Lions ink first player for MLS roster

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Ty Wright / Valencia Voice

Kevin Molino (left) scored two goals for Orlando City last season.

By Mike Gramajo / [email protected], Staff Writer

While the road to Major League Soccer started back in November, Orlando City SC took another step forward after announcing the signing of veteran midfielder Kevin Molino.

The Trinidad and Tobago international agreed to re-sign with the Lions to a multi-year deal, which includes him taking part of Orlando’s inaugural MLS squad in 2015.

“Kevin was out of contract with us and was being courted heavily in Europe and the States. He’s turned down deals from several MLS teams to stay with us in Orlando. That says a lot about his love for this club,” Orlando City head coach Adrian Heath said in a statement. “He will be a great asset for us again in 2014 and moving forward into MLS.”

Since Orlando City’s arrival to the Central Florida scene in 2010, Molino has been no doubt the Lions’ MVP. From 2011-2013, the midfielder recorded 13 assists, a record tied with fellow veteran Jamie Watson.

Despite a shocking 2012 USL Pro playoff exit, he was named league Most Valuable Player (MVP) for his contribution in setting up striker and Oviedo native Dennis Chin to 11 goals.

Molino, 22, has also seen action on the national team front, appearing for Soca Warriors in last summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, while also making 20 appearances and scoring 10 goals.

OCSC coach Heath was spotted last weekend along with assistant coach Ian Fuller at the MLS Player Combine, an appearance that suggest that the English bossman is looking to further his roster for the upcoming season in USL Pro.

While Molino makes club history in becoming the first player to sign for Orlando’s MLS squad, the question remains on who will follow. Midfielder and forward Jamie Watson, who once played for MLS’ Real Salt Lake is expected to follow, but in previous interviews with the Valencia Voice, Heath has emphasized that no position is guaranteed.

Defenders Rob Valentino and Luke Boden, who have been dominant in the Lions’ back line for the 2013 USL Pro season, are expected to return for a final season in the third division, where they will prove their worth to Heath for an MLS contract.

On the goalkeeping front, veteran and team captain Miguel Gallardo will contend his No. 1 spot after the Lions were quick to find a replacement for out-going goalkeeper Sean Kelley, signing Carl Woszczynski from LA Blues a few week after winning the championship in September of 2013.

Preseason is speculated to start in February, with Orlando City taking part in the Walt Disney World Pro Soccer Classic. While the second annual I-4 Derby still waiting to be announced, Tampa Bay Rowdies president Andrew Nestor confirmed with Soccer By Ives that’s something in the works.

Although the Lions don’t start their MLS campaign until 2015, they will play their final season in the USL Pro in 2014, while also playing all their home games in Disney’s ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex.

(Taken from Jan. 25, 2013 issue, page 9)