Corey Ashe came to Orlando City in mid-July via a trade with Houston Dynamo at a time when the Lions were in need of bodies on the back line. The two-time MLS All-Star and 2007 MLS Cup winner was acquired in exchange for general allocation money and a 2017 second-round pick in the MLS SuperDraft, and he was put into action immediately against New York Red Bulls on July 18.
Left back Brek Shea had been moved forward to the wing, leaving only Luke Boden to man the left back spot without any cover. Ashe immediately added valuable experience and depth at the back for Adrian Heath's side. He also added some unexpected versatility playing out of position for Orlando at right back when necessary against Philadelphia on Aug. 8.
Overall, Ashe appeared nine times for City, including eight starts.
Ashe saw a total of 665 minutes for the Lions in those nine appearances. Although short in stature, the veteran provided a steady presence in defense and used his speed to get forward and cause opposing teams trouble with his overlap play and crossing into the box.
Ashe completed 81.4 percent of his passes for the season with the Lions while averaging 0.9 tackles, 1.6 interceptions, and 2.1 clearances per game. For comparison, Orlando's regular starting left back, Boden, completed 81.2 percent of his passes with 1.2 tackles, 2.1 interceptions and 1.9 clearances per match. Bodz was Heath's first-choice left back following Shea's move to the midfield, but Ashe certainly proved himself more than serviceable as a backup, as his similar numbers show.
Ashe's assistance in attack is evidenced by his three assists (level with Boden's output), two of which were registered in a demolition of Columbus in August.
Ashe's best performance was easily the aforementioned match against Crew SC on Aug. 1 at the Citrus Bowl.
Ashe did well at the back help corral Kei Kamara and company, but his most impressive work came on the offensive end where he chipped in a pair of assists to help Cyle Larin notch a brace in the 5-2 win. It was an emphatic win for City to end a five-match win-less run, and Ashe's contribution would have been Man of the Match-worthy had it not been for Larin just edging him out.
Ashe registered 54 touches that evening against Columbus, with a pair of key passes (that turned into assists thanks to Larin's finishing) to complement a stellar day at the back that saw him tally three tackles, five interceptions and six clearances.
At 29 years old, Ashe should still has several years of high level play remaining. Whether or not he is with Orlando will have to be decided soon, as his contract expires at the end of the calendar year. In The Mane Land's interview with City GM Paul McDonough back in August, McDonough had this to say regarding Ashe's contract situation:
"We'll revisit with him and his agent at the end of the season, depending on how he goes. If he likes it and wants to stay and things like that we'll reevaluate him."
We'll have to wait and see how those talks go between club and player, but if he does return his 2016 outlook may depend on what happens with Shea. Shea was instrumental in the midfield down the stretch of the 2015 season, providing a huge boost to the side upon his return from a sports hernia in September.
Shea's performance at left wing could mean Heath wants to use him there next season as well, but with the return of Kevin Molino on the right and the ascension of Carlos Rivas near the end of the season, Shea could be moved again to fullback. Should Brek remain in midfield, Ashe could see action off the bench and in spot starts.
If Shea were to move back to defense, though, that certainly could have an impact on how both Ashe and the club feel about his potential return in 2016, as he would probably be the third-choice left back.
Final 2015 Rating
Based off Ashe's nine appearances in 2015, TML staff settled on a final grade of 7. He was superb against Columbus and NYCFC but also peppered in some less-than-stellar showings against Toronto FC and Chicago Fire (although playing out of position).
The depth that Ashe added behind Boden was important given OCSC's terrible injury luck in 2015, and his overlapping play and defensive work rate certainly benefited the Lions at times during the second half of the season. He provided the kind of reliable presence that you would expect from a longtime veteran of MLS.