This week has been all about the new. A manic Monday trade window and today's MLS Expansion Draft have Orlando City executives handing out a fair amount of "Hello My Name Is..." stickers. As these new players begin to integrate into the team, there is one indomitable force they will all want to aquatint themselves with early on -- Darwin Cerén.
Salvadorian National Team member Cerén is one of a handful of players that Orlando City was confident enough in to give MLS contracts to while still a USL Pro team. This first season with the club gave Cerén an excellent opportunity to integrate into Coach Adrian Heath's system, adjust to the American game, and begin to establish himself in the team.
Cerén is a hard hat kind of player; the kind that hustles for every midfield 50-50 ball, that acts as an enforcer when a teammate takes a hard tackle, and wins the ball and makes the pass before the pass that counts as an assist. Last year, he finished with a modest two goals and three assists in 22 games.
Cerén's place in the team will never be judged by those kinds of numbers; it is the intangibles that make the difference in his game. Arguably, the best statistic for Cerén might be Kevin Molino's league-leading 20 goals and nine assists. The hardworking midfield shifts put in by Cerén allowed Molino to operate in the midfield and create chances. Cerén will undoubtedly be asked to play a similar role when Kaká joins the team.
One of Cerén's intangible qualities is his intensity. While fouls are not usually a statistic anybody brags about, Cerén's 41 fouls were third highest in USL Pro last year. Some of these fouls might be written off as a heated moment or a clumsy challenge, but Cerén bossed the midfield and created havoc with his hustle and his crunching tackles. Cerén is the type of player that leaves an impression on your mind and on your shinguard.
All positives have their downside, and Cerén's intensity does get him into trouble at times. Being an enforcer means most referees learn your name relatively quickly, and hesitate less when showing you yellow cards. Cerén's offense isn't as productive as the rest of the Orlando City midfield -- while this could be seen as simply production coming from other parts of the field, Cerén had the horrendous conversion rate of 37 shots on goal and only scoring twice. With chances on goal harder to come by in MLS, Cerén will have to raise this element of his game to be an effective starter next season.
Depending on who ends up on the next flight to Orlando after today's Expansion Draft, Cerén could be in the starting 11 on opening day. His intensity, tenacity, and on-field intelligence will make him integral to any success Orlando City is able to achieve next season.