Orlando City Homegrown forward Benji Michel is leaving his boyhood club and signing a deal with FC Arouca --- a mid-table club in the Portuguese first division. The club opted not to re-sign Michel after his contract expired this offseason, and the 25-year-old forward opted to chase an opportunity in Europe.
Michel played 119 games in all competitions for Orlando City, scoring 19 goals and providing 13 assists across his four-year MLS career. After a solid college career at the University of Portland, the Orlando native signed a Homegrown contract with his hometown club and became the most succesful academy graduate to date.
While the stats may be underwhelming and he never fully developed into a true starting caliber player for Orlando, Michel's impact on the club was undeniably massive. Not only is he the only Homegrown player to become a true first-team regular, he delivered two of the biggest moments in club history.
In the 2020 MLS Cup playoffs, it was Michel who rifled in the game-winning penalty after Rodrigo Schlegel's emergency goalkeeping heroics. This past season, it was Michel's dynamic play that spearheaded Orlando's run to the US Open Cup title --- the first major honor in club history.
From the emotional perspective, losing Michel is a significant loss. He became a beloved figure amongst fans and represented the true local pride in the team. However, this mutual parting of ways is the best course for both parties on the field.
This past season, Michel failed to take command of a starting spot on the wing opposite Facundo Torres, or show that he could be a full-time starting striker. Even as a backup, he only produced in spurts. With that roster spot open, Orlando can rely more upon new youth academy graduates, as well as U22 signing Gastón González.
For Michel, this move allows him to chase a European dream. While FC Arouca isn't a premier club in Portugal, the Primera Liga is one of the best leagues in the world. Michel could earn a significant role for the club and improve beyond what he showed in Orlando.