In the 2017 SuperDraft, Orlando selected Danny Deakin with the 64th pick. The Englishman has proved himself at each competition level in the United States soccer pyramid so far, moving from NCAA Division II to Division I and also playing in the NPSL. The next challenge for the former South Carolina Gamecock is to make the leap from college to the professional game.
Making the Leap from College to MLS
It is difficult to predict the success of any player making the jump from college to MLS because of the physical adjustment needed to compete in the United States’ top league. The physical level of play in college can be inconsistent from game to game and large gaps in the quality of play exist within divisions and even conferences.
At the college level, coaches have the option to sub players multiple times in a match, which doesn’t force players to manage the physical demands required in the professional game. Not to mention, the college season is a fraction of the length of an MLS campaign.
Consider how draftees fared in the 2016 season. According to MLSsoccer.com, 75 players were drafted and 35 made an MLS roster. Of those, 11 drafted players appeared in 10 or more games, and 23 players appeared in more than one game.
Of course, there are players who have adapted quickly to the professional game — even if they are mostly first-round picks. Look no further than Orlando’s own Cyle Larin. Larin made an instant impact in his first season and became the spearhead of an attack that featured a former Ballon d’Or winner, Kaká. Last season, Jack Harrison contributed to the NYCFC attack with four goals and seven assists. Keegan Rosenberry, the third overall pick, was the only outfield player to play every minute (yes, every minute!) of MLS action for the Philadelphia Union.
Deakin talked with OCSC media about making the most of his opportunity and trying to impress Kreis and the rest of the staff — something Deakin has been able to do through his rise in the American soccer setup. Deakin’s path to Orlando highlights both his ability and his character. He has the talent to compete at each level he transitioned to, but he has earned the call to the next level each time.
Deakin’s College Career
He began his collegiate career in NCAA’s Division II with the Mercyhurst College. He earned two First-Team All-America honors with Mercyhurst before transferring to South Carolina in Division I. With the Gamecocks, Deakin started all 21 games his junior year and scored 11 goals. As a senior, he led the team with seven goals, starting all 20 matches. He also played for Detroit City in the NPSL, adding one goal in nine games.
Deakin was labeled as a midfielder while with South Carolina. He has a good left foot and scored some very nice long-range goals during his college days. He may not reach the double digits in goals each year, but he could be a player that scores a few goals from nothing, which can be important over the course of a season. Deakin has the potential to develop into a winger because he likes to run at defenders, combine from midfield, and serve crosses. While a left-footed player, he could play on the right side of midfield and cut inside to shoot on his left.
Where Does Deakin Fit in Orlando?
Is it likely that Deakin earns a spot in Orlando’s MLS squad? History suggests a slim one. It is more likely that Deakin will be allowed to become accustomed to the professional game with Orlando City B this year. It has been well documented by The Mane Land that Orlando’s midfield is pretty crowded, albeit a little less crowded with Kevin Molino’s exit. It is tough to see Deakin find much playing time ahead of anyone on the current MLS roster, but he will have the opportunity to make his case this preseason.
Fans will still have an opportunity to watch Deakin’s progress with OCB now playing in town. If Deakin can continue his trend to rise to the next challenge, perhaps Orlando fans may get a chance to see Deakin earn a call-up to the senior team at some point in the 2017 season.