A name that many Orlando City fans may not recognize if they haven't been watching OCB this year is 23-year-old Canadian striker Michael Cox. Cox has become Anthony Pulis' first choice in Melbourne and is starting to make a push as the U.S. Open Cup approaches.
Cox began the season behind 22-year-old William Eyang, who had a strong preseason for the team. But Cox took advantage of his opportunity to play and has been the most effective striker for the team, even with Bryan Rochez there. The young striker is current joint top scorer for the team with three goals. Only right back Tyler Turner has as many.
Most would've expected Rochez to be the primary goal scorer this season for OCB, especially after he relished his role as a super sub late last season. But despite taking part in two more games than Cox, Rochez has only scored two goals and both of those were penalties. Meanwhile, all three of Cox's goals have come from the run of play.
The 6-foot-2 striker has done well so far, using his big frame to play the game that Adrian Heath has developed with the club. His first appearance this season came against Louisville City FC on the road, in which he scored an early goal. He followed that up with the lone goal last week in the team's only home win and netted the equalizer Saturday night after a nice ball by Turner put him through.
While noting that he's still young and has some improvement to do, Pulis said Cox has the potential to be a very good striker. "Coxy's big, he strong," Pulis stated. "And he's got good attributes."
The good run of form, and lack of form by Rochez, comes at a good time for Cox. The senior team is just over a month out from beginning its run in the U.S. Open Cup and, with OCB ineligible to compete in the tournament, it's expected that several OCB regulars will be called upon to play in the first game or two of the tournament.
Whether or not the opportunity to play for the senior team in the Open Cup this season happens for Cox, he'll continue to focus on each game and not get ahead of himself. "Every game I try to score and if not, I try to create something for my team," the young striker said Saturday night. "It always feels good to help out my team."
Cox is just one of the positives that has come out of OCB this season. While most people focus on the team's record, only five players under USL contract are over the age of 23, and only two are over 25. Several young players have shown quality early in this season that could see them play with the senior team one day if they continue to develop.
On June 15, Orlando City will enter the U.S. Open Cup in the tournament's fourth round. With Heath likely to give some of his first team regulars a break, you can expect to see a heavy dose of OCB players in that team. And as he's currently the team's top striker, one of those players could be Michael Cox.