Designated Players are a big talking point in Major League Soccer — how much you spend on them, how you use them, and of course, how they’re playing. They draw attention, if not for their high salaries, for usually just taking up a DP slot, which has been the case in Orlando.
Bryan Rochez has been a talking point for the better half of two seasons now, with just three goals in 16 games to show (none of which came in 2016).
Rochez was brought on by Orlando City in late 2014 as one of the youngest DPs in MLS history. The Honduran showed plenty of promise and loads of raw potential in the 2015 preseason, but missed a large bulk of the exhibition campaign after he lost his passport in New Zealand at the 2015 U-20 World Cup and couldn’t get back home to the United States.
He was eventually able to return to the club and slowly work his way back into playing time. While fitness issues haunted him throughout most of the season, the young striker finally started to put something together late in the year, scoring goals in three straight games. From that point, hopes were beginning to run high again that Rochez could contribute and make an impact for Orlando City in 2016.
The injury bug once again held Rochez out through the entire preseason this year. After sustaining an injury during national team duty — which was originally misdiagnosed — he started the season on loan with Orlando City B in the USL and struggled to regain his fitness. Due to seeing limited playing time for Anthony Pulis’ side, other strikers cemented their places in the team, ahead of Rochez on the depth chart, and he was eventually loaned back to his home team in Honduras, Real C.D. Espana, for the rest of 2016. He finished with two goals and an assist in 10 appearances for OCB.
Rochez also didn’t play a single minute for the Lions’ MLS squad in 2016.
Through two years, he’s appeared in 16 games, hasn’t started any of them, and has only scored three goals. As far as DP investments go, Rochez surely isn’t going down as one of the best of all-time. Since the loan, however, Rochez has six goals in 13 appearances with Real Espana, which may provide hope that he’s regaining the form that led to Orlando City signing him to a Young Designated Player contract in the first place.
Orlando City must decide this winter if Rochez is worth bringing back for one last attempt at building a productive career in MLS — which he is still very much capable of doing, at least talent-wise. The alternative is for the club to cut its losses, move Rochez, and open up a much-needed DP spot to bring in someone — like a defender — that can actually contribute to the club and make an immediate impact in 2017.
Rochez, who will turn 22 on New Year’s Day, can still turn things around and become a valuable asset, but can he still do that with Orlando City? To this point, that remains to be seen.