Luke Boden was one of the seven players to make the transition from USL to Major League Soccer with Orlando City. Most fans didn't know just how much they would see play in 2015. With Brek Shea signed to a pricey multi-year contract and transitioning to left back to let Carlos Rivas fit in, there seemed to be a lack minutes on the table from Boden, a USL Team of the Year member in 2014.
But alas, as the season got underway, Rivas was either sitting the bench or starting up top, and Shea was missing games due to international duty. Then Kevin Molino's injury forced a lineup change, putting Shea back on the left wing. Adrian Heath was compelled to finally call on Boden to strut his stuff in MLS matches.
The 26-year-old would end up logging over 2,200 minutes and appearing in 25 games (24 starts) this season, settling in as the Lions' primary left back.
A look back at his first season in MLS...
Boden started in 24 games this season -- 21 at left back, two as the left midfielder, and even one as the left winger at the top of a 4-3-3 (yeah, it came to that at one point), and played well pretty much wherever he was (his lone goal of the season came against Toronto FC when he was the attacking left winger).
He finished the season with one goal and three assists, along with an 81% passing rate -- pretty good for a guy who averaged just slightly over 50 passes per game, playing mostly short ground passes up the sideline, with a handful of crosses and long balls mixed in. Boden's average defensive rating, according to WhoScored.com, was a 6.75, with 1.2 tackles and 2.1 interceptions per game -- all while averaging just one foul every match.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention how Boden was treated by referees this season, too. The English left back picked up six yellow cards and even a red in a two-yellow game against FC Dallas back in July.
It's kind of hard to pick the best game for a left back since Boden never really stood out on the score sheet, and he was hardly, if ever, really bad in a game that made it easy to nail down just quite what his best was.
I feel like, since I have to pick, I'd go with his start at Toronto FC, when he scored his first career MLS goal -- and Orlando City's only goal -- in a 4-1 loss. He was easily the best player on the field, which honestly wasn't saying much since he was the only good player on the field. He drew a high rating from both The Mane Land and WhoScored in that one.
Watching goals is fun.
Boden's cap hit is only a very low $75,000, which makes him very cheap for an MLS left back of his quality, and much, much cheaper than Brek Shea, whose cap hit is about $400,000 higher. Honestly, I think the Lions aren't losing anything by moving Shea this winter. Shea didn't show much this season that he fits in this system Heath is trying to put together, and Boden was a much more effective option for also being the cheaper option. However, if Brek is still here come preseason he'll likely be the No. 1 left back heading into 2016, meaning Boden will have to fight pretty hard to retake that starting job.
2015 Final Rating
The Mane Land staff gave Boden a composite rating of 7.5 out of 10, one of the highest grades we've seen from the players we've reviewed on the site so far. A lot of Orlando City fans who followed the team through USL knew what they were going to get from Boden coming in, and it's safe to say he did not disappoint, with his productive, quality play that carried him to MLS with the club this season.