Midfielder Servando Carrasco was a mid-season acquisition for Orlando City in 2015, joining the Lions on July 20 via a trade with Sporting Kansas City that sent former OCSC midfielder Amobi Okugo to SKC. Okugo made 15 appearances for City prior to being shipped out, but he had fallen out of favor with Heath following the ascension of Cristian Higuita and Darwin Cerén in the central midfield. Carrasco, a fifth-year MLS vet, would go on to see more minutes for the Lions than Okugo and his contribution in general was greater than that of the struggling Okugo, making the move a good one for OCSC.
Carrasco played a deep-lying role in the defensive midfield of Adrian Heath's 4-2-3-1 formation, so he was not an offensive catalyst for the Lions. His primary objective was to provide coverage for the back line, which he did admirably in a supplemental role to Higuita and Cerén. He averaged 1.8 tackles per match for City to go along with 2.2 interceptions and about one clearance per outing. Overall, he completed 86.8 percent of his passes for the Lions while chipping in with a pair of assists in 12 total appearances, which included 10 starts.
Carrasco turned in a pair of crucial performances down the stretch of the season as part of Orlando's push for the postseason, which ultimately fell short despite a five-match win streak. His performance against Montreal Impact on Oct. 3 was very good in place of the suspended Higuita. Carrasco solidified the midfield on that night in a must-win match for OCSC, completing 85.5 percent of his passes, with four interceptions and four tackles to go along with two clearances. Alongside Cerén, he helped nullify a Montreal attack featuring the likes of Dominic Oduro and Didier Drogba, holding the Impact to just one goal in the 2-1 victory.
That performance against Montreal would not have been nearly as important for Orlando City's playoff hopes had it not been for another solid outing against his old club on Sept. 13. In what turned out to be a cathartic evening for City, the team ended a horrific run of form emphatically with a 3-1 home win. Playing alongside Higuita, as Cerén was unavailable, Carrasco completed 80 percent of his passes and, more impressively, intercepted three passes and recorded six tackles to help keep SKC at bay.
One of Orlando City's biggest issues in its inaugural MLS season was a lack of depth, but that problem was not as prevalent in the double pivot pairing thanks to Carrasco's presence (along with better injury luck than the club had in defense and attack). Cerén dealt with injury during the second half of the season and Higuita's propensity to accumulate yellow cards meant he missed some matches due to suspension, but Servando was there to step in and provide stability when needed.
With the 21-year-old Higuita seemingly on his way to a bigger and better league in the next few years due to his immense potential and youth, Carrasco could continue to be a figure in the OCSC midfield in 2016 and beyond. This is especially true given the fact that the Orlando Pride just acquired Carrasco's wife, Alex Morgan, based on her request to be traded to live and work in the same city as her husband.
Given his performance in a half-season in Orlando, we can feel good about the future for Carrasco in purple, and his presence along with those of Cerén and Higuita should mean more good things for the Lions' midfield in 2016.
Final 2015 Rating
The Mane Land staff composite grade for Carrasco's performance for Orlando City in 2015 is 6.5. Servando started out slowly with his new club, which was to be expected. But, down the stretch he turned in several crucial standout performances, especially the above mentioned matches against Sporting Kansas City and Montreal Impact, that show what the 27-year-old's ceiling could be.