Defensive midfielder Darwin Cerén was one of Orlando City's first five Major League Soccer signings in 2014 and, after coming into the 2015 season third on the Lions' depth chart for defensive midfielders, the Salvadoran captain just needed an opportunity to prove himself at the next level to the coaching staff.
Cerén got his first opportunity in the second game of the season, starting in place of an injured Cristian Higuita, and a solid performance against the Houston Dynamo made it hard for Adrian Heath to ever leave him out again. The 25-year-old started 24 of his next 25 games, becoming one of Orlando City's most key players in 2015.
He always plays with his heart on his sleeve, and his love for the game, Orlando City, and the fans is impossible to go unnoticed, which makes him a perfect fit in O-Town.
A look back at Ceren's second season with Orlando City and first in MLS:
Ceren started 25 games for the Lions in 2015, appearing in 26 altogether. With 29 total shots (just seven on goal), Ceren finished the year with two goals and two assists, scoring against the LA Galaxy in May and Columbus in August. One of Ceren's biggest offensive strengths is his passing game, where he finished with a passing percentage of 86.5 in the defensive midfield.
Defensively, he was also consistently a rock for the Lions, averaging three tackles and 2.5 interceptions, with an overall defensive rating of 7.11, according to WhoScored.com. He committed 53 fouls -- 12th most in MLS this season -- and was booked six times. He wasn't shown a red card all season but he was suspended one game for committing a "violent act" at Seattle
With a base salary of $66,000, Ceren was not only one of the league's best defensive midfielders in 2015 but also one of the biggest steals. If not at some point this winter, then I'd expect Ceren to see a nice pay raise next year should he put up another solid campaign like this one.
Ceren had a lot of good games in 2015, as he was wildly consistent in putting up good performances, so it's hard to pick just one game that really stood out. However, for me, his best game of the year was the 4-0 win over the Galaxy on May 17. Ceren scored his first goal of the season in that game, a blast from distance that took a deflection and bounced past Jaime Penedo -- you may remember he also knocked one off of the crossbar from deep minutes earlier.
This was my favorite game of the season for the team in general, but for Ceren I thought it was also his best.
Hey, here's his goal in that one if you're looking for a reason to smile.
Unless Orlando City goes out and makes an unexpected splash for a big defensive midfielder, like Dax McCarty for example, Ceren will go into the season as the starting DM alongside Cristian Higuita. It's possible other MLS teams could come calling this winter, but his low cap hit is only another reason to keep him around.
Final 2015 Rating
After a great first MLS season, The Mane Land staff had no problem giving Ceren a composite rating of 7.5. You could probably make a case to put him at a level 8, but for the time being we're going with 7.5. I should probably mention that Ceren's various and always unique haircuts didn't factor into his rating, or else he probably would have gotten straight 10's across the board.