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Carlos Rivas Must Improve to Remain Orlando City's Starting Striker

With Carlos Rivas' status uncertain for Saturday, Pedro Ribeiro would likely get the start against Vancouver. While Rivas has struggled in his first two games, will Orlando stick with the Colombian DP moving forward?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

There's probably someone out there who could tell you the first two goals in Orlando City history were scored by Tyler Deric and Jeb Brovsky's tummy.

Of course, you could just as easily argue that the Lions are sitting in first place in the Eastern Conference, so how they got those points doesn't really matter. And you'd be right.

But the fact is, Orlando City's offense hasn't exactly been a strength for the team through the first two matches. The Lions haven't had much trouble getting the ball into the attacking third, but legitimate chances on goal have been few and far between.

When any team struggles to find the back of the net, it's natural for people to blame the strikers. After all, scoring goals is pretty much in their job description. And when a team employs only one striker on the field at a time, such as in Adrian Heath's 4-2-3-1 formation, that criticism can be even more severe.

20-year-old DP Carlos Rivas was not given an easy assignment when Heath penciled him in as the starting forward during Orlando City's first two games in MLS. Rivas comes to the Lions after two seasons in his native Colombia, where he tore it up for powerhouse Deportivo Cali. But his first couple matches with Orlando have seen some mixed results.

Against New York City FC, Rivas was dangerous pushing forward, but had a few offside penalties that killed promising City attacks. Against the Houston Dynamo, he did a better job staying onside but committed a couple silly fouls before a hamstring injury forced him out early in the second half. His status for Saturday's match against Vancouver is still unknown

If Rivas can't go against the Whitecaps, the team would most likely turn to Pedro Ribeiro, who played most of the second half in Houston after Rivas left with an injury.

Ribeiro played well against the Dynamo and his defensive pressure on Tyler Deric led to an own goal that gave Orlando City the victory. Standing at an impressive 6-foot-4, Ribeiro is an attractive target on free kicks and certainly has a place in Orlando City's roster. But he's not the long-term answer at striker.

Neither is Martin Paterson, currently on loan with the club from Huddersfield Town. The Northern Irish veteran has been dealing with a hamstring injury suffered during preseason training and his loan deal with the Lions expires over the summer.

Bryan Rochez, the 20-year old Honduran DP, was expected to see time at striker this season, but was limited to just a brief appearance in the opener against NYCFC.

That leaves Rivas, who has certainly shown potential in his first two matches with Orlando City, but needs to improve in some fundamental areas before the coaching staff can truly have faith in him moving forward.

In both matches he's played with the Lions so far, the Colombian has been able to fire off some absolute lasers from outside the box. This usually occurs after Orlando has maintained possession and brought Kaká and the rest of the midfield forward to help facilitate the offense. While Rivas has yet to find the back of the net, these are the kind of opportunities that Heath and his staff are looking for.

Where Rivas has struggled is on the counter-attack, where offside calls and a few silly fouls have prevented him making much of an impact. This has been problematic for an Orlando City team that relies heavily on the strength of its midfield to pressure teams on offense. Fortunately for Rivas, he's still got plenty of things going for him.

His speed is a huge asset for Orlando, and once he learns to stay onside, Rivas should be a nightmare for opposing teams on the counter. While the fouls have been frustrating, it's important to remember that Rivas is facing a steep learning curve in his transition from the Colombian first division to MLS.

It looks like the position is still Rivas' to lose, but it's important he continue to improve with every performance moving forward.