Orlando City's roster overhaul this offseason has brought with it plenty of justified excitement about the future of the squad and what this group can accomplish in 2023. However, lost in the hype is the new void in veteran leadership in the squad with the losses of Tesho Akindele and Junior Urso.
Both losses were unavoidable and just a natural part of the soccer world. Akindele was on the fringes of the squad and eventually retired to pursue other interests while Urso wanted to finish his career back home in Brazil. There's not much Orlando could've done differently, but the leadership lost from those two will be hard to replace.
Urso and Akindele were vital pieces to the energy and culture of the club under Oscar Pareja. Urso's veteran grit, toughness and endless energy brought so much to the pitch. Akindele brought a lot of that same veteran presence and served as a wonderful role model for players and fans alike on and off the pitch.
Orlando brought in players to fill those spots on the field, but finding new voices to help lead the group will be something to watch throughout the season.
Even without Urso and Akindele, the club still has some strong leaders. Mauricio Pereyra is the club captain and has been with the team since 2019. He's about as veteran and respected a captain as Orlando could hope for.
On the backline, Robin Jansson --- the club's all-time appearance leader --- Antonio Carlos, and Kyle Smith all have plenty of experience and have shown similar guile on the field. Goalkeeper Pedro Gallese is another seasoned professional who's captained Orlando at times over the last few seasons.
The club also brought in experienced MLS midfielder Felipe Martins. While he may or may not play a crucial role for the Lions on the pitch, he's the exact type of player to fill the culture and leadership roles vacated by Urso and Akindele.
New Designated Player Martín Ojeda, while just 24, should bring strong leadership qualities as well. Ojeda served as captain for Godoy Cruz recently and that character should carry over to his new squad.
There's also the young players who could take more of a leadership role. Facundo Torres is the face of the franchise after a record-setting first season and could be seen as a leader in year two. The same goes for gritty U22 midfielder César Araújo.
Losing key veterans like Urso and Akindele will also have an effect on a team. It's impossible to say how things will change without two crucial leaders in the dressing room. However, Orlando has a strong core of players and is well equipped to continue the culture started under Pareja.