Designated Player

MLS Expansion Spotlight: Orlando City SC

Kaka, Orlando City

This Sunday, the Portland Timbers will host MLS expansion franchise Orlando City SC for the first time ever at Providence Park (2pm PT, ESPN2).

But unless you've been closely following the USL after the Timbers left for MLS in 2011, you may not be too familiar with Florida's latest entrant into MLS.

Club Origins

Some Timbers fans may remember the Austin Aztex, which played two seasons in the USL, from 2009-2010.

That club was founded by current Orlando City SC owner Phil Rawlins. Rawlins, who also owns a majority stake in Stoke City in the English Premier League, decided in 2010 that he wanted to reduce his losses with the Aztex and take his team up to MLS. Rawlins felt that the best chance to do that was in the Southeast.

Enter Orlando.

Almost immediately, the new club, under the leadership of head coach Adrian Heath, dominated its opponents. In four seasons in then-USL PRO, the club finished atop the table three times and won two championships in 2011 and 2013.

While Rawlins had always set his sights on MLS, he needed other owners on board to help make that financially possible. That's when Rawlins first met with Flávio da Silva who became the eventual OCSC majority owner.

"He was just in the process of selling his company in Brazil," Rawlins told Sports Illustrated's Grant Wahl. "Like myself, he got enchanted with the opportunity of soccer in the U.S. and really felt it was taking off. And he wanted to be involved in MLS."

With da Silva on board, Rawlins all but sealed his club's ascension to MLS and in late 2013, MLS Commissioner Don Garber announced that Orlando City SC would join the league as one of two new expansion franchises for the 2015 season.

The Squad

Timbers fans may recognize a few of the faces on this Orlando City team. No face, however, is more recognizable than that of Brazilian playmaker Kaká.

In June 2014, Orlando City SC announced that it had signed Kaká as the club's first Designated Player.

Kaká brings with him world class ability on the pitch, international experience with the Brazilian National Team and with clubs like AC Milan and Real Madrid, over 22 million Twitter followers, and some seriously impressive leadership.

Surrounding Kaká are former Sporting Kansas City defender Aurélien Collin, former Philadelphia Union midfielder Amobi Okugo, former Portland goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts, and U.S. National Team winger Brek Shea, who has been converted into a left back by coach Adrian Heath, and who is capable of scoring goals like this:

The rest of Orlando's line-up may look a little more unfamiliar.

The club's two other DP signings, young forwards Carlos Rivas and Bryan Róchez, have so far failed to score a goal. They've also seen their starting roles evaporate as former Philadelphia Union draftee Pedro Ribeiro scored a goal and notched an assist in his first three starts up top. But with Ribeiro now out injured, the two young forwards, along with top MLS SuperDraft pick Cyle Larin, will be looking to provide more attacking spark.