We've had a bit of downtime this week while we wait for City to take the pitch against New York City FC for the third time this season in the home finale this Friday night. While a lot has been made of suspensions to Brek Shea and captain Kaká, I think it's important to take a step back from the ledge and think about one thing: Is Darwin Cerén, who will be available, actually Orlando City's best player?
As a defensive midfielder, Darwin's opportunities moving forward are limited. When he has ventured forward, he's done a really solid job of making the opposition pay, with limited mistakes -- he's been dispossessed at a rate of 1.1 times per game, placing him sixth on the club.
His first career MLS goal shows an ability to react quickly with the killer instinct you look for in all 11 players on the pitch, coming forward on a loose ball and immediately going for the jugular.
Poor Penedo. Tough day for him.
Darwin showed more of those lightning quick reactions with his second goal against the Columbus Crew, first by being aware to come forward when Kaká was forced wide, and secondly to see the play all the way through to its result.
There are players who are more effective offensively than Cerén, but considering his role on this team, you have to like the results.
You begin to see Darwin's impact more clearly when looking at the defensive numbers. Known for consistently wreaking havoc on the flow of the opponent's offense, the numbers back up what the eye test had already confirmed -- dude's a monster.
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While you'd love to see more interceptions, his defensive style doesn't lend itself to the statistic, aggressively flying towards attackers the way middle school girls flock towards One Direction, or the Jonas Brothers, or Justin Bieber or whoever is "in" right now. Point is, he's a no B.S. kind of player, and City reaps the rewards in bundles of open play tackles.
When it comes to playing in this system, there are few better passers than Darwin Cerén. His ability to seamlessly distribute the ball, both safely and to create, have been instrumental in getting the ball forward and onto the feet of the attacking players. His numbers aren't just fantastic for the team -- he's been elite on a league-wide level.
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He's proven capable of passing under immense pressure as well. Check out his tapper to Bryan Róchez in the box for the game winner against Chicago last month, keeping cool when it matters most to put the Lions in position for a much needed three points.
Róchez immediately waved the Salvadoran forward to celebrate with him in what was one of the biggest moments in this crucial home stretch.
So, is he the best, or what? Objectively, it's hard to say. Kaká is, and always will be, Ricardo freaking Kaká. But it's nice to know when the captain isn't available, there are legitimate impact players elsewhere on the roster capable of stepping into the void.