruthless destroyer on defense and a talented poacher in the attack, making imperceptible late runs into the box. He scored in exactly this fashion against Tampa Bay in a preseason scrimmage, smashing home a beautiful João Moutinho cross after sneaking past the entire Rowdies defense.
As is typical for Pareja-coached sides, there's a youth infusion in midfield this year as well. Tampa-born 19 year-old Andrés Perea joins on loan from Colombian giants Atlético Nacional and the Colombian U20 national team, bringing tons of energy to the No. 8 position. Second-round draft pick Joey DeZart, 21, brings size and depth to both defensive midfield spots, while Homegrown David Loera, also 21, will be Pereyra's understudy at the No. 10 spot.
Tomorrow, enjoy Bleed Purple: Part 2, while we get a glimpse at the forwards on Friday.
• Discuss this story on the Major League Soccer message board...
Major League Soccer Stories from February 26, 2020
- Game Notes: New York City FC 1 - 0 AD San Carlos; NYCFC Advances to SCCL Quarterfinals - New York City FC
- David Norman Jr.: from Idolizing David Beckham to Joining Inter Miami as a Player - Inter Miami CF
- LAFC and the 3252 Independent Supporters Union Team up Once Again to Ensure Inclusive Environment for All Fans - Los Angeles FC
- Earthquakes Announce Local Broadcast Information for 2020 Season - San Jose Earthquakes
- LAFC Hosts Leon in Leg Two of Concacaf Champions League Round Two - Los Angeles FC
- Sounders FC Opens CenturyLink Field this Week with Two Exciting Matches, Including Sunday's Championship Celebration - Seattle Sounders FC
- By the Numbers: the 2020 Home Opener - Orlando City SC
- Training Report: Nashville SC Ready to Soak in Big Moment as MLS Debut Approaches - Nashville SC
- Sounders FC Announces Complete Regional Broadcast Lineup for 2020 Season - Seattle Sounders FC
- Days to Debut: Inter Miami Goalkeeper and MLS Veteran Luis Robles Named Team Captain - Inter Miami CF
- FC Dallas 2020 Season Opener Information - FC Dallas
- New York Red Bulls Announce Upgrades to Red Bull Arena for 2020 Season - New York Red Bulls
- Major League Soccer and Second Spectrum Announce Ground Breaking Multi-Year Partnership - MLS
- Philadelphia Union Announce 2020 Broadcast Schedule and Partners, PHL 17 and 6abc - Philadelphia Union
- Colorado Rapids vs D.C. United: Keys to the Match - Colorado Rapids
- Atlanta United Partners with Georgia Soccer to Deliver Community Clinics Through Innovate to Grow Fund - Atlanta United FC
- Sounders FC Announces Technical Staff Updates Ahead of 2020 Campaign - Seattle Sounders FC
- A New Tradition Is Born: Welcome Your Whitecaps FC - Vancouver Whitecaps FC
- Timbers Sign Forward Jeremy Ebobisse to Multi-Year Contract Extension - Portland Timbers
- LAFC Acquires No. 1 Spot in Allocation Ranking from Nashville SC - Los Angeles FC
- Nashville SC Acquires Allocation Money and SuperDraft Pick - Nashville SC
- Chicago Fire FC Unveil 2020 Secondary Kit, Season-Long Ã¢ÂÂStand for Chicago' Patch Series - Chicago Fire
- Major League Soccer Releases New Official Anthem by Legendary Composer Hans Zimmer - MLS
- 2020 Season Preview: The Midfielders - Orlando City SC
- Orlando City SC Announces BODYARMOR as Official Sports Drink - Orlando City SC
- Atlanta United Defeats FC Motagua 3-0 in Leg Two of 2020 Scotiabank CONCACAF Champions League - Atlanta United FC
The opinions expressed in this release are those of the organization issuing it, and do not necessarily reflect the thoughts or opinions of OurSports Central or its staff.