The addition of left back Corey Ashe from Houston via trade on Tuesday evening fills an immediate need for Orlando City, which – as our Sean Rollins detailed this morning – alleviates some of the pressure that was mounting on a thin Lions back line.
While Ashe has only just arrived in Orlando from Houston, he won't have much time to acclimate before being thrown into the fire. Ashe will be initiated on Saturday against New York Red Bulls out of necessity following Luke Boden's sending off last week against FC Dallas, and facing the NYRB attack is not the easiest way to get your feet wet with a new club.
Lining up opposite Ashe on the right side of the Red Bulls attack will be winger Lloyd Sam, and Bradley Wright-Phillips – one of Major League Soccer's most prolific strikers – will be inside him leading the line. This duo have been a crucial part of a NYRB attack that is tied with Columbus Crew SC for second most goals scored this season with 27 in total, trailing only LA Galaxy for the league lead. New York, however, boasts a better goals per game average than either of those squads, having played fewer matches.
For fans of Major League Soccer who have been around the block, Bradley Wright-Phillips is no stranger. The former Manchester City and Southampton player outpaced the rest of the league a season ago in scoring, finishing the year with 27 goals to match the MLS single-season record held jointly by Roy Lassiter and Chris Wondolowski.
Sam may lack the name recognition of BWP, but he is a focal point of the New York attack nonetheless.
Ashe, like his counterpart on the right, Rafael Ramos, is short but is very good on the ball and has great pace to get up and down the flanks. He will need that pace on Saturday, as Sam's speed is part of what makes him such a danger on the right side. In addition to his pace, Sam is a precise passer and a strong dribbler. This profile from our sister site Once A Metro is a very good primer for what to expect from the NYRB right winger on Saturday evening.
So far in 2015, Sam and BWP have combined to score 13 goals and have assisted nine more. Wright-Phillips currently sits in the top six in MLS in both goals and assists, having netted eight times while dishing out six assists. Sam has already bested his scoring mark from 2014 with five goals to go along with three assists of his own.
The pair of Englishmen have linked up for goals on three occasions, with Sam assisting two of Wright-Phillips' goals and BWP returning the favor on one of Sam's scores. On two more occasions, the pair have registered "hockey assists," like this beautiful sequence against New England where BWP plays in a pass to set up Mike Grella's assist to Sam.
The good news for Orlando City is that Ashe is a very experienced player and should be able to step in and have an impact from the start. During his nine-year career in MLS, Ashe has made over 200 appearances for Houston Dynamo, but he'll be shaking off some rust on Saturday as he had yet to make a league appearance in 2015 prior to his trade.
For a veteran like Ashe, who has won an MLS Cup and made two MLS All-Star appearances, being stuck behind DaMarcus Beasley has been frustrating, but he is happy about the opportunity that lies ahead with Orlando.
"It is always great to get a fresh start," Ashe said Wednesday night. "For someone like myself, who is very competitive, it has been difficult for me in the past year or so, but everyone says this is a great organization and I'm just looking for an opportunity to play."
As with any new player, Lions fans are excited to get a look at what their latest addition can do on the pitch. We won't have to wait to get that look at Ashe, and it will come against what promises to be a stern test from NYRB.