Tommy Redding is one of the most promising young center backs in MLS, and in 2016 he let the league know that.
Orlando City’s first Homegrown Player signing was originally slated as a No. 3 center back option behind Seb Hines and David Mateos when the season began, but got his shot to start each of the Lions’ first five games this season when Mateos went down with an injury at the end of preseason.
Redding made the occasional mistakes that you would expect out of a 19-year-old center back going up against older, more physical attacking players, but he also more than held his own in big spots and took another step forward this season.
Redding only played in two games in 2015 for the Lions, but saw his playing time jump dramatically this season. The Ocala native appeared in 18 games (16 starts), playing over 1,300 minutes. But most of his playing time came early in the season, as Redding didn’t appear in any of the Lions’ final five games, and only played in one of the last eight — the 4-1 loss to the Columbus Crew in mid-September.
Redding didn’t score any goals, but he also didn’t take any shots, so...yeah. He was, however, the club’s second-highest rated passer among all regulars (84.6 percent), finishing behind only Tony Rocha (87.7 percent).
On the defensive side of the ball, Redding made 1.4 tackles per game, according to WhoScored.com, and averaged two interceptions and 2.8 clearances. He fouled 10 times, picked up two yellow cards, and no reds.
Redding’s best game of the season probably had to be the Lions’ 1-0 win over New York City FC at Yankee Stadium back on March 18. He was tasked with taking care of David Villa, and did that better than most defenders were able to do this season.
Redding took Villa out of the match and made him a non-factor for NYCFC, as the Spanish striker and MLS MVP finalist only registered one shot on 48 touches in the match.
It was Redding’s first big test as an MLS defender, and he handled it well that night with four tackles, four interceptions, two clearances, and one blocked shot, helping the Lions capture the shutout and all three points.
2016 Final Rating
I personally graded Redding with a 7 for the year (go ahead, yell at me in the comments), but the overall Mane Land composite grade is a 6.5 for the 19-year-old, which is the best of any defender in these Season in Reviews so far. Playing fewer games than other regulars on a leaky back line may have helped with that.
Redding was really good, but not great, and showed plenty of potential, which the Lions will hope continues to develop into next season. One area he must improve is in the air, where he struggled to win headers or to keep the opposition from directing aerial crosses toward goal. Experience should help him in this area, as he learns the little tricks of the trade to keep attacking players off balance. He has plenty of athleticism to be a better header of the ball.
It’s tough to look at Tommy Redding and say what the future has in store for him. Jason Kreis obviously didn’t see a benefit in playing him down the stretch, which likely says something about where the coach’s trust level is with his young center back so far. It’ll be interesting to see what moves Kreis and company make on the back line this off-season, because that will directly impact what kind of shot Redding has to win a starting job in the preseason. But for now, he’s still an important piece of the club moving forward as he continues to grow.