At 18 years old, it would be easy to think of defender Tyler Turner as a future prospect for Orlando City. The club has invested heavily in youth ahead of its first MLS season, and Turner is certainly a critical part of that plan.
If his first year as a professional, in USL Pro with Orlando City and during his numerous call ups for the US Men's U-17, U-18, and U-20 teams are any indication, Turner could be ready for a breakout season. Naturally a central defender, Turner plays with a maturity and on-field intelligence one would expect of a veteran.
Using his 5-foot-11 frame to dictate the defensive third, Turner strikes an imposing figure prowling the box. On corners, and when pushing to attack, his size and skill on the ball make him an additional threat. He scored once for Orlando last season, while he has added four goals for the U.S. U-17s.
Orlando City Manager Adrian Heath employed Turner as a defensive back/ wingback much of last season. Much as Heath converted the physically imposing Luke Boden from a midfielder to a defender, Turner's push to the defensive wing gave the youngster an excellent chance to involve himself in the offense as part of Heath's attacking style of play. His play down the wings is reminiscent of Boden's with consistently solid crosses into the box. Pushing Turner to the wings with Boden also allows Heath to have the imposing back line he loves to play with.
I was impressed last season with how quickly Turner settled into the squad. The plan was to bring in Turner, along with other young players, including fellow defender Tommy Redding, to give them match experience on a professional level and let them adjust to the team. While the maturation process of Turner is a work in progress, his ability to find his form and contribute instantly to the team speaks to his maturity. It was exciting, as a fan, to watch the process of a young player go from his quiet first few games to a defensive menace and attacking threat as the season progressed.
So, does Turner have what it takes to contribute instantly in MLS? We will know to what level the Orlando City staff has faith in their young defender after the upcoming Expansion Draft. Does the staff go for a defender early or do they fill their numerous other needs first?
Whatever happens, Turner will have to make the most of his moments next season to find playing time for the notoriously difficult-to-please Heath. The jump to MLS will require all the holdovers from last year's USL squad to dig a little deeper and play sharper. Veterans like Kevin Molino and Darwin Ceren are expected to do well under the spotlight. Youngster Turner, with his maturity and on-field intelligence, has every opportunity to have a breakout season and I wouldn't be surprised if he catches the eye of U.S. Men's National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann by the end of the season.