Few players at Orlando City have gotten more criticism over the past year than right back Tyler Turner. But the last two games have given fans a reason to trust in the development of the Homegrown signing.
Orlando City signed Turner in 2014 out of the IMG Academy in Bradenton during the club's final year of USL Pro. Just 18 at the time, Turner was impressive during that first season and Orlando City fans felt they had a potential senior national team player on their roster. However, expectations waned after a difficult 2015.
Turner went into the 2015 preseason battling for his position with Portuguese defender Rafael Ramos, who the club signed through their partnership with SL Benfica. Ramos, who is less than a year older than Turner, was the undisputed winner of the competition, relegating Turner to the bench.
It was a difficult season in Turner's first MLS campaign, playing behind Ramos. In seven games and 477 minutes of action, the right back failed to record a shot or an assist. The low point came on August 16 during a 4-0 loss away to the Seattle Sounders. With Ramos out injured, Turner got the start and an opportunity to impress. But the then-19-year-old recorded a pair of yellow cards during the first half. After the game, Head Coach Adrian Heath stated that Turner may have been in a bit over his head and he didn't see the field the remainder of the season.
With the addition of Orlando City B this year, perhaps no player was expected to benefit more than Turner. With a lack of playing time in 2015 and likely the same lack of playing time this season, Turner needed to be somewhere he could play the amount of minutes needed to improve and develop. Further, the ability to play with the de facto reserve team away from the bright lights of MLS and a little further away from a critical fan base gave the now 20-year-old the ability to develop and gain confidence.
After playing right back in the team's opening game against the Wilmington Hammerheads, Turner was placed by OCB Head Coach Anthony Pulis at center back, a position he played just once last season -- a difficult night against D.C. United replacing an injured Aurelien Collin. Though he moved to the left due to the absence of Mikey Ambrose last week against Harrisburg City, Turner was back as a fullback, his natural role.
Turner showed a renewed vigor returning back to the outside, charging up the field with a new sense of confidence. From the first minute of the game, he showed an attacking presence that Heath wants to see from his outside backs and something that had been missing with Turner. He followed up that performance with an impressive brace Saturday night against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. These two strong offensive displays showed what many fans had hoped to see from Turner.
It's been a difficult past year for Tyler Turner who has received a great deal of criticism by the club's fans, some of which was deserved. But over the past two games, he has shown more of what fans thought they were going to see after the 2014 season. If the young right back can continue the improvement seen over the past two games, Orlando City fans can be confident in his eventual return to the senior team.