Before 2014 was in the books for newly franchised Orlando City, the team made somewhat of a surprising move at the striker position. Bryan Róchez was introduced as the youngest Designated Player in MLS history in mid-December, and part of the surprise of this move was his age. At only 19, he already had three years of first-team experience with Real España under his belt and was originally predicted to be either a starter or the super sub off the bench.
Due to his U-20 World Cup appearance with Honduras, his passport fiasco and lack of match fitness thereafter, Róchez wasn't able to really prove his full worth to the club as he may do down the road. Towards the end of the season, however, the Honduran came up in big spots and helped Orlando City stay in the playoff hunt.
Róchez ended up playing in 16 games -- coming off the bench each time -- for a total of only 265 minutes. He finished the season third on the team with three goals, zero assists and six fouls. He averaged about 0.7 shots per game, and only 0.1 key passes and dribbles per game. It's also worth mentioning that Róchez scored once in both the Ponte Preta and West Bromwich Albion friendlies.
The Tegucigalpa native's three goals came in consecutive games, including a game winner against the Chicago Fire on the road. He also scored against Sporting Kansas City and the New York Red Bulls. With all the outlying factors taken into consideration, I'd say his late season form was a good indicator of his capabilities as a striker.
Although the Chicago game in which Róchez scored the game winner was a contender, his best game had to be his breakout performance against Sporting Kansas City, when he came on for Cyle Larin in the 56th minute. In his 33 minutes on the pitch, he scored his first league goal for Orlando, off of a nice counter attack started by David Mateos and assisted by Brek Shea. Also, you can't forget about the weirdly fantastic celebration after, now known as the "El Cocodrilo."
GOAL: Brek Shea sets up Bryan Rochez for the go-ahead goal
Shea ----> Rochez -----> Orlando City Soccer Club victory. #ORLvSKC Highlights: http://soc.cr/S9SPkPosted by Major League Soccer (MLS) on Sunday, September 13, 2015
He also helped set up the third Orlando goal, keeping the ball alive in the box and letting Adrian Winter and Lewis Neal come help, eventually culminating in some passing brilliance from the Lions.
The Lions brought Róchez in knowing that he had bundles of potential to grow and become a great player. Still only 20 years old and on a five-year contract, he began to come alive in the last six games of the season and showed why he was so highly touted. It's very possible that his Young Designated Player tag will be dropped, since most of that DP money was due to his transfer fee from his former club. This would allow Orlando to bring in a more seasoned veteran to come in and help not only Róchez, but also Larin grow and learn.
I don't see Róchez as a starting caliber player yet, maybe in two or three years. However, I can definitely see him being the "super sub" for the team. Coming into the game when the team is in a lull and giving them a boost of energy and some scoring capability is something that was desperately needed in parts of the season last year, and was exactly what Róchez brought to the table his last few games. Replicating those performances over the course of a full season could make a name for the young Honduran in Orlando and across MLS.
2015 Final Rating
The Mane Land staff gives Róchez a composite rating of 7 out of 10. Again, since some of his season was spent trapped in New Zealand and Honduras with the passport issues, we didn't get to see the real Bryan Róchez until late in the year. Taking into consideration his early season form, 7 is a fair grade for the striker. He's still got a lot of time in Orlando to come, so hope for bigger and better things from Róchez over the next few years.