Earl Edwards Jr. was drafted 43rd overall in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. The UCLA product made his competitive professional debut against the Charleston Battery in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. He also appeared in two friendlies against Ponte Preta and West Bromwich Albion in his first season in Major League Soccer.
Edwards Jr. allowed six goals in three matches for Orlando. Four of those goals came against the Charleston Battery in U.S. Open Cup play. Edwards Jr. spent most of his time backing up Donovan Ricketts and Tally Hall as an unused sub. Edwards Jr. did save three penalty kicks in the overtime shootout against Charleston. As a rookie goalkeeper, he wasn't given much time in goal but he made quite an impact with his athletic ability in the few matches he did appear in.
The best match for Edwards Jr. was the U.S. Open Cup match against Charleston Battery. In this match, Edwards Jr. made some timely saves throughout the 120-minute game. He made an amazing save late in extra time to give Orlando an opportunity to get the win. He was clearly the star in the shootout, making three great saves on penalties to secure Orlando City the win and an advance to the next round against Columbus. The last penalty save was amazing as he dove to his right and picked the ball out of the bottom corner. He was our Man of the Match for this game and he gave the organization a good indication that he was a goalkeeper of the future.
Edwards Jr. will be the player that will benefit most from Orlando City B. The USL team will give him the opportunity to get competitive matches under his belt as he prepares to jump to MLS. There may be discussion whether or not he makes the MLS roster because he has shown he is capable of playing at that level. The club will probably take the same strategy it did last year. Tally Hall is recovering from another knee injury and the club will look for an experienced backup to possibly start the season if Hall has any setbacks. That will push Edwards Jr. to the Orlando City B team to gain more experience. Edwards Jr. would be come the starter there, and Homegrown Player Mason Stajduhar will be his backup.
2015 Final Rating
Earl didn't play enough to earn an "official" grade from The Mane Land staff, but we unofficially give him a solid 7 out of 10 grade for the 2015 season. Edwards Jr.'s season was only three matches and many can argue that we have a lot to learn still about his play. However, we saw a lot of great moments and his heroics in the penalty shootout and his athletic ability will make him an excellent MLS goalkeeper. Edwards just needs more matches and now with the newly formed Orlando City B, he will get his opportunity to prove to the front office he can be the future of the organization.