While rookie forward Cyle Larin appears to be finding his legs in Major League Soccer, after scoring in each of his last two games for Orlando City (last three, if you count all competitions), the Lions may be set to get some relief from a more experienced striker on Sunday when Martin Paterson could make his MLS debut.
The 28-year-old Paterson, who was on loan from Huddersfield Town of the English Championship prior to being released outright on May 5, has played previously at clubs such as Stoke City and Burnley. He was expected to start the season as Orlando's first option up front before suffering a hamstring injury in the preseason. The road to rehabilitation from the knock has been a long, frustrating one for the Northern Ireland international, but he may finally see the field on Sunday when the Lions host LA Galaxy at the Citrus Bowl.
Paterson's return will add a veteran presence to the City strike force, which to this point in the season has been comprised mainly of young players like Larin (20 years old), Bryan Róchez (20), Carlos Rivas (21) and Pedro Ribeiro (24).
Goal scoring has been an issue for the Lions during the early season, especially when playing at home. Although Larin continues to get better as he gathers more experience at America's top-flight level, he is still very much a work in progress as he tries to improve his hold-up play and his ability as a target man for OCSC.
Paterson has shown an ability to find the net in England, most notably when he led Burnley with 19 goals in 2008-09, helping the Clarets earn a promotion to the Premier League from the Championship in the process. For his career, Paterson has registered 65 goals in 258 club appearances, displaying an ability to finish in front of goal and a work rate that could certainly be of service for the Lions.
While Paterson's return is not a certainty against the Galaxy, he does figure to become an instant candidate for playing time atop the Orlando formation whenever he becomes available. With his recent release from the club that loaned him to Orlando City (he is technically on loan until the end of June), Paterson will be eager to prove himself in order to stay on with OCSC rather than entering free agency.
As a player who has dealt with injuries previously and often played out of position on the wing for Huddersfield, Paterson will not lack motivation upon his return. Hopefully for City, he is able to supplement the recent production of Larin and continue building on the nice bit of chemistry that he displayed with midfield play-maker Kaká in the preseason.