Of all the story lines involved in telling the tale of this young Orlando City season, the "underdog steps up to become a star" narrative still hasn't emerged.
While watching the team take on Brazilian club Ponte Preta this past weekend, I began wondering who was going to make the most of the opportunity on the field to show their potential. Stars Kaká and Brek Shea have been as good as expected, while veterans like Seb Hines, Aurélien Collin and Donovan Ricketts have proven solid for the most part. These players were known commodities coming into the season. What I was looking for was a player to step out of the shadows, on this team full of promising young players and MLS cast-offs, and show that they were ready to redefine the club's, and their own, season.
All of those thoughts were before Kevin Molino limped his way off the field with what would later be determined to be a season ending ACL tear. The loss of one of Orlando's midfield generals only stresses the need for a player to emerge from the pack and make his mark on Orlando City's inaugural season.
This narrative, the player who takes advantage of the moment and turns himself into a star, is of course one of the most popular in sports. It's why we like the Rocky movies, and the U.S. Olympic Hockey's "Miracle on Ice." It's the reason we revere the 1950 U.S. Men's National Team who beat England 1-0 in the 1950 World Cup. It's why Orlando Magic fans still love grocery bagger turned NBA starting point guard Darrell Armstrong.
We love an underdog story; the idea that somewhere lurking on Adrian Heath's bench is a player ready to make his mark on the season and supporter's hearts.
Beside a warm fuzzy sports narrative, Orlando City needs someone to step up. As the club's promising start is fading into memory, and the Lions are migrating down the league table, there could be no better time for a hero to emerge and help the stars and veterans stabilize the team with home wins and goals.
Luckily, Heath and the Orlando City front office have put together a roster with plenty of promising candidates. Rafael Ramos, Cyle Larin, and Pedro Ribeiro have all had convincing moments. Amobi Okugo and Darwin Cerén have both been extremely solid in their defensive midfield roles. Defenders Luke Boden and Tyler Turner have integrated into the defense when called upon. Young Designated Players Bryan Róchez and Carlos Rivas have shown flashes of what they are capable of, as they settle into the team and the American game.
Playing just "well" doesn't craft this heroic narrative though. We know all of the players on this roster are fully capable of playing "well".
What Orlando and its supporters need is a player who is ready to play out of his skin. To step up and surprise, with the types of performances that change Adrian Heath's game plans and Kaká's targeted passes. The types of performances that send the supporters in search of the right tune to fit the player's name into. The club and supporters need highlight reel performances and goals that make you watch them a dozen times on Vine the next morning. Those are the sorts of things that spread belief around a club.
With the team losing one of its crucial play-makers, on a two game losing streak, still winless in the league at home, and standing just outside of a playoff position, now's as good a time as any for a hero to step up and change this season. The stage is set, with the reigning Eastern Conference champions in town Friday night for a nationally televised showdown. Who's ready to step up and etch their name into the history of the club?