One of the major disappointments for Orlando City in 2015 was the team's wing play. Coming into its first season in MLS, Orlando had what looked to be a plethora of options on the wing. On the left, they brought in Brek Shea, Carlos Rivas, and Tony Cascio, and had Kevin Molino on the right side.
This talent level looked to give Orlando a strength moving forward into the inaugural season and options in case someone went down. Unfortunately, that situation became a reality when Molino tore his ACL and Tony Cascio never made it back from the myriad of injuries sustained in 2014 and the off-season. However, Shea missed time due to international duty and injury, and it seemed that Rivas couldn't find his footing until late in the season.
The story here is that neither wide midfield role saw a player make his mark to a point where the club and fans can be comfortable moving into 2016.
Over the past few months, The Mane Land has analyzed each position statistically and compared players on Orlando's active roster to the league average player at the given position throughout MLS in 2015. This week, we will be focusing on the left midfield role. Using statistics from available sources such as mlssoccer.com, whoscored.com and The Washington Post, we will check out Orlando's left midfield when compared to the league average.
The league average player in MLS will be described by players who played a majority of their minutes in 2015 at that position, while playing at least 700 total minutes. The compared statistics will be normalized for 90 minutes of play and will focus on: Assists per 90 minutes (A90); shots per 90 (SHTS90); shots on goal per 90 (SOG90); crosses per 90 (CR90); and offside per 90 (Off90). The two players who will be looked at in this comparison are the two current players on the OCSC roster who look to be in the front running for the left midfield role in 2016: Brek Shea and Carlos Rivas. Our own Gavin Ewbank predicted that Rivas will be the starter in 2016, while Shea will be the starting left back, but we will explore both options here.
The graphic above compares Rivas and Shea with the league average left midfielder in MLS and gives us some good insight into the strengths and weaknesses at this position. Rivas looks to be the type of player who Adrian Heath covets out on the wing--someone who constantly puts the ball into the box on crosses (4 per 90 minutes), while showing the willingness to take shots when available (4.13 per 90). He seemed to flourish in this role when confident and in form in the latter half of the season with Orlando. Some drawbacks to his game came when he was not working on the same page as other players and tried to do too much. His speed and attacking play can also be seen by the high rate at which he is called offside.
Brek, on the other hand, does not look as strong when compared to the league average player at this position. However, there must be a note here that he did play a lot of minutes as a left back for Orlando when healthy, even if it was more as a wing-back than as a standard defender. Even with some constraints, he looks strong in the assists and crosses categories, especially for a player who would have had more defensive responsibilities throughout the game.
So, moving into 2016 and the second season for Orlando in MLS we most likely will see both of these players of the left side of Heath's side. However, Carlos Rivas will most likely be the starting left midfielder, while Brek Shea will play a more defensive role as the team's left back.