After more than 12 months of conversations, Orlando City finally signed Martin Ojeda earlier this month – an arduous process that Lions’ General Manager Luiz Muzzi revealed to the OSJ earlier this week. It took a lot longer than expected, but eventually came to fruition.
“A long, long process, even longer than the one we had for Facundo Torres because last year, when we were talking to Facundo, we were already talking to Martin,” Muzzi shared.
Theoretically, it wasn’t going to be possible to sign both players last year, Muzzi said.
So Orlando went for Torres before the 2022 season and secured Ojeda at the start of this year, signing the winger through the 2025 season with two additional option years.
“At the end of the day, it worked out nice for us because we were able to get Facundo and then a year later able to get Martin,” said Muzzi. “A lot of challenges along the way. Martin had offers from different clubs in Europe and Brazil, and it was a challenging process, but he wanted to come here. He was convinced about our project here, and everybody got to a point where it worked out, so very excited to have him here.”
While discussions may have stalled at some point during the middle of the season, Ojeda fancied Orlando’s intentions throughout the entire process.
“The conversations started very early, and that was a big part of why I decided to come to Orlando. They put a lot of effort in trying to get me here,” Ojeda said at the start of the preseason last week.
Prior conversations with Rodrigo Schlegel and Wilder Cartagena, who played with Ojeda at Racing Club and Godoy Cruz, respectively, diverted the winger’s decision to sign elsewhere and opt for Orlando.
“I had a lot of different offers that could have served me well, but I think one reason why I chose Orlando was the different things Wilder and Rodrigo were telling me, and the things they’ve been telling me about the club,” said Ojeda.
The attacker joins Orlando amid an overhaul of the roster. Longtime players Junior Urso, Tesho Akindele, Joao Moutinho, Andres Perea, and Benji Michel headline the 11 players from last season that will not be returning.
Plenty of movement during the offseason was needed, Muzzi said, to refresh the team’s lines.
So Orlando brought in fullback Lucas Petrasso from Toronto in exchange for allocation money. Longtime MLS midfielder Felipe Martins signed as a free agent. Favian Loyola was promoted to the first team from Orlando City B on a Homegrown deal.
Four draft picks were brought in, three of which are training for an MLS deal. Another fullback in Brazilian Rafael Santos, signed from Cruzeiro, and Ojeda, who was most recently brought in for a reported $4 million transfer fee.
In all, this year’s roster moves fall on the approach the ownership group, the Wilf family, has on keeping Orlando ambitious towards its goals, said Muzzi.
“I think that Facundo gave us the results that we wanted,” he said. “You can see that they continue to invest by bringing Martin. It would have been easy to say, ‘You got Facundo already, why do you need more? Why do you keep adding players?,’ and I think they’re continuing to show that they want to build an MLS Cup-caliber team.”
“That’s our final goal. That’s what they want,” Muzzi added on the ownership. “That’s what they’re here for. I think they’re doing all the talking by letting us sign all these players by allowing us to bring these players here. So I don’t think anybody can doubt what kind of commitment they have, given everything that they’ve given to us.”
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