It’s taken three years, but Orlando City is finally getting the best out of its third ever Designated Player signing.
There was never any doubt about what Carlos Rivas had to offer throughout his first two seasons in MLS with Orlando, but getting him to actually unleash what he had under the hood was a completely different story.
The Lions’ 22-year-old Colombian forward only has three goals with the club — all in 2016 — in 50 appearances. This season, with Jason Kreis adamant about playing a two-striker system, Rivas has been paired up top with Cyle Larin through both the preseason and first two games of the regular season, and the effects have already shown. Rivas has already assisted on two of Larin’s three goals this season, as the two have created a dynamic duo at the top of the formation.
"He opens up the space. He is very strong and quick and good with the ball. He attacks the defenders,” Larin said of his striker partner. “When he goes down the line to cross the ball, I make sure I am in the box."
“I think it’s something that really came about in the preseason,” Kreis said of the partnership. “And its mostly due to Carlos’ willingness to work extremely hard and give us something different with his running in behind defenders. Because he’s done that — and he did it at the end of last season as well — he’s really earned us thinking that we want to play that way.”
Before we get any further carried away with Rivas’ success story here, a lot of credit goes to the Orlando City front office and coaching staff for continuing to see the potential in this kid when it would have been easy to look at what he’s done — or lack thereof — to this point, cut their losses and open up a much-needed DP spot on the roster.
But Kreis stuck with him, gave Rivas an opportunity to excel in his best role as a forward, and it’s paying dividends early in the season.
Baby steps. Rivas has improved immensely since day one. His play recognition has improved a lot, and his crosses are getting much better. The last thing for him to find, of course, is his finishing touch.
The goals will come, certainly. The Lions can’t continue to win games if Larin is the only man on the roster putting balls in the back of the net, and eventually Rivas will find himself on the finishing end of crosses from the other side.
But credit to Orlando City. This kid has talent. They saw it, and now we see it.