Orlando City 2018 season preview: Roster, projected lineup, schedule, national TV and more

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Bill Streicher/USA Today
Sacha Kljestan, Justin Meram and Oriol Rosell are among the signings brought in this offseason as a new-look Lions squad eyes the postseason

If Orlando City again fails to make the playoffs in 2018, the club certainly won't have complacency to blame.

Perhaps no MLS team reinvented itself more this offseason than Jason Kreis' Lions, who parted ways with club icons Kaka and Cyle Larin while bringing in a host of newcomers, including proven MLS standouts Sacha Kljestan, Justin Meram and Oriol Rosell.

Orlando still hasn't been to the MLS playoffs since entering the league in 2015, but there's no doubting the club's ambitions this year. Entering his second full season the job, Kreis will surely be feeling the pressure to end that drought and bring postseason soccer to Central Florida.


How did Orlando City perform in 2017?


Kaka Orlando City

2017 finish: 10th in Eastern Conference (10-15-9), missed the playoffs

A 6-1-0 start seemed to place Orlando among the Eastern Conference contenders, but the Lions promptly fell off a cliff. Kreis' side managed just four wins the rest of the season, going 0-6-2 from July through early September and ultimately finishing 11 points out of a playoff spot.


Orlando City's key offseason losses


Kaka Cyle Larin Orlando City

Brazilian legend Kaka announced his retirement after three MLS seasons, having faded into a bit-part player down the stretch last season. He was followed through the exit door by leading scorer Cyle Larin, who prompted a messy divorce from Orlando by forcing through a move to Besiktas.

While Kaka and Larin were the two biggest names to leave Orlando, the housecleaning was exhaustive: part-time starters Jose Aja, Tommy Redding, Antonio Nocerino, Servando Carrasco, Giles Barnes and Carlos Rivas have moved on as well.


Orlando City's key offseason additions


Sacha Kljestan New York Red Bulls

The headliner is Sacha Kljestan, who arrived via a trade with the New York Red Bulls following back-to-back seasons leading MLS in assists. Justin Meram, meanwhile, was acquired from the Columbus Crew after notching a career-high 13 goals in 2017.

Orlando also was busy with signings from abroad. Paraguayan playmaker Josue Colman, 19, has joined as a young designated player, while veteran Senegalese center back Lamine Sane was brought in from Werder Bremen to solidify a leaky defense. But the most influential addition could be former Sporting Kansas City defensive midfielder Oriol Rosell, who joined Orlando after a stint with Sporting CP.

Libya international Mohamed El-Munir is a candidate to win the job at left back, while Amro Tarek, R.J. Allen, Jose Villarreal and Stefano Pinho have been signed as depth. The club also added two midfield prospects, acquiring the homegrown rights to Cam Lindley from Chicago and taking Chris Mueller sixth overall in the MLS draft.


Full Orlando City roster entering 2018 season


Jonathan Spector Joe Bendik Orlando City MLS 04292017

Goalkeepers: Joe Bendik, Earl Edwards Jr., Adam Grinwis, Mason Stajduhar

Defenders: R.J. Allen, Pierre Da Silva, Mohamed El-Munir, Victor "P.C." Giro, Lamine Sane, Jonathan Spector, Scott Sutter, Amro Tarek, Donny Toia

Midfielders: Josue Colman, Cristian Higuita, Will Johnson, Sacha Kljestan, Richie Laryea, Cameron Lindley, Justin Meram, Dillon Powers, Tony Rocha, Oriol Rosell, Jose Villarreal, Yoshimar Yotun

Forwards: Dom Dwyer, Chris Mueller, Stefano Pinho


Orlando City's projected starting lineup


Orlando City projected XI

Bendik is locked in as the No. 1 between the posts, and Sane figures to partner with Spector in central defense while Tarek provides depth. Sutter and El-Munir should be favored to start at fullback, though Allen and Toia are established options.

Whether Kreis goes with a 4-2-3-1, 4-4-2 diamond or something else entirely, Rosell can be expected to sit in front of the back line. Yotun will be shaded toward the left, and Kljestan should play as a No. 10. Meram and Colman are versatile enough to play out wide or in central attacking roles. Expect Higuita, Powers and Johnson to be in the mix for midfield minutes, as well.

Having shared the front line with Larin following his midseason arrival, Dwyer can now play the lone striker role he flourished in with Kansas City. If Kreis does play a 4-4-2, Meram and Pinho are the top options to partner with Dwyer up top.


Orlando City's national TV coverage


Orlando City fans

New York City FC vs. Orlando City - Saturday, March 17, at 3:30 p.m. ET on Univision
Orlando City vs. New York Red Bulls - Saturday, March 31, at 1 p.m. ET on UniMas
Orlando City vs. Portland Timbers - Sunday, April 8, at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN
Philadelphia Union vs. Orlando City - Friday, April 13, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
Colorado Rapids vs. Orlando City - Sunday, April 29, at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN
Orlando City vs. Atlanta United - Sunday, May 13, at 6 p.m. ET on FS1
Atlanta United vs. Orlando City - Saturday, June 30, at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN
Los Angeles FC vs. Orlando City - Saturday, July 7, at 4:30 p.m. on Fox
Orlando City vs. New York City FC - Thursday, July 26, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
LA Galaxy vs. Orlando City - Sunday, July 29, at 9:30 p.m. ET on FS1
D.C. United vs. Orlando City - Sunday, Aug. 12, at 6 p.m. ET on FS1
Orlando City vs. Atlanta United - Friday, Aug. 24, at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
Chicago Fire vs. Orlando City - Sunday, Sept. 16, at 5 p.m. ET on FS1

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