To say that Orlando City's Young Designated Player Bryan Róchez has had a tough go of it since signing with the club back in December of 2014 would be an understatement. After struggling through his first season with the team due to injury, a lost passport, lack of fitness and lack of playing time, it seemed as if the forward had just ran into some bad luck in his first year.
The Honduran U-20 forward showed glimpses of his potential towards the latter part of the 2015 season, scoring three goals in three straight games over the Lions' last six. His goal against the Chicago Fire on Sept. 19 of last year proved to be the eventual game-winner, and his goal against the New York Red Bulls the week after put the cap on a 5-2 drubbing of the team out of Harrison, N.J.
All indications were that Róchez would hopefully take his momentum from last year and bring it into 2016, but unfortunately that was not to be the case. Just like last year when he first joined the club, the injury bug bit Róchez pretty hard, keeping him out of all preseason activities with his teammates. Once he was healthy, he was thrust into a situation where he was not ready to play and struggled to try and make up the time that he had missed. Therefore, the team thought it best to loan him down to Orlando City B so that he could gain his fitness back and possibly rejoin the team later in the season.
Now, over a third of the way through the USL season, Róchez has not done much to show that he is improving his fitness. He has played sporadically through the year, making appearances in nine games. In some of those games he was able to go the full 90 minutes, but recently he has been coming off the bench or not making an appearance at all. In total, he's only scored two goals, both on penalties, and none from the run of play, which doesn't instill much confidence in the young forward.
OCB Head Coach Anthony Pulis believes that Róchez's situation is very unfortunate.
"It's not an easy thing. Any professional will tell you, if you miss preseason, you're always playing catch up," Pulis said after training last week. "I try and treat all the players the same and I pick, within reason, what I feel like is the best team for us. The players that deserve to play will play and the players that I feel will help us get a result will play, irrespective of who those players are. Bryan is no different. I have no issues with Bryan, he's a good kid but I think he's paid the price for missing preseason and it's not easy playing catch up."
The question now looms of Róchez's future with the club after Pulis decided not to include him in the 18 in OCB's most recent fixture against Louisville City. He is only 21 years old and has plenty of potential, but the MLS side is still using a Designated Player slot on him, which could be used on other overseas players in the summer transfer market. Once the market opens for MLS teams, the future of Róchez with Orlando City could become a lot clearer. Until then, fans can only hope he can get back to his late 2015 form, which gave the team a shot at the playoffs.