The play of Richie Laryea and Hadji Barry has forced Orlando City B to lose two USL stars to the senior team, but it has given an opportunity to another potential future first team player. During OCB’s inaugural USL season last year, several young players made names for themselves. One of those was Canadian striker Michael Cox. Leading the team with 11 goals in 2016, Cox was one of five who were on USL contracts with OCB that would remain with the team in 2017. But the new season saw new problems for the 25-year-old.
With Laryea and Barry up top, Cox, who also struggled with injuries early in the year, spent the majority of the early stages of the season on the bench. Given that Laryea and Barry were on MLS contracts, they were always going to be first choice instead of a USL player. But Laryea and Barry have seemed to solidify a place with the senior team, opening the door for Cox and fellow striker Albert Dikwa.
With an opening in the starting lineup, Cox immediately took advantage of his new opportunity. Inserted into the starting lineup for an away match-up against the first place Louisville City FC, Cox put in a stellar performance scoring two sublime goals.
Even though Cox did go off late in that game with a hamstring injury, keeping him out of the next match against Bethlehem Steel, Laryea and Barry likely staying with the first team means Cox will still have several opportunities to prove himself. A player that OCB Head Coach Anthony Pulis has spoken very highly of, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that he could achieve an MLS contract. And it wouldn’t be the first time.
Last season, the path to the first team was paved by left back Mikey Ambrose and midfielder Tony Rocha. Both had terrific seasons in 2016 and were signed to MLS deals with the club by the end of the season. Cox is a player that the club has high hopes for and has proven that he can play at a high level.
Adding to the possibility that Cox could eventually be offered an MLS contract is the fact that the particular position is one in which the Lions are lacking numbers. The team currently has four out-and-out strikers: Dom Dwyer, Cyle Larin, Carlos Rivas, and Hadji Barry. While Dwyer, Rivas, and Barry are all expected to be back next season, Larin could be sold during the off-season, when the club can obtain 75 percent of the transfer fee. The club will likely be looking to bring in a fourth striker, and it’s proven a willingness to promote from within.
OCB has six games remaining in the USL regular season, and possibly some playoff games considering it is currently in sixth in the Eastern Conference standings. That gives Cox a considerable amount of time to prove himself, something he has already started to do. Strong performances throughout the remainder of the season could end up being very beneficial to the striker, who could earn a spot on the MLS roster in 2018.