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2018 Orlando City Season in Review: Richie Laryea

The Canadian wasn’t able to take the next step toward earning more minutes in 2018.

MLS: Orlando City SC at New England Revolution Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

After seeing the field in 12 games for 250 minutes in 2017, it seemed that Canadian midfielder Richie Laryea was on course for bigger and better things in 2018. Particularly after Orlando City pulled the plug on the Justin Meram project in the middle of the season, there seemed plenty of room for a creative attacking midfielder to get minutes in the team’s preferred 4-2-3-1 shape.

That didn’t materialize ultimately, with James O’Connor opting to play extra defensive midfielders in lieu of giving more minutes to Laryea. As a result, the No. 7 overall pick in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft played only three minutes more than last season — in three fewer appearances (though one additional start).

Let’s take a look at the Akron product’s season.

Statistical Breakdown

Laryea appeared in nine games, starting two, as opposed to his 12 appearances and one start in 2017. He played 253 minutes in 2018 — just three more minutes than the previous year. None of his four shot attempts were on target.

He committed three fouls while drawing 12 from his opponents, using his quick, sudden movements to his advantage. However, discipline is still an issue with the Canadian, as he picked up two yellow cards in his limited action, though he was not sent off. Laryea passed at an 81.3% rate, averaging 0.3 key passes per game. He averaged 1.2 tackles, 0.2 interceptions, and 0.1 clearances defensively.

He did not appear in any U.S. Open Cup matches in 2018.

Best Game

With so few appearances, it’s not too difficult to pick out a match where Laryea stood out. For this, we’re going all the way back to the Lions’ 2-1 home loss to Minnesota United on March 10 — the second game of the 2018 season. Laryea started and played 67 minutes in a performance that saw him win Orlando City Man of the Match honors from our former writer Ethan Smith, who praised the Canadian’s play, although our readers chose Yoshimar Yotún and picked Jonathan Spector second.

As the game approached halftime, Laryea fired a shot over the bar and had a header blocked by the defense, but then was able to get his team an opportunity to tie the match when he beat Ethan Finlay to a ball at the edge of the box and drew a penalty after video review determined the initial contact on the foul occurred inside the penalty area.

Yotún converted from the spot and tied the match at 1-1. The Loons eventually scored the winning goal 10 minutes after Laryea was subbed off. Laryea departed with an 87% passing accuracy, one official shot, a key pass, four fouls won, a tackle, an interception, and a clearance. It was a good night for the 23-year-old, but he was unable to build on that performance. He subbed on for 23 minutes in Orlando’s next match but then didn’t see the field for the following seven games.

2018 Final Grade

The Mane Land staff gave Laryea an incomplete grade for 2018, and frankly I’m not sure why we did grade him on just 250 minutes in 2017, when we gave him a 5. I must have had a senior moment in allowing Scott to award a grade for his 2017 season. With total playing time of just 253 minutes in 2018, it would be unfair to give a grade to Laryea for the season as he never had an opportunity to find any rhythm or gain any consistent time with his teammates in game situations. Perhaps our criteria was different last year but you can retroactively change last year to an incomplete in your mind to do Richie some justice. Fewer than three complete games worth of minutes in a 34-game season seems a bit light of a workload to judge a player on.

2019 Outlook

As I write this, I’m aware that player decisions for next year could come at any moment. All I can do is write in the moment and, as such, I’ll note that Orlando City has a decision to make on the young Canadian. There’s still much potential to be mined from Laryea, but 2018 did him no favors. Without a USL affiliate to get him minutes, he languished on the bench or out of the 18 altogether this season. He showed bright passages against Minnesota and in October against New England but other than that he was relegated mainly to late substitute appearances. On a team that was bereft of attacking midfielders, one would expect the Canadian to see the field more, but if you don’t earn the coaching staff’s trust, you’re not going to see the field and Laryea apparently didn’t do enough to give O’Connor or Jason Kreis sufficient confidence to play him when Meram was either struggling or had already departed.

For the reasons in the previous paragraph, I’m not sure Laryea’s future is in purple unless he’s willing to take a cut in his $164,000 guaranteed compensation. He might be able to revive his career elsewhere but his MLS prospects seem about 50/50 at this point. His slender build enables opponents to muscle him off the ball and sometimes he appears to go down too easily under contact, but he seems to have the requisite quickness to play at the MLS level if he can adjust his game to deal with the physicality. You don’t have to be the biggest or strongest to play the beautiful game, so it’s up to Laryea to take the next step in his development. If he can do that, he still may have a bright future in MLS, but whether that’s in Orlando or somewhere else, we’ll soon find out.

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