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Orlando City's Luke Boden is Back to His Best

After joining the club during its transition from Austin to Orlando, Luke Boden has continuously exploited the opportunities that he has had with Orlando City. Now he is paying back the team's faith in him with solid performances that have elevated the Lions' level of play.

Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

After spending the first five years of his professional career bouncing around the lower leagues of English football with Sheffield Wednesday, Rushden & Diamonds, Chesterfield, and Northampton Town, Luke Boden was struggling for minutes and his career appeared to be stalling. However, an opportunity to join a transitioning USL franchise in the United States came along and the rest is now history.

Bodz, as he is affectionately known by his teammates and fans, was instrumental in helping get Orlando City to Major League Soccer in the first place. He was a core part of Orlando City teams that won three regular season USL titles and two playoff championships, and he even garnered individual honor when he was listed in the USL Best XI for the 2014 season.

After all of these achievements, Boden and Kevin Molino were the only two players that were present for Orlando's first seasons both in USL and in MLS, and he was one of the select few squad members that was offered an MLS contract after OCSC moved up to the top flight.

The transition to MLS was the end of a long journey for No. 14 that looked to be the beginning of a promising new start in the big leagues. However, despite Bodz's early signing of an MLS contract, as the start of the season began to draw nearer it gradually looked like his shot at playing time with Orlando City was slipping away, as Brek Shea was signed by the club to play left back. But Luke was not to be outdone.

This club had given him his big break, and he wasn't going to let it just disintegrate. Boden knew that he only had to bide his time until his opportunity would come back around and, luckily for the fans, he didn't have to wait too long.

He got his first start of the season against the Montreal Impact, while Shea was away on international duty, and put in a strong 90-minute performance. However, coach Adrian Heath restored Shea to the starting lineup upon his return from the USMNT. After some lackluster team performances against Columbus and Toronto, and with numerous injuries affecting the side, Heath eventually restored Boden into the back line and the club, fans and Boden himself haven't looked back since.

With Boden in the side behind Shea, Orlando has looked more dangerous on the long ball, increased its number of crosses, scored more goals, and continued to be resolute in defense. The Lions have started to climb the table and are on a path toward reach their goal of making the playoffs in their inaugural season -- and the team's improved play can be credited in large part to the play of Boden.

The rise of Orlando City and Luke Boden are inextricably linked over these last few years, and I can only hope that both the club and the man are going to rise even higher and receive more team and individual accolades in the coming years.