When Orlando City walked off the field and into the locker room on Sunday, it was the first time the team had won at home this year. One of the biggest keys to the match came from one of the players who may not have gotten the headlines, but deserves all the credit in the world for Orlando's dominating performance against the defending MLS champions, the LA Galaxy.
Orlando City Head Coach Adrian Heath, in his post-game press conference, was asked about the midfield play from his team. He spoke highly of his defensive midfielders and was sure to mention one in particular.
"I thought Darwin Cerén was the best player on the field tonight," Heath said without hesitation, crediting the Salvadorian international for arguably one of his best games in an Orlando City uniform.
It's amazing to think about how Cerén, coming into the season, was almost an afterthought for a starting job in the midfield. With the additions of Amobi Okugo and Cristian Higuita, most pundits thought Cerén to be just another bench player for Orlando, a USL holdover who may not be able to play at the MLS level. If Darwin has done anything in the nine games he has played and started in, he has proven them all wrong.
Cerén, having signed with Orlando City in 2014 when the team was still in USL, played a very good first season with the Lions. In 24 appearances, Cerén logged almost 2,000 minutes while scoring twice and tallying three assists. The Salvadorian also led the teams in fouls and yellow cards, but in many instances, these fouls came in goal-saving scenarios, or ones that were tactically calculated.
The midfielder was also captain for his national team, where he has made eight appearances since joining Orlando City, including the two wins El Salvador managed in the 2014 Gold Cup.
Now having nine starts in eleven appearances for Orlando this year, the holding midfielder has had an excellent time in MLS for the Lions. His constant workrate on the field and passing ability make him a tremendous threat in his defensive role as well as transitioning into the attack.
Cerén also brings a mentality to the game that few 25-year-old players usually do.
"He's a consummate pro," Heath said in a recent interview with the official site of MLS. "He comes in every day and gives it everything he's got."
This mentality, when on display in training, usually rubs off on teammates and pushes them to play and practice with more meaning and drive behind them. This mentality can be one that helps keep Orlando in the playoff hunt through the summer months.
With Darwin now looking to be taking that big step towards becoming a bonafide MLS player, Orlando City as a team is beginning to look more and more like a contender in MLS.