After a long search for a backup striker this offseason, the Lions finally have someone on the way.
Orlando City announced Wednesday it has acquired Brazilian international Júlio Baptista as a discovery signing. The 34-year-old will join the club for the 2016 MLS season.
“We’ve been looking for nearly a year to have somebody be there if anything happens,” Orlando City coach Adrian Heath said. “With the Bryan [Róchez] situation, if anything would have happened a couple of weeks ago, it would’ve been difficult for us. [Baptista] comes at the right time with bags of experience. He comes well-motivated, he wants to be here. He’s going to be a welcome addition to us.”
The former Real Madrid attacker has trained with Orlando as a guest player this past month, and Orlando City captain Ricardo Kaká confirmed the once-rumored signing on Tuesday when he welcomed his national-team partner via Twitter.
“If he can give us minutes when we require it during the year, that will be worthwhile,” Heath added.
The club’s search for a second-string striker dates back to last season. Cyle Larin, who scored a team-high 17 goals as a rookie last season, played 1,906 minutes in 2015 while playing in 27 regular-season games.
Backup striker Martin Paterson was released from the club during the middle of last season, and Honduran designated player Rochez struggled to find his form. This year, Orlando has employed former University of Central Florida forward Hadji Barry as Larin’s back up; however, Heath alluded earlier this season that wasn’t enough to accommodate Larin.
Orlando City is currently on a bye week, which leaves room for rest for most of its players ahead of the international break this weekend.
“We’ll have a better idea in the next 48 hours,” said Heath on Baptista’s process to join the team ahead of its next game at home against the Portland Timbers on April 3.
“It would be nice to think we could have him in here and get him in training with the guys some point next week at some stage.”
The club currently has 12 international players on its roster, but only have 10 available international slots, meaning the coaching staff will be tasked to with deciding which players will be loaned down to Orlando City B.
International players (12):
- Cristian Higuita
- David Mateos
- Rafael Ramos
- Carlos Rivas
- Adrian Winter
- Richie Laryea
- Antonio Nocerino
- Devron Garcia.
Rochez and Garcia have been training with OCB this past week, and many speculate both Hondurans will see time in the USL to accommodate the club’s marquee signings in Nocerino and Baptista. Laryea could be considered the other player to get loaned down so Orlando could meet MLS international rules.
Baptista last played for Brazilian club Cruzeiro. The forward also had previous stints with Real Madrid (2005-2008) and spent time on loan with Arsenal from 2006-2007.