Hudson River Blue: The biggest difference between New York City and OCSC as expansion teams is that the Lions had success they could build upon from their time in USL. How did that experience help the organization in their maiden MLS campaign?
The Mane Land: I'm honestly not sure it helped a lot. The team struggled out of the gate a bit and that turned wins into draws and draws into losses. Then we lost our former USL MVP Kevin Molino to a season-ending ACL injury.
I would say that, if anything, it blooded some of our players who made the jump and they have performed admirably -- guys like Darwin Ceren, Luke Boden and Rafael Ramos have exceeded expectations, possibly due to their time in North America playing in the USL.
HRB: In your estimation, what was the high point of the year for Orlando City? What was the lowest?
ML: The high point of the year is probably the current season-best, four-game winning streak. The team has been grinding out results with a mixture of lineups, missing Kaka for a couple of those matches and they'll have to do it again against NYCFC with the Brazilian and Brek Shea both out with yellow card suspensions and Ramos out with concussion symptoms. If not the current streak, the 4-0 win over LA Galaxy was certainly something. It was a huge home crowd and some of the best soccer the team has played.
The low point was the entirety of July and August, in which the team won one game. It was a brutal free fall down the Eastern Conference standings and just one more win or a couple draws would have us in a much better position with two games left.
HRB: Cyle Larin is already a star. What types of players should the club pursue in order to best compliment his talents in the years to come? Kaka isn't forever! Or is he??
ML: I think the return of Molino next season will go a long way toward complementing Larin. The club should target a young central attacking midfielder who can learn from Kaka and step into his role in a couple of years. On the left, young DP Carlos Rivas has started to develop into an excellent crosser of the ball. If he continues to develop and learns to finish, Orlando could potentially have one of the most devastating attacking forces in MLS.
Where Orlando needs help is depth on the back line and on the wings, as well as a suitable replacement for Kaka.
Thanks to Michael and the whole crew at the Mane Land for kicking it around with us this week! Be sure to check out their site for our "reverse fixture," in which we tackle three of Michael's queries.