Man, does it feel good to be writing this series again! I tell ya, crafting weekly features during the off-season can be a tiring process. Luckily for us all, that ended when our Orlando City Lions played out a 2-2 draw against the visiting Real Salt Lake, creating magic of their own in Orlando with a stoppage time comeback from down 2-0. How does the Stock Watch look upon the result?
Cyle Larin - Kid Fantastic picked up right where he left off, contributing a goal and an assist when the club needed them most. Larin saw some struggles early in the match, but effort and intensity for 94-plus minutes is a beautiful thing to see from the 2015 MLS Rookie of the Year.
Keeping a close eye on his positioning following an errant offside call earlier in the match, Larin does a fantastic job using his big frame, keeping the defender on his right hip just long enough to put a perfect touch on Brek Shea's entry pass.
It is the first game, but subtle things like this play are big reasons to be even more excited for No. 9's future as he continues to develop as a striker. The answer to defending the young man last season seemed to be with physicality. Memo to MLS -- it's time to find a new plan.
Brek Shea - The two Killer Bees were active in the crossing game, combining for 22 attempts, though the inefficiency of the attack left a bit to be desired. Brek was consistently active in threatening the defense, completing a cross and assisting Cyle Larin's goal to start the comeback. His passing was solid, while still showing the skill on the ball and nose for threatening the net we've grown to love from the budding local star.
What most impressed me about Shea's play on the left wing was his ability to effectively play there on such short notice. We had spent the preseason being conditioned to believe that with the newly added midfield depth, Brek would spend most of his time working from the left back slot that Adrian Heath seems to favor him at. However, with Nocerino not yet ready and Kaká going down with a thigh strain shortly before the match, Brek answered the call and performed as well as you could ask.
Seb Hines - Coming into the season with some hype following a four-goal effort in a friendly at the end of February, Hines seemed to fall flat on Sunday afternoon. He managed to record zero clean tackles, though it was not for lack of effort.
A tough challenge on a skilled striker such as Yura Movsisyan, it's no surprise this didn't end well.
Hines has the ability to improve in the future, and improve he will need to do after recording one interception, one clearance, and four fouls in the opener.
Darwin Cerén - While his usual confidence on the ball was evident by way of his 86.4% passing, we'll never know if it would have held up in the second half as Cerén was ejected at the end of the first half.
In a vacuum, the foul doesn't look bad. Heath himself said he felt it was a yellow during his Tuesday morning radio appearance. However, this play didn't happen in a vacuum. It happened in the context of a game.
That context becomes important. When you've gone a man up, and you have a reputation earned with 53 fouls called the previous year, you absolutely cannot make a mistake like this one. Darwin did, and the club paid the price.
One of the more respected Lions league-wide, it is only a matter of time before Cerén sees himself in the rising section. It won't be next week, however, as with a red card comes a one-game suspension.