From top to bottom, Orlando City’s roster has looked much different this season. It’s been nearly a year since Jason Kreis was hired to take over the coaching duties at the club, and with that has come a number of changes around the field, with players both coming and going.
Most notable during that span was the departure of Kevin Molino, who was traded to Minnesota United before the season, sending shock waves around the league. Molino went to Minnesota, where his former coach in Orlando — Adrian Heath — now resides, for the largest sum of allocation money in league history — $650,000 in total ($450,000 in General, $200,000 in Targeted).
We’re now half a season removed from that deal, and while it’s hard to say just yet whether or not it was the right deal for Minnesota because they’re still so young into their MLS phase, we can look at Orlando City and confidently say the deal has had an impact — in one way or another — on the Lions this season.
Coming off of an ACL injury he suffered in 2015, Molino was one of the bright spots for the Lions in 2016 as the club failed the make the playoffs again. A very strong season (11 goals and 8 assists) led him into the winter asking for more money on top of the $121,400 he was owed by Orlando City from his first MLS deal. A two-time USL MVP, Molino proved to many that he could translate his talents to the top flight, but still left many believing he needed more time to prove his worth before asking for significantly more money.
Regardless of what he asked Orlando City for, Jason Kreis and company were not prepared to give it to him, eventually buckling to the interest from Heath and Minnesota, leading to the deal.
One of everybody’s favorite parts of trades is being able to go back at any later date in time and judging that trade for its “winners” and “losers,” and in Major League Soccer we’ve finally received enough transparency to actually have enough information on trades to judge them for what they are.
All things considered, Minnesota has seemingly been left with the better end of the deal so far, mostly due to the fact that Orlando hasn’t found anybody to replace Molino’s production yet. He has five goals and five assists this season for the Loons. His goal total would be enough for second at Orlando behind only Cyle Larin, and his assist total would tie him with Carlos Rivas for the team lead. What we don’t know is how much — if any — of the Molino cash infusion was spent on shoring up other areas of Orlando City’s roster, including the addition of right back Scott Sutter, who was brought in a few weeks after Molino was shipped to Minnesota.
Regardless of whether or not you sit in “Molino wouldn’t have been a good fit in the 4-4-2 diamond” camp, Orlando has struggled to find anyone nearly as dynamic on the right side of the midfield. Matias Perez Garcia couldn’t find his late 2016 form and was eventually waived last month, Kaká has struggled to be Kaká at times on the left side of the field, and the Lions still don’t have an actual playmaker outside of the Brazilian in the midfield, which Molino would have done something to solve that.
So the big thing now in order for the Lions to “win” this trade or at least feel like they actually got something good out of the deal would mean having to spend some — if not most — of that $650,000 in allocation given to them by Minnesota. The summer transfer window opened up on Monday, and the Lions now have until Aug. 9 to sign a player through a league trade or international signing.
Orlando can still probably make the playoffs without adding someone this summer, but the Lions certainly won’t go far in November without an offensive addition.