The Orlando SeaWolves are already starting to piece together a roster that will be able to improve on the 9-15 record posted in their inaugural season. The team finished four games out of a playoff berth.
Coach Tom Traxler and General Manager Chris Kokalis hope, by bringing back a handful of key contributors and adding the right free agent pieces, the team can be in the running for a Major Arena Soccer League playoffs after a year of learning the ropes and what that would take.
About a month after the season ended, Orlando re-signed Mexican veteran forward and physical goal scorer Osvaldo Rojas to a five-year deal. Rojas, 29, scored 23 goals and adding 10 assists, both career-highs in his three-year MASL career. He averaged a goal a game.
"Osvaldo is one of the league's most underrated players,” Kokalis said.”His heart, passion, and commitment to get better every day puts us in position to win every time he is on the field".
Defender Richard Schmermund is also returning on a two-year deal. The 6’2” defender, who showed off a powder keg of a leg foot at some key moments last year, is coming off a career year offensively and defensively, setting personal highs in goals (11), points (16) and blocks, both good for fourth on the team, and notched his his first career hat trick. Through his six professional seasons, Schmermund now has over 100 appearances, 42 goals, and 20 assists to make up 68 points.
"Richard stepped in and made an impact for us both defensively and offensively last season,” Kokalis said. “As he continues to play more of a leadership role for our club, his best MASL years are yet to come.”
During the course of May the team re-signed defenders Edwin Rojas and Joshio Sandoval, the latter a co-captain last year, and forward Thiago Freitas, who becomes the team’s top returning scorer as Gordy Gurson, last year’s top scorer, opted to sign with the Florida (Lakeland) Tropics as a free agent.
Freitas joined the SeaWoles in December of last season after a trade with the Harrisburg Heat, and scored 14 goals and 15 assists, good for second on the team in just 15 games.
Sandoval set career-highs in assists and points, finishing last season with 13 assists and 15 points. Yoshi also hit a career milestone, having appeared in 100 MASL games
"Bringing Thiago back was one of our top priorities going into the offseason,” Kokalis said. “He has proven in his MASL career that he is arguably one of the best playmakers in the league. His willingness to distribute the ball and put his fellow teammates in scoring opportunities shows a level of unselfishness that separates him from other top players in the league.
“Yoshi is the staple of our defense. If we plan on building off of last season, having a player like Yoshi on the team is vitally important to our success.”
In free agency the team has signed six players thus far: goal-a-game scorer Omar Tapia (40 goals in 40 MASL games in three seasons), Brazilian playmaker Miguel Lopes Shepherd, MASL top-10 scorer Hugo Puentes from the El Paso Coyotes, Meixcan defenders Edgar “Pato” Martinez and Irving Tovar pending visas and goalkeeper Fernando Cortes, who played his rookie year in the MASL last season for the Dallas Sidekicks.
"One of our goals heading into the offseason was to add speed,” Kokalis said. "Omar not only provides that speed but also brings a veteran experience that makes him a great addition for the club. Hugo has been a dynamic player for El Paso over the past two years, his style of play fits the mold of the type of player we wanted to add to our roster.
“Fernando is a young keeper with a bright future in the MASL. He has great shot stopping abilities and is good with his feet. Both attributes make for a great keeper in the league.”
YOU CAN DO IT! Want to try out to be a part of it yourself? The Seawolves will hold an open tryout on Sunday at XL Soccer World, located (825 Courtland Street in Orlando). Check In will begin at 7 a.m. with the workout going from 8-10 a.m.
Registration fee to tryout is $75 in advance or $100 at the door. Tryouts are open to players 18 and older.
The team will have a free networking event with cash bar on June 25 at Drive Shack near Lake Nona.