New-look Orlando City opens training ahead of 2023 season

Lions will have several new faces on the pitch this year

FILE - Players with Toronto FC, right, and Orlando City stand on the pitch at Exploria Stadium before an MLS soccer match, Saturday, June 19, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. The United States will play its final home World Cup qualifier at Orlando, Florida, on March 27 against Panama. The U.S. Soccer Federation announced Wednesday, Jan. 19, 2022, that the match will be at Exploria Stadium, where the Americans beat Panama 4-0 on Oct. 6, 2017, also their next-to-last qualifier. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack) (Phelan M. Ebenhack, Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Orlando City SC returned to training on Monday, Jan. 9 with a host of new faces looking to make an impact during their upcoming season.

The Lions finally added a trophy to their case with its win in the 107th Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup in 2022 and will be looking to make the playoffs for the fourth straight season.

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“We’re very excited to start a new season after a very successful one,” Lions head coach Óscar Pareja said. “The guys are very excited to be back after this period of resting and sharing (time) with family, but surely we’re ready.”

With some popular players leaving the team, several newcomers will look to take their place in 2023:

Who’s in:

  • Re-signed Peruvian international goalkeeper Pedro Gallese to a new contract that will keep him with the Club through 2024, with an additional option for the 2025 MLS season.

“Pedro has been an important part of our Club’s success over his three years in Orlando and we’re very excited to agree to a deal that will see him remain with us for the foreseeable future,” Orlando City EVP of Soccer Operations and GM Luiz Muzzi said. “We believe he is one of the most talented goalkeepers, not only in our league, but in the world and we are happy to have him representing our Club, our city and our fans.”

  • Acquired 24-year-old midfielder Martín Ojeda from Club Deportivo Godoy Cruz Antonio Tomba of Argentina’s Primera División. Ojeda will join the Lions as a Designated Player on three-year contract through 2025, with Club options in 2026 and 2027.

“Martín is a player that we have targeted for some time and are thrilled to have him join us. He is one of the most promising South American players, with a profile and playing style that fits our Club identity,” said Orlando City EVP of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi.

  • Acquired 24-year-old defender Rafael Lucas Cardoso dos Santos from Cruzeiro of Brazil’s Campeonato Brasileiro Série A. Santos will join the Lions on a two-year contract through 2024, with Club options in 2025 and 2026.
  • The team selected four players on in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft – two attacking players and two defenders. Orlando City picked midfielder Shakur Mohammed at No. 2 overall out of Duke University and four picks later, selected forward Duncan McGuire out of Creighton University at No. 6 overall. They also chose defender Abdi Salim at No. 17 overall from Syracuse University and defender Luis Grassow at No. 46 overall from the University of Kentucky.
  • Signed Academy product Favian Loyola to a First Team contract as a Homegrown player through the 2025 MLS season, with Club options in both 2026 and 2027. Loyola becomes the 13th Homegrown Player in club history, according to the team.
  • Re-signed midfielder Mauricio Pereyra to a new, two-year contract through 2024 using Targeted Allocation Money.

“Mauricio has been our leader both on and off the field since he joined the club and he did a fantastic job as captain for us last year,” said EVP of Soccer Operations and General Manager Luiz Muzzi.

  • Signed midfielder Felipe Martins from free agency to a one-year contract, with a club option in 2024. Martins spent four seasons with CF Montréal before joining the New York Red Bulls from 2015-2018. He also spent 2018 with Vancouver Whitecaps FC, 2019-21 with D.C. United and Austin FC in 2022.
  • Acquired defender Luca Petrasso from Toronto FC in exchange for $300,000 in 2023 General Allocation Money.
  • Orlando received an international roster spot for the 2023 season from Portland Timbers FC in exchange for $200,000 in 2023 General Allocation Money.

Who’s out:

  • Midfielder Júnior Urso and the team have agreed to mutually terminate the player’s contract for “personal reasons,” according to the team.
  • Traded defender Ruan to DC United in exchange for the 2nd overall pick in the 2023 MLS SuperDraft
  • Orlando City SC homegrown forward Benji Michel left the club on a free transfer and signed with FC Arouca, the Portuguese Primeira Liga team.
  • Declined player options on forward Tesho Akindele and midfielder Joey DeZart after the 2022 season.
  • João Moutinho, who was out of contract, signed with the Italian Serie A club Spezia.
  • Alexandre Pato is out of contract.
  • Nicholas Gioacchini was selected by St. Louis City SC in the expansion draft.
  • Andres Perea was traded to the Philadelphia Union for allocation money.

While training officially kicked off on Jan. 9, the team will spend Jan. 23 - Jan. 28 training at IMG Academy before holding several closed-door scrimmages.

The Lions will have a preseason scrimmage against the New England Revolution on Saturday, Jan. 18 at Exploria Stadium and play their home opener on Saturday, Feb. 25 against the New York Red Bulls.

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About the Author:

Jacob joined in 2022. He spent 19 years at the Orlando Sentinel, mostly as a photojournalist and video journalist, before joining Spectrum News 13 as a web editor and digital journalist in 2021.