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.
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Major League Soccer Stories from February 26, 2020
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