Orlando City didn’t expect Kevin Alston to have the role he did in 2016. The veteran defender was selected by the Lions in the Re-Entry Draft after his release from the New England Revolution. As a former All-Star with the ability to keep up with even the quickest attackers, Alston looked like the perfect complement to City’s woes with quick wingers.
He was meant to serve as experienced competition as a versatile fullback that can play down either flank, a cheaper version of Corey Ashe, whom Orlando let walk as a free agent. His attacking mindset and ability in the final third made him a good fit off the bench for both Adrian Heath and Jason Kreis.
But due to inconsistency from Rafael Ramos, he was given the opportunity to start. When Ramos went down with a hamstring injury for most of the season, Alston assumed the full-time job.
Kevin appeared in 24 matches for Orlando in his first year, making 21 starts. His first appearance for the Lions came in a start against his former club back in April. He played admirably in the wild 2-2 draw but dropped back to the bench until Ramos went down injured. He played nearly 2,000 minutes over the course of the season, second only to Seb Hines for OCSC defenders. It makes sense when you consider Alston’s job was the most secure simply because of the lack of competition; the center backs were a revolving door and left back was held by a combination of Brek Shea, Luke Boden, and Mikey Ambrose.
Alston did not manage to notch an assist or a goal this year, though it is to be expected as he only has one goal and seven assists in his MLS career. He only took four shots, one of which was on target. He did manage to concede 23 fouls — his highest total since 2012 -- and was shown three yellow cards.
According to WhoScored.com’s data, Alston managed to record 1.7 tackles and 1.5 interceptions per game, which are respectable numbers for a fullback. His 81.7% passing rate needs some improvement if he’s going to be a part of the technical Orlando attack in the future.
Alston didn’t have a huge impact on many City games, but he certainly got up for it against his old club in Orlando’s 3-1 victory over New England at the end of July. Alston should have had several assists on the night but Cyle Larin and Kevin Molino both missed just wide after some great ball control and passing from the former Rev. He set Brek Shea loose with a nice throw in that set up Larin’s goal that night, and Alston really jump-started the offense when it came from the right side.
Most of New England’s chances came down Luke Boden’s side that night, and Alston couldn’t do anything on Kei Kamara’s goal as the striker came down the opposite flank; Alston was in position but there was nothing he could do.
2016 Final Rating
The Mane Land staff has awarded Alston a final score of 5.5 for the year. For a player who was not brought in specifically for the starting job, he did about as well as you could ask. He didn’t leak goals like the center backs did, but he had his moments where he was ball-watching. He was never a threat to be red carded and ejected like Ramos, but he didn’t contribute to the offense as much as his fellow fullbacks.
The entire Orlando defense needs an overhaul. If Kreis brings in new fullbacks — and he should — it would be difficult to see Alston sticking around over the much cheaper Ramos and Boden; Alston is currently listed at $130,000/year compared to $96,000 and $82,500 for Ramos and Boden, respectively. Rafa has a much higher upside and Bodz has proven to be a respectable reserve left back who provides more on the offensive end. Alston is not a bad player but his game is predicated on his pace and as he nears 30, that will likely decline. Alston’s stop in Orlando may be limited to just one year, but he can still have a role in the league somewhere.