It was early in February when Orlando City SC signed Amro Tarek on loan. As the fans eagerly expected for a big-name center back to be acquired by the club and with important announcements regarding the arrivals of Justin Meram and Oriol Rosell and the departure of Cyle Larin happening just a few days earlier, the deal involving the Egyptian defender flew under the radar for a while.
Tarek, 25, was expected to start the season as a backup for the Lions behind Jonathan Spector and Lamine Sané, but the late arrival of the Senegalese granted the newcomer an opportunity to play the first three matches of the season. And, even with Orlando struggling, he didn’t disappoint.
The Egyptian not only was one of just six players to be on the field for all of the 270 minutes the Lions played so far, but he also displayed skills many wouldn’t expect from a relatively unknown player. After three weeks, Tarek leads the Lions in clearances (4.7) and blocks (1) per game, and ranks third in interceptions (2.7) and fourth in tackles (2.3) per match, according to WhoScored.com.
His quick adjustment to the league has good reason, as Tarek played for Columbus Crew SC in 2016. Well, ‘played’ might actually be an overstatement as he was only on the field for two minutes in a single match, but the time he spent with the Ohio club certainly helped.
“I was here for only two months with Columbus,” he recalled in an interview during preseason. “It was a short period, but now I know the league. I’ve played only for a few minutes, but it makes things easier as I’m not discovering things for the first time.”
Tarek might have been signed to be a backup, but that’s definitely not how he sees his role with Orlando City. Confident, the defender believes he can be a regular starter for the Lions and he counts on good performances to fulfill a long-awaited dream.
Called up by the Egyptian national team for the first and only time for a friendly against Togo in 2017, he didn’t give up on being part of his country’s roster in the FIFA World Cup in June.
“I want to be an important player for Orlando City, I want to be a starter and to go to the World Cup with my national team,” he stated when he joined the Lions. “But it’s always about the competition. You need to put effort and to prove yourself so you can play”.
Two other factors contribute to making Tarek a steal for Orlando City. The first is that despite playing for Egypt, he was born in Los Angeles, so he doesn’t occupy a coveted international spot on the Lions’ roster.
Other than that, he’s a versatile player. Tarek has been only used by Head Coach Jason Kreis in the center back role, but he’s also able to play as a left back. The position is apparently well covered with Mohamed El-Munir, Donny Toia, and Victor ‘PC’ Giro, but it doesn’t hurt to have an extra option.
If Tarek will establish himself as starter for Orlando City, only time will tell, but it looks like regardless of what happens, the Lions might have just found a reliable center back aside from Spector, something the team had been missing for a while, for a bargain price.