ORLANDO, FL – Three years after beginning play as an MLS expansion club in 2015, Orlando City SC has matured from a young expansion cub into a young—yet powerful—lion, stalking and hunting their unsuspecting Major League Soccer prey.
Thanks to the dissolution of Chivas, Orlando City—or OCSC, “City” as the locals call them for short—would be elevated from the USL Pro and become MLS’s 20th franchise following the 2014 season.
After signing Brazilian World Cup and international star Kaka as their first-ever Designated Player after from AC Milan—and loaning him out to his boyhood club Sao Paulo F.C.—Orlando City selected Canadian striker Cyle Larin in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft, forming the nucleus of what would be a quality side in the MLS’ Eastern Conference.
After finishing seventh in the East in 2015 and eighth in 2016, it appears that OCSC has turned the corner in 2017, and has the look of not only a contender, but dare I say, MLS Cup contender.
Despite losing Kaka during the middle of the season due to a hamstring injury, the Lions have roared to the top half of the Eastern table with a current record of 6-0-2 and 18 points–as of press time, before their away fixture vs. the Houston Dynamo–good enough for second in the East behind Toronto F.C., thanks to the former 2015 AT&T MLS Rookie Of The Year in Larin.
Larin, who tallied 17 goals his rookie campaign in 2015, currently leads OCSC in goals (6), shots (21) and shots on goal (14) in 2017, with his eyes set on the ultimate prize of bringing MLS Cup championship glory to central Florida.
Fueled by their hot start, a sparkling new 25,500-seat soccer-specific Orlando City Stadium, already considered one of the league’s crown jewels, and a roster filled with talented complimentary players such as midfielders Carlos Rivas and Will Johnson, the Lions can roar deep into the MLS postseason.
If one thinks OCSC’s early-season success is a fluke, consider that they have beaten some of the league’s top sides including the always-stacked Los Angeles Galaxy 2-1 in mid-April.
Orlando City’s 2017 campaign may still be in it’s early stages, but like the Lions, it shows a lot of potential now, and in the near future.